>The Ideal 2 Year Old Training Program
>Pedigree and conformation are what you pay for at the sales.
Once you have your prospects, don’t simply train them like everyone else – invest a little extra time and attention, not money for once, and you can gain an edge on the competition by the time you get to the track.
HOW TO GET THE BONE DENSITY OF A RACING 4 YEAR OLD IN YOUR 2 YEAR OLDS
My job is to comb through hundreds of pages of scientific studies put forth by the brightest minds in the equine industry and find things of use to my clients.
By far, the biggest discovery was a specific exercise protocol for 2 year old horses hidden within the landmark Maryland Shin Study by David Nunamaker of the New Bolton Center for Veterinary Medicine:
This study has been around for many years, yet my experience shows less than 10% of those who can benefit from the findings are actually putting the recommendations into practice. On a personal note, I work with an $11,000 yearling purchase that exhibits the same physiological ability of a Derby hopeful for an international racing concern that paid a six figure stud fee in 2008.
My filly adds speed work at the end of gallops twice a week, while the regally bred colt is trained in a traditional manner of 2 mile gallops with a breeze thrown in every 7-10 days. Both will be at the races this fall, stay tuned for an update – but for now let’s look at how YOU can condition your two year olds for maximum soundness and earning potential in the upcoming season.
Why is the practice of ‘legging up’ dangerous for racehorses?
Because 70% of traditionally trained two year olds develop some sort of repetitive loading injury in the shins, which compromises soundness and earning potential.
Old school trainers would often buck shins on purpose, in order to ‘get it out of the way’, rest and resume training. Although many live through this process and come out OK, Nunamaker found that over 12% of these athletes suffer saucer fractures later on in their careers.
Standardbreds don’t buck their shins because they train and race in the same gait, a trot or pace. Thoroughbreds have shin problems because they often train at varied paces – many slower than race pace.
They build ‘gallop’ bone, not ‘breeze’ bone. Therefore when breezes are introduced, trouble often arises. When galloping slower than a 2:45 pace, the cannon bone strikes the ground at an angle, and new bone rapidly forms to counteract this.
However, at breeze speeds of 13sec/furlong or faster, the cannon bone strikes the ground at 90 degrees, with more dense bone forming as a result on the front and inner surfaces of the cannon bones – which is ideal for withstanding the rigors of racing. Please see below:
Classical training can also be referred to as traditional training and consists of many miles of long, slow gallops designed to ‘leg up’ the 2 year old for a future at the racetrack. Most gallops stop increasing distance at 2 miles, and paces are kept in the range of 18-20 sec/furlong, or about a 2:30 min/mile. Breezes are introduced at a frequency of once every 7-10 days and range from 1F to 4F in length, with speeds of approximately 13 sec/furlong. Sound familiar?
Modified training can be referred to as scientific training, as its specifics have been devised from Nunamaker, John Fisher DVM, and others through rigorous testing and evaluation of several hundred 2 year olds over the past 2 decades. The gallops typically are shorter, from a mile to a mile and a quarter, and speedwork is introduced much earlier. Twice each week a gallop ends with speed work, starting with 1F in 15 seconds, and ending 3 months later with 3F in :40.
Here are the study details with pictures:
A – Group 1 – traditional training on a dirt track, this horse bucked his shins
B – Group 2 – traditional training on wood chip surface, even less new bone than Group 1
C – Group 3 – control group turned out to pasture, cannon bone still mostly round
D – Group 4 – modified training group, thick/dense bone on front and inside of shin
E – Table of results – green line represents racing 3 year olds, our 2 year olds in Stable 4 (black line) demonstrate superior bone growth compared to this group of seasoned competitors, without even racing yet!
Stable 2, with frequent breezes and modified training, was found to reduce the likelihood of bucked shins by 98.6%.
Training traditionally, Stables 1 and 4 had the largest incidences of bucked shins, with weekly breezing found to increase the chances of bucked shins by 36.4%.
Even if they didn’t buck, overall development was compromised by the failure to build race-appropriate bone and tendon strength as a juvenile.
Modified 2 year old training at Fair Hill in Maryland
Young horses are broken to ride in the fall and are able to gallop one mile in 18-20sec/furlong pace by the end of December of their 1 year old year.
Finish 2 gallops (TUE and SAT) with final furlong in :15 for 5 weeks.
-Fisher Stage 2
Finish 2 gallops (TUE and SAT) with final 2F in :30 for 5 weeks.
Gallops are extended to 1.25 miles twice per week.
Finish 1 gallop (SAT) with final 2F in :26 for 4 weeks.
Finish 1 gallop (SAT) with final 3F in :40 for 3 weeks
“This training program has shown no increase in the injury rate of young horses.
An excellent by-product of this training program is the mental development of these 2-yr-olds. Because of the very relaxed atmosphere of walking to and from the racetrack, these individuals exhibit no anxiety about their work.
For this training program to work the rider cannot be in a hurry to get back to the barn and on the next horse. The 2-yr-olds are not anxious about speed work because it has been in their weekly schedule since the beginning of training.
All the animals walk back to the barn. Walking is a great exercise that does not seem to negatively influence bone modeling or remodeling.”
Another take on the same concept from Dr. Jack Woolsey, DVM:
1F 15 sec/furlong :15 2x/week 2 weeks
2F 15 sec/furlong :30 2x/week 2 weeks
3F 15 sec/furlong :45 2x/week 2 weeks
4F 15 sec/furlong :60 2x/week 2 weeks
2F 13 sec/furlong :26 2x/week 3 weeks
3F 13 sec/furlong :39 2x/week 3 weeks
4F 13 sec/furlong :52 Every 5 days 2 weeks
*31 breezes in 16 weeks, starting Jan. 1st and ending April 15th – conversely, traditionally trained 2 year olds may get worked from 2-4F on average 12 times before heading to the starting gate.
*Notice how speed is kept constant as distance increases, then as speed increases, distance drops back off. Excellent example of changing exercise variables to induce positive adaptations, in this case as one variable is increased (speed) another is decreased (distance) in order to avoid overtraining.