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Friday, December 03, 2021

Thorough Read

As the racing season heads to a close,here’s some trivia straight from the horse’s mouth.

Written by Debjani Paul |
October 20, 2013 1:35:41 am

The racing season is in its final laps,soon to end on October 27 with the Awards for Racing Excellence. Hundreds have thronged the race course each weekend for the last few months to enjoy the age-old tradition. But when it comes to the true heroes of the season — the horses — how many know the thoroughbreds? Here are five lesser-known equine quirks for the racing enthusiast:

They all have the same birthday

Horses that are bred for racing all have their birthdays on January 1. Of course,this does not mean that they are all born on the same day. The breeding season in the northern hemisphere is between February and July. Within those months,no mater when a foal is born,it is considered to turn a year old on January 1. “This keeps the playing field levelled for when the foals will go on to race,because they are categorised according to age. Actually,the closer they are born to January,the better it is,” says K V Singh,Bloodstock Manager at Nanoli Stud.

They have their own pets

Purtusingh Jodha,who first began his racing career almost 70 years ago as a jockey and then shifted to training thoroughbreds,explains it as an old-school tradition. “Sometimes the stable hands would keep a dog or two in the stables to keep the horses company. They’re a bit like the horses’ pets,” he says. This,however,is not to be confused with the other old-school practice of keeping goats close to the stable. “Where the dogs would give the horses company,the goats are meant to motivate the horses into eating their feeds scrupulously. Horses would see the goats as their rivals who would eat their food if they didn’t themselves.

Horses also go swimming

Not only do most thoroughbreds have daily swimming practice,they even have their own special swimming pool. “Swimming is a great low-impact exercise for horses. They can exercise their muscles without causing too much stress to their joints and tendons,and it’s also a complete workout for them,” says Adhirajsingh Jodha,grandson of Purtusingh and a third-generation trainer in his family.

Hair today,plucked tomorrow

While women (and men) have been known to complain of their hair removal woes,horses too have their own share of painful grooming. Left to its own devices,a horse’s mane can get quite long and unruly. This can get in the way of practice. “So,most horses have their manes cut short,shaved or plucked,to keep them neater,” says Singh. At some of the bigger races at the Race Course,it’s not unusual to spot a horse or two sporting more bold hair styles like fishtail braids,or even manes with golden thread plaited in.

rolling in the deep

After all that grooming,one would expect that the horses would be kept as far away from dirt as possible. Instead,every morning,after their exercise and track practice,the horses are led to sand pits and made to roll around in them. Singh says,“From the way they roll,we can figure out whether they have injuries,sore muscles or any other discomfort.”

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