As horse owners and racing enthusiasts know, breeding a racehorse is no easy feat, let alone one that goes on to riding it to victory in order to win the Grand National!. With this year’s race historically won by Rachael Blackmore, the first female jockey to do so on Minella Times, it is an interesting time to considering just what it takes to achieve this for any horse or jockey. or horse is momentous. Here, we take a look at why diet and exercise required to be a G is key for those aiming to be Grand National winners is key.
Dedication from Day One
Most jockeys have a shared dream of being a winner, and for Rachael Blackmore, this started from an early age when riding ponies as a child. This hobby then became a focus for her studies growing up, gaining a degree in Equine Science at University whilst continuing to train as an amateur jockey. Now 31, she is a Grand National Winner, having achieved a lifetime ambition and succeeding where many others have failed achieving that dream.
Whilst a Just as a jockey’s life is dedicated to the sport with fairly extreme dietary requirements, , ensuring they have the right diet and exercise to be a professional rider, the same goes for the winning competing horses such as Minella Times. All horses have to have the right combination of diet and training to ensure they are fit enough to complete the toughest race run in the UK and it is a fine balance providing the horse with sufficient energy whilst maintaining their health. This is because there are a number of serious diseases that afflict horses when fed high levels of the carbohydrates needed as fuel. Gastric Ulcers is a particularly significant issue for racehorses with over 90% of them thought to have some form of stomach ulcer when in training. Selecting the right horse feed for them is where equine nutritionists work with the horse’s trainer and stable staff so getting a horse race fit is truly a team effort!
In extreme cases, an overload of carbohydrates can cause another potentially fatal disease called laminitis. It is less common in racehorses healthy, helping to avoid any issues with weight management that can lead to disease such as as laminitis in horses is usually associated with overweight ponies – a little bit like type 2 diabetes in humans. However, laminitis can also occur as a result of excessive weight bearing. In the context of a racehorse, should they be injured in one front leg and therefore need to take more weight through the other limb, this can be sufficient for the laminae to fail For a horse bred for competition, laminitis can be extremely debilitating and can even lead to death in the worst cases if the laminae fail and the pedal bone that sits in the hoof capsule, rotates downwards, potentially going through the sole of the foot.
The perfect horse for competition doesn’t exist, so carefully managing the feed and grazing habits of a horse is key to weight management and training. Laminitis is something horse breeders keenly want to avoid for a racehorse, as well as any underlying health conditions such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) or Pituitary Oars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID). Some breeds are more susceptible than others, which is why thoroughbreds are usually good for competition and are well-known for their agility.
Superior Energy Levels
This years’ winning horse, Minella Times, is an 8-year-old Irish-bred Thoroughbred racehorse. Over the years, ihists nutritional requirements would have been carefully managed to ensure the superior energy levels needed for racing were met. The average horse requires a digestible energy intake of between 15.2 Megacalories (Mcals) to 34.5 Mcals, with the highest figure required for very heavy exercise or intense training. Remember, 1 Mcal is a million calories! Of course, if a horse is only grazing in a field most of the day, it requires much less energy than one that is racing or show jumping.
With a jockey, whilst not physically running the race like the horse, they still expel a lot of energy from riding, but it is key for them not to burden the horse with extra weight and so jockeys are notoriously lean. which This is why those like Rachael Blackmore would’ve been on as little as been on strict diets leading up to the race. On average, a jockey may intake 1,500 calories a day, much less than the recommended calorie intake for adults despite the high amount of energy she uses when riding. It is a fine line for jockeys to ensure they have enough energy not to compromise their performance but keeping their bodyweight to an absolute minimum. , but many will be guided on their resting metabolic rate The highest level jockeys work with by sports nutritionists to ensure they are in peak condition to take on the Grand National. and it will vary depending on their usually smaller stature.
Whilst genetics takes some of the credit for producing a Grand National Winner, it only accounts for some of the there is a huge amount of work and patience required too, meaning environment, diet and training are hugely influential. Both the horse and jockey need to lead a life dedicated life to racing, so they can turn those few minutes it n Aintree into an historic one.