Interval Training a Winner at Aqueduct Today


‘Bad steps late, eased.’

‘Through after half.’

‘Tracked inside, tired.’

Not exactly the comments you wish to see in the DRF following your last 3 races. But that was the line for Light Weight, until today. She failed to even record a Beyer figure in 2 of those starts, but beat a 2-5 favorite today going 5.5F in her first start off a 120+ day layoff with an apprentice who was 0-28 so far in 2014.

Video here:

I have the best job in the world. I love this game. I get to meet and work with a great guy like trainer Eddie Barker, sell him a HR/GPS unit and some STORM, talk to him over the phone repeatedly, then watch him win 6 races in his first 16 starts this year. Makes getting up at 3am in the morning for 20+ years worth it – for him, not my lazy ass here in Kentucky.

You remember Mr. Barker. He won twice in 8 days last month with a mare who had gone 1 for her first 23:

Once again all congrats belong to the connections as Light Weight has gone mostly nowhere in her 8 career starts around the NY circuit. Like many maidens, she has some issues, and it’s tough to consistently train her long and hold her together. And kudos to apprentice rider Katie Davis, she piloted this filly through the morning workouts I am going to describe next and was richly rewarded this afternoon. The win should have paid more than $10, but that’s my only complaint today.

Enter interval training, Thoroedge- style.

Light Weight is speedy, always has been – even from the gate when getting thumped in her first few starts. Then she spits the bit after a half. Finished. But a little risky to work her 5F plus, what do you do?

Simple, work her 6F, but split it in half with PLENTY of rest. The last two works at AQU were only recorded as 3F, but she did that twice. Sandwiched in between was a nice relaxing 20min break down the chute on the backside. Complete recovery. And let me tell you, the 2nd 3F on each of those days she was SMOKING.

Earlier this week, trainer Barker noted she seemed to have ‘woken up’. Bad weather forced her to jog one morning, and she was ready to explode. She obviously likes to go fast in the mornings. So let her, but allow for a rest interval to eliminate the possibility of a fatigue-induced injury.

Now most people familiar with human-style interval training are dealing with incomplete recovery periods. As little as 10-20 seconds between repetitions on the track, on the bike, or in the pool. No problem with that, humans can get fitter battling intense fatigue. But lower end horses can get hurt in such a scenario.

In my work with young athletes over the years, I concentrated on developing speed and power, mainly displayed via increased vertical leap and/or 40m sprint time. To train in this manner, complete rest is required between repetitions. This is not conditioning, it is nervous system training. You must train faster to race faster. If you constantly train in a tired state, you will not develop optimum speed and power.

If some trainer tells you interval training stinks, he didn’t do it my way.

Back to Light Weight, a name she had certainly earned over her career prior to this afternoon at Aqueduct. She gets tired in that 4th furlong, so stop her just short. Now she gets a total of 6F speedwork on April 10th, making a 5.5F effort one week later well within her wheelhouse for the first time in her life.

Can something go wrong doing this?
Is the rider going to have sore arms?
Does it take 3x as long as other breezes?
Are other trainers going to criticize?
Is it worth it?
Sure was today.

Horses sprint interval style in nature all the damn time. Hundreds of times a month. Go fast, get tired, stop. Go fast, get tired, stop. Running when tired with a rider urging you on sucks, and not all will thrive under this method – so change it up and emulate the natural instincts of the breed.

East coast based owners should consider sending Ed Barker some horses. He only has a small string right now, and can give personal attention to each. Diet, shoeing, conditioning, etc. he is doing all the right things by the horse.


About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on April 17, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Patience is key, few owners and most trainers lack this key ingredient to success, the big time trainers just roll through the herd and run with whom ever is left standing, I wish Mr. Barker continued success, and I’ll be watching the entries for him.

  2. Indeed impressive. Clearly, excellent analysis of the issues that were impeding her progress, then great adaptation to help her achieve her maximum potential. Congrats to you and to Mr. Barker. Well done.

    • Thanks a ton Murray. If you are ever around Lexington and wish to see a horse training uphill on a treadmill, just drop me a note and we can take a field trip to a local training center. Quite an experience, you can stand 4′ from them while they fly on that machine. Lots of ‘out of the box’ stuff I have going on – at least considered unconventional in the US (for now).

  3. Congrats to Light Weight! just read post before this one. Pressey sums it up. Once again! Great post! Q–where are the young trainers trying Burch style training?

  4. Thanks RR! Those young (Burch style) trainers are around, just not in the US.

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