Training and conditioning a thoroughbred horse for chuckwagon racing is an art. Horses are much like people. They need weeks of training before they can compete safely and competitively and what works for one horse may not work for another. All horses know how to run. That’s what they do. But when out in the field it's usually in straight lines at uncontrolled speeds with no sense of conditioning or safety in mind.
Conditioning a team of thoroughbred horses in preparation to race on the WPCA Pro Tour requires strategic planning, cooperation from mother nature and a little luck.
The date of the seasons first race is one of the key factors considered in determining when to start conditioning horses. The number of training days a horse should have prior to the start of the season in order to have him conditioned to safely compete is also considered.
While the number of training days will vary slightly per driver, 4-Time World Champion Kurt Bensmiller likes to condition his horses for a minimum of 50 days before their first race of the season. This minimum time frame ensures his horses have the strength and cardiovascular conditioning to race safely and competitively.
Bensmiller who whose trophy case also includes four Calgary Stampede titles, has 60 horses to care for including 16 horses he picked up last fall from Columbus, Nebraska and Prairie Meadows, Iowa.
20 year veteran driver Layne MacGillivray has 28 horses and continues to follow the updates and news to try and get a sense of what the future might hold. "One day things are looking positive and the next day it looks like we are in this holding pattern for a while" he says. MacGillivray shoots for a minimum of 40 conditioning days before his horses run their first race. For now he is holding off until more information on future events are confirmed.
MacGillivray, like most of the WPCA drivers, are trying to navigate through the uncertainty related to and caused by COVID-19 and trying to figure out if he should even consider to start training and if so when. "Some drivers have their ticket to drive truck" he says, " I would prefer to train horses but now I wonder if we should even consider starting to train or just go get some work."
A chuckwagon drivers horses are part of his family. They need feed and proper care as well. Even with the affects of COVID-19, hooves are being trimmed, dental work is being performed and the overall horse care continues.
Collectively, WPCA drivers own over ONE THOUSAND thoroughbred horses and proper care for these horses comes with a significant expense. With revenues from chuckwagon racing to assist with the horse care in jeopardy due to cancelled events it's easy to understand why drivers are hesitant on which direction to go.
With the recent announcement of the first four shows on the 2020 WPCA Pro Tour either cancelled or postponed, the official start date is still unknown.
The horses are playful, they know it's time to start training and they want to train and race. After all, that's what they love to do.
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