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Postby albrookes on 19 Jul 2010, 17:01

Joining us for our next Q&A is Equine Exercise Physiologist Bill Pressey.

Bill writes for European Trainer magazine and is a right-hand man to many trainers when it comes to devising training programmes.

Bill's openness is refreshing when it comes to the methodology behind training thoroughbred rachorses, and his blog is one of the most informative on the net:

So if there's something you'd like to know regarding how equine athletes are prepped for top-level performances, Bill is undoubtedly your man.

Please post all your questions below and I know Bill is looking forward to answering them.

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Postby aaronizneez on 21 Jul 2010, 16:03


Whilst aware that each individual horse is different, in your opinion on average how long does a horse need between races to operate at an optimum level.


I think that 3 weeks is too long for most, and 3 days is too short – the correct answer lies between. If you can collect and analyze physiological data such as heart rate, gallop speed, lactate balance point, etc. – you can eliminate the guesswork and pinpoint the best for your horse, i.e. tell when he is recovered from his last effort.

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Postby ReasonoverFaith on 21 Jul 2010, 17:18


Really enjoyed reading your blog and was fascinated by your comment on how athletes have improved their physical performance considerably in the last 40-50 years but you say that there hasn't been a similar improvement from thoroughbred racecourses.

Anyway, my question is why can't a middle distance horse racing over 10-12F train like a human distance runner does for the same event?

A horse can train in that manner, but only if the trainer is willing to use intervals and stick out from his competition, not many are set up to do that here in the US where most horses get 10-15 min a day max of exercise
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Postby Adrian on 21 Jul 2010, 22:31


A couple of questions :

1. How come American 2yos, without the benefits of interval training on hills, can run so well on a stiff track like Royal Ascot. Are they just more precocious?

Sorry, I’m not familiar enough with racing over there to comment on this one. I would suspect the trainers of such precocious babies are a little tougher on them than the competition.

2. Are there any American trainers using the modern methods as advocated by many British trainers ie treadmills, equine spas, swimming pools, the E-Trakka system (or even more basic GPS/Heartrate systems?). If not, why not as they seem to spend a fortune on normal veterinary care.

Very few, but they are out there. Many use things like cold water spas and chiropractic work for horses that are lame – but few use them in a proactive manner. ‘Why not?” is the question – my view is that too many US based trainers are afraid to try something different in front of their colleagues. Rightfully so, they suspect should something go wrong, a rival will poison potential owners with tales of his eccentricities.

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Postby jose1993 on 22 Jul 2010, 05:58

Bill, in your opinion, is there a right amount of training a horse should do on a different surface to one they have raced on previously to try to adapt and adjust before racing competitively on it?

Again, there sure is, and we don’t have to guess if we collect and analyze objective, quantitative data on the physiological response. Some will take to different surfaces quite rapidly, others may never get the feel – data collected during the mornings can visually depict both cases.

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Postby albrookes on 22 Jul 2010, 11:12

Cheers for the informed questions so far guys, I'm sure Bill will enjoy getting his teeth into them.

From Tony Cullen, via Facebook:

'Bill, Why can get some trainers get their horses fit to burst at home and some say "He is as fit as I can get him at home" and the horse is fatter and runs slower than me? And how is this training on the course allowed?'

Too many ‘race’ their horses into shape, afraid to injure them during the morning. Of course, this often results in injury at the track. If a horse breaks down during training there is hell to pay, if it happens on race day there is always an excuse.

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Postby albrookes on 22 Jul 2010, 11:46


I know you’re a fan of Mike de Kock and Aiden O’Brien’s appreciation (and use of) modern technology in training like GPS and treadmills.

What edge do you think these trainers gain over trainers who favour the ‘tried-and-tested’ approach handed down over generations?

That’s just it – those 2 guys are using modern technology along with old fashioned tried and true approaches, that gives them an edge in my opinion. Instead of giving each one a similar regimen, i.e. gallop 2 miles every other day, breeze a half once per week, etc. – they can individualize the workload to match exactly with the current conditioning level.

Do you think there is something noticeable in the attributes of horses trained by users of technology opposed to those that don’t?

I would say horses trained using technology make a few more starts per year and don’t need 3-4 races in them to peak. Plus, trainers with an eye on physiology will force the horse to warm up a bit more quickly before the race.

Many thanks

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Postby Seven Towers on 22 Jul 2010, 14:53

Hi Bill
You highlight the benefits of modern technology on training methods but it seems that the trainers using this technology are in the minority.

Is this down to the cost of the technology or do you think that in some ways racehorse trainers are resistant to change?

Certainly not the cost, modern trainers here in the US are businessmen, actual conditioning takes up about 30min per day. If they do something out of the ordinary, say treadmill work, and one gets hurt – other trainers will use that as ammunition to pry owners away.

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Postby Prufrock on 23 Jul 2010, 08:23

To what extent do you think that punters and racing enthusiasts should be privy to the kind of information on which the scientific training of racehorses is based?

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could get heart rate information on every horse in the field? Knowing whose HR drops quicker after the finish line can be very valuable and indicative of a physiological standout. Similarly, if Horse A was able to max out at 233bpm last race, but only 223bpm this time – I would sure stay away from him next time out, he’s stale.

In particular, do you think they should have access to the weights of horses and to sectional timing when horses appear at the track?

Absolutely, the more data the better

What are the potential positives and negatives of providing such information in your opinion?

All positives, more data should lead to more punters thinking they have the edge, creating a greater handle
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Postby cormack15 on 23 Jul 2010, 08:38

What is the most significant single error in training technique you consider trainers most generally guilty of?

Breezing once per 6-7 days, and rarely going further than a half mile.

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360 degrees

Postby 360 degrees on 23 Jul 2010, 19:13


Do you have a view on the different racing styles employed in Europe & the USA?

I'm thinking of the non-tactical USA style with quick getaways versus the sometimes (frequent?) so-called tactical races we see over here - as evidenced perhaps by favouring horses being held back more in Europe than in the States.

Thanks for your response!

I don’t really have an opinion, different styles for different folks. But, I would sure train a horse differently when moving from one to another, yet few do.

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Postby insomniac on 24 Jul 2010, 12:10

Hi Bill,
Is there any place in modern training for "old-fashioned" use of natural resources, say particular herbs, plants etc.?
If so, what for (e,g, healing or speeding-up the healing ofa particular type of injury)?
(I've got this image of a wizened old stable-lad applying a kind of nettle and dandelion poultice to an injured joint etc. Might just be romantic nonsense, but I can't believe that there aren't plants that have uses in this way. )
Is the knowledge of using plants and natural products for the benefit of a horses health now a lost thing?
Are there any types of plant/herb/flower that might cause harm to a horse if they were accidentally eaten?
And finally, if you wnated a horse to under-perform on the track and didn't want to use drugs to do it, is there any "natural" plant or substance that would do the trick that wouldn't have a long-term effect on the horse's health?
(There's nothing sinister behind this question - honest).
Anyway, thanks for any help you can give.

I really like the idea of using natural herbal concoctions with a training horse. Again, the cool thing is – by using an objective measure of fitness – you can tell if such a remedy is actually working or not. Probably 90% of supplements out there are useless, but it can be great fun, and an edge, when you find the formula that works in your specific case.

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Postby albrookes on 24 Jul 2010, 17:27

I didn't know Alan Titchmarsh was a TRF user :p

Cheers for all the questions guys, I know Bill has been keeping an eye on this thread so I'm sure he'll do his best to answer all your questions.

I'll leave this thread open for another day or so, but I feel we've got a good cross-section of questions and will send them to Bill very soon.


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