Many racehorses are purchased from breeders by owners and/or trainers at horse sales across Australia and internationally. Horses are commonly purchased as yearlings (less than 2 years old), then are put out to pasture where they are allowed to grow and develop. Depending on their development, horses bred for racing are generally educated to saddle before their second birthday.
A Thoroughbred’s growth and development is rapid. By 18 months of age they have reached 95% of their mature height and 80% of their mature weight. Standardbreds mature at a similar rate.
It must also be acknowledged that all horses are individuals and that licensed trainers plan their training and racing schedules to suit the individual capabilities of each horse to carefully minimise the risk of injury.
Depending on the horse, a racehorse will usually have its first race start as a two or three year old, and some can race up until they are 12 years old, with an automatic retirement from racing age at 14 years in Western Australia. However, the average Thoroughbred retires from racing at the age of six or seven and the average Standardbreds retires at the age of eight or nine.
Generally horses spend half of their time training in the racing stable and the other half spelling at pasture. Whilst in training they have a strict routine, usually a very early morning start, which may include track work, swimming, being attended to by veterinarians, farriers, and dentists, followed by breakfast. They rest during the day and some are lightly exercised again in the afternoon followed by dinner.
On race day they are floated or trucked to the races where they compete in a race chosen by their trainer. Basically, the jockey’s or driver’s job is to not interfere with the natural balance of the horse and position the horse where they are best suited with regard to the running of the race, and ask them to let go when the time is right.
In addition to being purchased as yearlings, Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds that have already commenced training or racing can be purchased from other sales such as ’ready to run’ sales or ‘breeze ups’, or directly from an owner or breeder.