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How to Spot a Fit and Healthy Horse

How do you spot a fit and healthy horse? With all this fine weather, you may decide to go racing. When you’re standing by the paddock looking for a horse to bet on, what do you look for? There are a few ways to tell if a horse looks fit. One is that its coat is shiny. If a horse’s coat looks dull, even in bright sunshine, it might not be feeling its best. Look for dapples. Dapples are those bright spots in a horse’s coat. They are a sure sign of health. You can’t fake dapples.

The horse should be walking smoothly and easily. And also have a good, long stride. Look for an over track. This is when a horse’s hind legs come down in the same spot that the front legs have just left. This indicates free movement. A short, choppy walk is not a good sign.

Watch the ears. If they’re pinned back it’s usually not a good sign. It’s also not good when the ears are flat out to the side. Sometimes referred to as ‘airplane ears’, they stick out like the wings of an airplane. The horse may be showing it is upset and doesn’t want to be there. Pricked ears show that the horse is interested, and ears casually flopping show that the horse is relaxed.

Sweating can be a bad sign

See if the horse is sweating. Some sweat on a warm day is normal. Excessive sweating on a cool day is not. It may indicate the horse feels stressed. Especially look out for sweat between the hind legs. Some sweat under the saddle is usually nothing to worry about.

Use your ears as well as your eyes. As the horse walks past, does it sound like it’s putting all its feet down evenly? Listen also for teeth grinding. This could be another pointer to stress. All of these are important things to take note of and could help you make up your mind on which horse to back.


About Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is a racing historian and freelance journalist. He has written three books including 'A Long Time Gone', chronicling Britain's lost racecourses, and 'Go Down to the Beaten', stories of jockeys who didn't win the Grand National. He founded the Midlands Racing Club and was formerly racing correspondent for BBC Radio WM.

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