A Day in the Life of a Horse Trainer

June 30, 2020

I received a request from a racing fan who wanted to know what it is like to be a trainer on a daily basis.

A trainer’s day starts early depending on how many horses he has to train. In my case it was very early. I would be at the barn by 5 am, the help were usually there by 4:30 am. I had a full barn and the track opened at 5:30 am so I wanted the first set ready to go. A set meaning more than one horse training together. But before the horses were sent to the track they were all checked out by me or one of my assistant trainers.

There was a great trainer named Charlie Whittingham. He would always say horses are like strawberries, they go bad overnight. So with that in mind a good trainer always checks the horses out. Generally the help is around the horses everyday and they know each horse’s pattern. The first thing to do is check to see if the horses ate the feed from the night before. If they did they were given the morning feed. Usually the horses are fed around 4 am so they have plenty of time to eat. Lots of trainers have different views about feeding breakfast. I always wanted to feed them. If the horse was off its feed, that was a red flag. The groom takes the horse’s temperature to make sure he is not running a fever.

Then I or one of my assistants would check each horse. After talking to the groom and passing the eye test with everything looking good, the groom was told what time to have the horse tacked up to go to the track. If there was a problem, the horse was just walked and checked out more closely. At that point we decided the next course of action. A good trainer will always err on the side of caution. 

The exercise rider will check the training chart and see which horses he is working. He will bring the tack to the groom and he will get ready. I liked to keep the same rider on the same horse as the rider knew and got along with the horse. After the exercise rider tacked up, I wanted them to ride the horse around the barn a few turns. I liked to see how the horse reacted to the weight on his back and how the horse felt underneath the rider. If I didn’t like what I saw, I talked to the rider to get his take and decided whether the horse would train or not. 

I was a trainer who wanted to see each horse train. Some trainers are too busy and rely on the exercise rider. This is okay as a good rider knows what the trainer wants and knows the horse. I always told the rider if the horse didn’t feel right to take the horse back to the barn. It’s important to be on the same page with the exercise rider. 
After training, the horse is cooled out and put back in his stall. The horse is given a chance to relax before the trainer checks him out. When that’s finished, the trainer confers with the veterinarian and lets him know which horses need to be examined. A trainer cannot be too cautious when it comes to the horses’ well being. 

It’s now time to enter the horses and talk to the clients. That usually takes a few hours. With the morning over, the trainer heads home to get ready for the races. I would stop back at the barn to make sure all was good. Then off to the races. To me, that’s the best part of the day. After the races I would check on the horses that ran. If all was well, it was off to home to wait and do the same thing tomorrow. As you can see a trainer has a full day. I hope that helps you understand a day in the life of a trainer. 

See you at the races

Contributing Authors

JJ Graci

RIP JJ was born in Philadelphia, Pa.  and attended Villanova University. He has vast experience in horse racing and broadcasting. JJ has been a fixture...

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