Racing Owners

“His hooves pound the beat, your heart sings the song.” ~ Jerry Shulman

There is something magical about the Thoroughbred racehorse that has captivated people for 4oo years. It’s called the Sport of Kings, but almost anyone can get involved in the industry and experience the nervous excitement, feel the power of the racehorse, hear the drumming of hooves on the track and enjoy a victory celebration in the winner’s circle!

Thoroughbred racing is one of the most exciting sports that people can get involved in (not everyone can own an NHL team, but almost anyone can own a racehorse!), and we want to provide as much information as we can about owning a Thoroughbred racehorse. We encourage each and every new owner to learn as much about the racing industry as possible. Read industry publications and follow them on social media, attend the races, attend the yearling sale, contact the owners and breeders associations and get familiar with the industry.

Any person participating in horse racing in Alberta must be licensed by Horse Racing Alberta. Racing horses can be a very exciting sport, and viewed as entertainment for many owners, but it is very heavily regulated. In addition to HRA Rules Governing Racing, there are also Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency rules.

Goals and Objectives

What are your goals and objectives of owning a racehorse? Whether you want to have a small stable of just one horse, or a large stable with horses racing in different jurisdictions, you need to have an idea of the goals for your stable. Building your stable will require significant time and money, so get familiar with what you want to achieve!

  1. How much money do you want to allocate to your stable? Generally speaking, the level of investment is the primary consideration in determining the most appropriate means of becoming an owner. Determine the total amount of money that you are willing to allocate to this investment. Develop a budget, identifying the amount to be utilized for the initial purchase, and obtain realistic estimates of daily expenditures.
  2. How much time do you have to devote to your stable? How involved do you want to be? Do you have the time to talk with the trainer, or to visit the stable area, racing office or track kitchen on a daily basis?
  3. Do you prefer to have sole ownership or be part of a partnership or syndicate? Your degree of financial involvement, and the amount of time you have to spend on your horse activity combined with the level at which you wish to participate should guide you in answering this question. Basically you need to decide if you want to operate on your own or with others. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. While sole ownership allows you to have more control, have all the glory and keep all financial rewards, you also bear all of the risks associated with ownership.
  4. What are your goals? Do you want to win the Canadian Derby or just have some laughs with friends and cheer your horse home? Answering this question will help determine the level of investment of both time and money that you will need to be successful.
  5. What kind of equine investment should you make? Are you interested in purchasing yearlings and developing young stock? Do you prefer to own an older horse with a known race record? Do you want to purchase a filly or mare with the intent to one day raise a foal?
  6. At what level are you looking to participate? Everyone wants a classic winner. Unfortunately, not all horses have the ability to compete and win at the top level. There are many levels at which you, as an owner, can participate: claiming, allowance, and stakes. Your financial resources may ultimately dictate this. If you want lots of action, (horses racing often), your strategy may be different from someone seeking the classic horse. Remember, the thrill of ownership does not diminish with the level of horse you own.
  7. What type of tax treatment do you need for your racehorse ownership? Regardless of which form of ownership you choose, you should seriously consider structuring and treating your equine activities as a business because of certain tax and liability issues. Always consult with your tax advisor for the proper way to structure your equine business.
  8. What do you want to gain from your racehorse ownership? Horse knowledge, new friends, financial gain, and social activity can all be obtained through Thoroughbred ownership.

Take some time to think about your horse racing goals, and that will help you plan your stable.

Thoroughbred racing is a team sport. Think of your stable as a sports franchise. The players are the horses, and to have successful players you need good coaches, good management and a good support team. The owner, trainer, groom, exercise rider, jockey and the support staff all contribute to the care and conditioning of the racehorse.

Selecting your trainer might be the most important decision you make for your new team. Most racing offices can provide you with a list of active trainers, with contact information. Take your time to select a trainer who matches your goals and objectives, and who fits your personality. The trainer will have absolute responsibility for the equine athletes in his/her barn, and will ensure the physical condition of the horse to race. He/she is responsible for the day-to-day preparations of the horses, including feed and grooming regimen, exercise schedule, veterinary and alternative treatment and farrier schedules. The trainer is responsible to contract a jockey to ride in a race, declare horses for races, saddle the horse in the paddock and follow up with the jockey after the race. He/she must also adhere to the rules of racing in Alberta.

Selecting a Trainer FAQs

  1. How did you get started training? How long have you been training?
  2. What types of horses have you had the most success with? Maiden? Claiming? Stakes?
  3. What are some examples of your successes?
  4. How often do you communicate with your owners?
  5. What is your standard day rate?
  6. What do you charge for percentage of earnings?
  7. How do you enlist the services of a veterinarian for the day-to-day management of horses in your care?
  8. What can I expect each month in the way of veterinary charges?
  9. Do you charge additional fees for feed supplements, vitamins, ulcer treatment or any anything else? If so please explain.
  10. Do your invoices include veterinary fees, blacksmith, vanning and other supplemental charges?
  11. Is there a bonus policy for stable employees?

Once you have chosen your trainer, he/she will typically make all of the decisions for the rest of the support team. The trainer will assign a groom to care for the horse, and will select the exercise rider for morning training and choose the jockey for races.

A racing stable revolves around the equine athlete. A racehorse can be purchased in three ways: through a public auction, by claim and by private sale. You can also join a partnership or a syndicate and experience the same thrills of full ownership, with shared costs.

Public Auction

  1. Decide how much you wish to spend; establish a budget.
  2. Do your homework before the sale; study the catalogue; estimate prices for the horses.
  3. Contact trainer/advisor to assist with work at the sales.
  4. Establish credit with the sales company.
  5. Review Conditions of Sale.
  6. If you do not have an agent to purchase on your behalf, arrange for a Veterinarian to do pre-sale and or post sale examinations and contact the vanning company and farm where the horse will be shipped.


Claiming races constitute the majority of Thoroughbred races. Each horse entered in such a race is subject to sale, or claim, at the value stated in the conditions of the race. However, all purse money earned is the property of the person in whose name the horse started.

The primary advantage to claiming is that it offers immediate racing action. Likened to purchasing a used car, the buyer may be obtaining a horse which, with a change in training routine, may develop and excel or may turn out to be nothing more than a lemon. Unlike purchasing a horse at public auction or privately, the buyer is not entitled to perform a veterinary examination prior to the purchase.

If you elect to pursue this option, you should employ a trainer who excels in this aspect of the business. With your trainer, devise a strategy for selecting potential claims.

  1. Review the claiming rules
  2. Complete the paperwork
  3. Take possession of the horse

Private sale

While auction and claiming are the two most popular methods of acquiring a horse, they may also be purchased privately. Private transactions offer the buyer value and opportunity as well as the option of a pre-purchase exam.


There is little debate that the thrill of owning part of a racehorse matches that of sole ownership. Because of this, and other more practical considerations, many first-time owners elect to become involved in racing through a partnership. The proportional initial capital expenditure, combined with reduced recurring expenses, affords most an economical entry into the business.

There are generally two paths to becoming involved in equine partnerships:

  1. Purchasing shares in an existing partnership, or
  2. Forming a partnership with a group of friends or associates.

How much does it cost to keep a racehorse in training? The easy answer is, “It depends.” It depends on where you race, who your trainer is, the vet and farrier you use and the soundness of your horse. Costs are set by what the market will bear and everything (except taxes, jockey fees and worker’s compensation premiums) is negotiable.

The trainer’s day rate is the major expense. Day rates can be as little as $40 at a small track to as much as $120+ at a major track. Much of this depends on location, purse structure and the level of experience of your trainer.

Not included in the trainer’s day rate are veterinary and farrier fees. Veterinary fees vary as much as day rates and are dependent upon your trainer’s habits and the health of your horse. For routine veterinary care, the cost can be as low as less than $100 per month to as much as 50% or more of your monthly training bill. It all depends.

Given the variability of veterinary costs, it is important for you to have a discussion with your trainer where you learn their philosophy concerning the extent to which a vet is going to be used. Also, do your homework so you will be able to understand, as much as possible, the purpose of each treatment and ask intelligent questions of your trainer and veterinarian.

While at the track, you should expect your horse to be re-shod every month. “Regular” shoeing includes hoof trimming and costs about $80 to $120 per horse. Again, this cost depends on the locale and the farrier’s expertise. “Special” shoes such as bar shoes and mud calks will cost more, as will patches to repair quarter cracks (cracks in the hoof).

Sample Cost of Ownership

Costs of Ownership Per Day Month Year
Training Day Rate  $60.00  $1,800.00  $16,200.00
Off season/rehab board  $20.00  $600.00  $1,800.00
Veterinarian  $400.00  $3,600.00
Farrier  $150.00  $1,350.00
Trucking  $1,000.00
HRA License  $50.00
Silks  $200.00
Supplements  $900.00
Alternative therapy  $900.00
Total  $26,000.00

Alberta Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association is an alliance of owners who wish to improve the industry. Our equine athletes form the basis of the industry, and we recognize that breeders, owners, trainers, riders and stable staff all want the best for the horses. Without the horses, we would not have an industry. New owners can be overwhelmed with too much information, or underwhelmed by the lack of educational resources. Both situations can be very frustrating! Owning a racehorse costs a significant amount of money every month, and ATOBA recognizes the costs and wants to support your investment.

ATOBA is a new organization and the only goal is to support new and veteran owners and breeders with information, education and events. ATOBA is not intended to supplant or interfere with any of the existing organizations, the mission is to provide an additional layer of support for breeders and owners. In Alberta, learning about the racing organizations can be a bit formidable! Just the acronyms are difficult to sort out, let alone learn how each of the bodies interact and what they provide. Each body is important, and ATOBA wants to provide as much information for new and veteran owners as possible.

Horse Racing Alberta

Horse Racing Alberta is the regulatory body for all horse racing in the province.

In accordance with the Racing Corporation Act, the mandated objects of the HRA are as follows;

  • To govern, direct, control, regulate, manage, and promote horse racing in any or all of its forms.
  • To protect the health, safety, and welfare of racehorses and, with respect to horse racing, the safety and welfare of racing participants and racing officials.
  • To safeguard the interests of the general public in horse racing.

In 2016, Horse Racing Alberta signed a 10 year agreement with the Government of Alberta to ensure the viability of racing in Alberta.

Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society

The CTHS is the breed association for Thoroughbreds. If you want to stand a stallion, breed a mare, or register a foal, you will need to learn about the CTHS! The National Office determines the requirements for Canadian-bred status of foals, maintains the Breeder Membership Roster for Canada, compiles statistics and represents Canadian Thoroughbred breeders nationally and internationally. The Alberta Division mandate is to promote the purchase of Alberta Thoroughbreds, keep records, organize sales, disseminate information, compile statistics and assist our membership with registration.

  • CTHS co-hosts the Annual Awards Night
  • CTHS holds the Yearling sale in Alberta
  • CTHS, through Horse Racing Alberta’s Thoroughbred Breed Improvement Program, distributes funds to various programs
  • Thoroughbred Lasting Careers (TLC) provides funding and support for aftercare, rehabilitation and retraining of off-the-track Thoroughbreds in Alberta

Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association of Alberta

The H.B.P.A. of Alberta is one of the five Provincial Associations that form the H.B.P.A. of Canada. Anyone who becomes licensed as an owner or trainer at an “A” racetrack in Alberta is automatically a member of the Association.

The HBPA represents the membership in dealings and negotiation with Racetrack Operators on the following matters:

  • Purse Contracts
  • Facility Improvements
  • Day to day operating procedures
  • Other matters of interest and benefit
  • To participate with all industry stakeholders in the establishment  of proper rules and goverence
  • Benevolence. Endeavor to provide aid and assistance to Horsemen in need as well as improving the working and living  conditions of members and backstretch personnel at the race tracks.
  • To be proactive or assist in any movement that will aid or protect the general welfare of the racing industry, the interests of members, their employees and backstretch personnel.

Alberta Community Thoroughbred Racing Association

ACTRA‘s mission is the represent the Thoroughbred horsemen participating on Alberta community tracks and provide a unified voice for all.

  • ACTRA hosts the Annual Awards Night
  • Purse contracts
  • Day to day operating procedures
  • Benevolence for backstretch employees

Century Downs

Century Downs Racetrack and Casino brings the long-lived passion of horse racing back to the city of Calgary. Century Downs Racetrack and Casino features a racetrack that is a 5 ½ furlong oval for Standardbred, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing with two chutes (7.5 Furlong/550 Yards and 4 Furlong/870 Yards) for the Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses.

Evergreen Park

Evergreen Park in Grande Prairie hosts Thoroughbred ‘B’ Circuit racing during July and August. Evergreen Park features a 5 furlong oval.

Northlands Park

Northlands Park in Edmonton has been hosting racing since 1900. It features a 5 furlong track composed of sand and clay with a stretch run of 527 feet. The most common distances are 6 furlong, 6.5 furlong, 1 mile, 11/16 mile. Overnight purses are $95,000/day and it is the home of Alberta’s most prestigious race, the $150,000 Canadian Derby.

Rocky Mountain Turf Club

RMTC in Lethbridge hosts two ‘B’ Circuit meets each year in May and June and September and October. Rocky Mountain Turf Club features a 4 furlong oval.

Preparing a horse for a race

The trainer’s job helps each horse reach its potential and maintain its condition. It takes time for a horse to reach race readiness; the length of time is almost always dependent on the horse’s age and stage of development, temperament, learning ability and recuperative power.

When a horse commences training the trainer will begin with light training for a short period of time to familiarize them with the routine. After a week of jogging (trotting) the horse will be ready to begin a daily regime of slow gallops (cantering) usually accompanied by a horse of similar maturity. This stage develops a foundation of endurance, strength and responsiveness, which is enhanced when serious training commences. Laying the foundation takes between 60 and 180 days depending on the horse, trainer and weather conditions.When the horse is ready, intensified training can begin.

The intensified training involves inserting “breezes” into the horse’s training program. “Breezing” involves allowing the horse to increase his speed for a timed workout over a specified distance. The horse is not asked for maximum speed and often must be “rated” by the rider to ensure a controlled training program devoid of potentially injurious displays of precocious speed. Breezes are usually scheduled on four to seven day intervals. A rest day for recuperation usually follows a breeze before regular gallops resume. The gallop itself usually covers a distance of 1 to 2 miles. The breezes initially cover one furlong, (one eighth to one quarter of a mile), with one furlong increments when the horse shows he/she is ready to progress.

The term breeze is often synonymous with workout. “Breezing” also describes the way in which the workout was performed. “Breezing” is a workout with the rider “rating” (controlling or restraining) the horse’s speed. “Handily” describes a workout in which the horse received encouragement from the rider.

The easiest way to understand workout times is that a furlong is covered in 12 seconds. The farther the horse is able to work while churning 12-second furlongs, the more impressive the workout. Almost every Thoroughbred can cover two furlongs in 24 seconds. Only a precious few can work 6 furlongs in 1:12. Workout times are largely dependent on the type of track, track condition, horse’s condition, weight carried, stage of training, as well as the natural speed of the horse.

Horses seldom run more than twice in a 30 day period. More than 15 starts a year can be considered a busy campaign for a Thoroughbred. The key to making money with a horse is to race when and where it will be successful. It is the trainer’s responsibility to ensure that the horse is campaigned wisely and that the horse remains fit, healthy and happy.

Entering Races

Entering a race does not cost any money, unless it is a Stakes race. Entries for races are determined in advance by “The Condition Book”. The condition book is published every two weeks and is usually applicable for two weeks. The book is available to everyone, and can be obtained in the office of the Racing Secretary at the track with a current meet. The Condition Book is the basic Bible for the next two weeks of racing, and your trainer, if one of your horses is race-ready, will fall upon it eagerly to find out if there is a race perfectly suited to your horse.

The Racing Secretary “writes” the roster of races based on the preponderance or types of horses residing at the track. That is, to the extent that there are “maidens” and “claiming horses” stabled at the track hosting the meet, the Racing Secretary will write an abundance of “Maiden” and “Claiming” races to accommodate them. The Secretary’s main role is to painstakingly design races with “a level field” – races, both for the sake of bettors and owners, in which all the horses will be closely competitive.

The conditions of a race take into consideration the horse’s racing record, sex and age. Some common races in Alberta are:

  • Claiming Race – a race with conditions in which every horse entered is available for the price stated in the Condition Book
  • Waiver Claiming Race – a claiming race in which one or more horses may be ineligible to be claimed based on track rules
  • Allowance Race – a race with conditions, but without a claiming price.
  • Starter Allowance Race – an Allowance race in which the basic condition is that the horse has raced within a given time in a Claiming race with a price of ‘x’ dollars or less.
  • Stakes Race – races with a nominating fee and entry fee which is contributed to the purse of the race
  • Handicap Race – races with a set of conditions and assigned weights to each horse based on past money won and whether the horse is an Allowance or Stakes classes runner

The racetrack

The front side of racetrack is where the entertainment part of horse racing happens. Parking, grandstand, clubhouse, restaurants, betting windows, shops, paddock, winner’s circle, and infield tote are all part of the front side.

The back side is the stable area. It is where all of the day to day activities of the track take place. Barns, hot walkers, manure area, kitchen. racing office, security office, stewards office, test barn, vet clinic, tack shop, feed areas and farrier areas are all part of the back side.

The standard distance of a race in Alberta is a furlong. A furlong is one eighth of a mile, 220 yards or about 200 meters. The distances on the track are marked by painted poles. Horses train and race by poles – the placement of poles on the racetrack is crucial to those involved in training and racing Thoroughbreds. Jockeys, trainers, and owners use the poles to measure how far a horse has traveled, and how far they have to go. The easiest way to acquaint yourself with the poles is to start at the finish line, or “wire”, and count the poles backward, or clockwise. In North America, the distance between two poles is 1/16th of a mile. Black poles represent 1/16th of a mile, green poles 1/8th of a mile, and red poles indicate 1/4 mile fractions. At Northlands Park, the 1/4 and 1/2 mile poles are red and white. The 3/8 and 5/8 poles are green and white. The 1/16 poles are black and white.

Like all professional athletes, your horse will have its share of aches, pains, minor injuries and, sometimes, major injuries as a result of training and competition.

Obviously if your horse is sound, it will require fewer treatments than an unsound horse. If your trainer is one who does not rely heavily on medications or veterinary consultation, the monthly cost to you will be considerably less than one who does. Nevertheless, it seems that at one time or another nearly every horse will go through a period of serious illness or injury that will cost a lot of money to treat.

As an owner, you can protect yourself against unnecessary costs by education and communication. You should try and understand, as much as possible, the purpose and cost of each treatment, procedure or medication performed on or given to your horse. Also, communicate by having a discussion with your trainer in which you learn the trainer’s philosophy concerning the extent to which a vet is going to be used, setting a dollar limit beyond which your trainer must consult with you before ordering treatment and keeping in contact with your trainer so you are prepared for any unusual medical outlays.

Common Medications and Injections

Adequan: A common anti-arthritic medication used to stabilize articular cartilage. It is also used prophylactically to prevent day-to-day loss of cartilage components.

Banamine (flunixin meglumine): Like aspirin and bute, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is available in injectable and tablet form. It is commonly used to treat colic.

Clenbuterol: A bronchodilator used to treat respiratory disease. Its trade name is Ventipulmin. It works by relaxing smooth muscle tissue in the airways, returning constricted air passages to normal size.

De-worming: Given at least four times per year. If an oral paste is used, trainers may administer it themselves.

Flu and Rhinopneumonitis Vaccinations: Given to prevent respiratory infections.

Furosemide (trade name Lasix): A diuretic used for the prophylactic treatment of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH or bleeding), which is believed to work by lowering pulmonary-arterial pressure.

Gastrogard (omeprazole): An oral paste used to treat equine ulcers.

Gentamycin: A broad-spectrum antibiotic.

Hyalronic Acid: Also known as hyalronate or hyalronan, is the natural lubricant in the joints. It is injected into the joint, sometimes with cortisone, to reduce inflammation.

Penicillin: An antibiotic.

Phenylbutazone (bute): A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is available in injectable and tablet form.

Vitamin “jug”: Usually a mixture of vitamins and electrolytes in ½ to 1 liter of fluids administered after strenuous exercise.

Common Injuries and Ailments

Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH), commonly known as bleeding

Bowed tendon: An inflammation and enlargement of the flexor tendon at the back of the front cannon bone. The general cause is severe strain. Back at the knees, long, weak pasterns, a long toe and low heel and improper shoeing are all predisposing causes. The bowed appearance is due to the formation of fibrinous tissue. Bows are classified as low, medium or high depending on location. Treatment usually requires long periods of rest; six months to a year on the farm is normal.

Bucked shins: An enlargement on the front of the cannon bone between the knee and the fetlock joints. This enlargement is due to trauma to the periosteum (thin sheathing which covers the bone), most often caused by concussion. Generally, the condition is confined to soreness, but if a periostitis (calcium deposit) occurs new bone growth can result that gives one the perceived look of a “bucked” shin. This injury occurs most often in young horses in heavy training.

Splint: A calcification or bony growth, usually occurring on the inside of the cannon bone or splint bones. It typically results from a tear of the interosseous ligament that binds the splint bone to the cannon bone, but can result from any inflammation of the periosteum. This condition is most commonly caused by concussion with a hard surface.

Torn Suspensory Ligament: The suspensory ligaments run from the top end of the back side of the cannon bone (and knee or hock) down to the sesamoids and the pastern bone. These are among the most stressed of all tissues in the racehorse’s body, and are therefore one of the most common sites of injury.

Bone chip in the knee or ankle: Pieces of broken bone off the knee or ankle (usually from racing stress). If chips remain attached they may not interfere with the action of the horse’s leg, but can be extremely painful and usually require removal by arthroscopic surgery.

Slab fracture: A break in the knee whereby the “slab” of a carpal bone splits and the front part becomes detached. This can often be repaired surgically. While a slab fracture does not necessarily mean the end of a horse’s career, it is a serious injury.

Condylar Fracture: A fracture of the condyle of the cannon bone. The condyle is the bulbous bottom or distal end of the cannon bone that fits into the fetlock joint.

Sesamoid Fracture: The sesamoids are two small, delicate bones located at the back of the fetlock, held in place only by ligaments. These little bones located just behind the pastern serve as pulleys over which the deep digital flexor tendons pass. A fracture to the sesamoids usually involves an injury to the suspensory apparatus.

Curb: A hard enlargement on the rear of the cannon bone immediately below the hock. It begins as an inflammation of the plantar ligament and the inflammation leads to a thickening of the ligament.

Grabbed Quarter: While running, the horse “grabbed” one of its front hooves with a rear hoof, tearing skin and tissue.

Quarter Crack: Under stress, or if improperly shod, the hard substance of the hoof (similar to the human fingernail) can crack and become a source of pain – sometimes including the development of an infection in the exposed soft tissue underneath.

Colic: Colic is a general term used to describe pain in the gastrointestinal tract of a horse. Colic can happen any time to any horse and has many causes.

Hoof Care

Flat Steel Training Plates: These shoes are used primarily for horses in light training.

Queens’ Plates: Aluminum, and thus, light-weight training plates without a toe grab. Horses occasionally run in these shoes when ease in the break-over of the foot is important.

Egg-Bar Shoes: Generally, these special shoes are used for horses with quarter cracks, broken coffin bones, sore or under-slung heels, etc. Egg-bar shoes distribute weight over a larger circumference, and thus are useful whenever stability of the foot is necessary.

D-Bar Shoes: Similar to Egg-Bar shoes in that they can relieve frog pressure which helps to relieve the soreness of navicular disease.

Half Aluminum Bar Pads: These shoes are used to relieve pressure from the heel portion of the foot. They aid horses with sore heels, as well as those with navicular disease, broken cofin bones, and bruised frogs.

Glue-On Shoes: Unlike, shoes, which are nailed to the hoof’s outside wall, glue-on shoes are adhered to the hoof using a very strong bonding agent. They are useful on horses with thin hoof walls, and horses which are chronically sore in the soles of the feet.

Bonded Shoes: Bonded shoes contain an additional rim pad which many believe absorbs shock. They can be useful since the rim pad acts as a “spacer,” keeping the soles of the foot up and off the ground.

Outer Rim Shoes: Outer rim shoes are mainly used for horses running on the turf. They are best explained as having a continuous toe grab running along the outside perimeter of the shoe. This “outer rim” assists in keeping the shoe and hoof more equally balanced.

Toe Grab: A toe grab acts as a “cleat” on the toe of the shoe, providing additional traction. Like most “cleats,” they are available in both a small and large grab. Aluminum shoes with toe grabs are the most common shoes used on racehorses.

Quarter Horse Grabs: Larger than the regular toe grabs, they are primarily used on the hind feet for added traction.

Jar Calks: Jar calks are cleats in the rear portion of the shoe that provide added traction in the mud.

Outside Sticker: These shoes have a cleat on the outside branch of the shoe that is commonly used in the mud for traction, as well as on horses that “hit” (interfere with) themselves while running. It is important to remember that this shoe may take the foot out of balance and thus create additional problems.

Blocked Heels: This shoe has two cleats placed at the farthest portion of the heel on the inside and outside of the shoe for added traction especially in the mud. Blocked heel shoes are placed only on the hind feet, and they may also be used on horses that run down (burn their heels), or overextend themselves behind as the cleats reduce sliding.


Like a human athlete, a horse’s physical conformation comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. There is no perfect horse. Remember that in examining a horse the purpose is to exclude those with physical faults that your advisor(s) considers unacceptable.

Overall Considerations

  • Balance – Is the horse well proportioned? Does the frame suit its muscle?
  • Bone – Does it appear to be substantial—not too fine/light?
  • Intelligence – Does the horse seem in control, aware of its surroundings, alert?
  • Athleticism – Does the horse look physically fit and capable?

Lateral or Side View

Feet – A horse’s hooves must be able to withstand a great deal of pressure. Consider proportion, substance, and size of the hoof. The underside of the hoof should have a round, slightly oval shape with some depth. Some believe that larger feet indicate an aptitude for turf.

Pasterns – The pastern should be at a 45-degree angle. Its length should be proportionate – too long a pastern could indicate weakness and tendon strain, while if too short it may absorb too much concussion thus stressing the bone structure.

Ankle – As with the pastern, the ankle joint size should be proportionate to the rest of the leg.

Cannon Bones – Ideally, the cannon bone should be short, strong and have mass.

Knee – Bones in and leading to the knee should line up in a balanced manner – not tilting forward (“over at the knee”) or back (“back at the knee”).

Shoulder – The shoulder should have the same slope or angle as the pastern. Stride length is largely determined by the shoulder.

Neck – A horse’s neck should be sufficient in scope so as to provide adequate wind for the horse, and be well tied in at the withers, while not being too low or “ewe necked”. In short, does the neck fit the rest of the body?

Head – Nostrils should be of adequate size. The head should be broad enough to permit adequate air passage. Generally, the distance from the back of the jaw to where the head ties into the neck should be about the size of a fist.

Eyes – The eyes should be big and bright. Look for an “intelligent,” keen, alert eye.

Back – The distance from the withers to top of croup or hips should match the length of the horse’s neck from the poll to the withers.

Hip/Buttocks – The croup or hip should have a gentle slope – not too steep or flat. The gaskin should depict strength.

Hocks – A horse’s hocks should not be straight as a post, nor curved so deeply as to be sickle hocked, or behind the body like a German Shepherd Dog. The horse should be standing balanced and straight.

Front View

Feet – Look for balanced feet on both sides and symmetry. Avoid misshapen, dished, or cracked feet.

Cannon Bones – From the front, the cannon bones should appear straight and of the same length.

Knees – It is best if the knees are set squarely on the top of the cannon bones, not off to one side or another – “offset knees.”

Chest – A horse’s chest should be broad, and appear powerful. Narrow chests or slab-sided horses are said to lack power.

Shoulder – Look for balance and symmetry.

Rear View

Hocks – From the rear, the hocks should appear to point straight at you, and not turn in or out — “cow hocks.”

Hip/Buttocks – Note that much of the animal’s athleticism and power comes from behind. Definition and development are key attributes.

Front/Rear view – The horse should move straight toward and away from you. Observe whether the horse toes-in or toes-out as it walks.

Side view – Check for the overstep, meaning do the hind feet reach beyond the front hoof prints? Observe the horse’s head. Be certain it does not bob unusually when walking as this may indicate soreness or lameness.

Walk – Look for a smooth long stride.

Final Impression

Remember, every horse has some physical “fault” with regard to pedigree and conformation. The art or science of evaluating a horse is deciding which of those faults are less likely to adversely impact the intended use of the animal. Everyone has different thresholds with regard to what constitutes acceptable faults. Establish you own thresholds, but be realistic considering your budget.

Syndicate Members

Yes, you can own a racehorse! There are several options in Alberta to join a racing syndicate.

Alberta Thoroughbred Race Club is a partnership of about 200 members that will share in the ownership and experience of three Thoroughbred race horses. The Alberta Thoroughbred Race Club is open to anyone of age who is not already a licensed Thoroughbred owner. Membership is $300 and there will be NO additional costs during the entire 2017 season. Members will share in all earnings net of racing expenses, lease costs and club operating costs. The Alberta Racing Club is a low cost, low risk way to get into some fun!

Evergreen Park Race Horse Club 2017 has been formed to allow interested people to participate as a horse “owner” at The Horses At Evergreen Park during the summer months. Evergreen Park is one of only four locations in Alberta where live pari-mutuel horse racing is held on an expanded schedule. Gordon Badger Stadium at Evergreen Park hosts live racing weekends during July and August and the Pines Restaurant & Casino at Evergreen Park features seven screens that show races from around North America year-round and allow viewers to bet on those races.