Your First Racehorse

As a racing fan have you ever wondered what it’s like to be the owner of a winning Thoroughbred? Ever thought about how much fun it would be to be among the excited gathering of friends and well-wishers that ring the winner’s circle after each victory? There are a number of ways to become involved as an owner, and they include everything from buying a horse by yourself to owning a small percentage of a horse with a group of friends.

Here are some possibilities:

Initial InvestmentPossible Involvement
$1,000 – $5,000Two, three or more partners in an inexpensive horse
$10,000+Sole owner of an inexpensive horse; general partner in a small partnership; limited partner in a large partnership or syndicate
$100,000+Sole owner of one or more horses; sole owner and participate in partnerships; participate in partnerships only

As you can see, the game of Thoroughbred ownership can be played at many different levels and the fun and excitement are there at any level of participation.

The unique sights, sounds and camaraderie of the backstretch in the morning, the beauty of and bond with the horse, the anticipation of race day, the anxiousness in the paddock before the race and the rush you get from seeing your horse, in your silks, come onto the track, is available to all owners.

The pages that follow are designed to educate you, the owner. Information is power. We believe the more information we provide and more informed you are, the more fun you will get out of this game.

The Thoroughbred industry welcomes new owners.

While participating in Thoroughbred racing and breeding offers an exciting opportunity, it is nonetheless a speculative opportunity. The game offers high risk, high emotion and high excitement. Money is won and lost, but no better time is had in the process.

Take a few moments to review these materials and to familiarize yourself with what Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) believes are basic pre-participation considerations. The place to start is with the recognition that horses are not machines; they cannot be programmed, nor do they perform on command. They are often temperamental and unpredictable. Like a child, a horse does not always live up to one’s expectations. As good parents are prepared to deal with the ups and downs and the emotional and financial considerations of parenthood so too are successful owners!

How does one become a successful owner? TOBA believes it begins with thorough preparation and continuing education, not to mention common sense. Every owner can become a knowledgeable and successful manager if he or she is willing to take the time to learn how to do something more about Thoroughbred ownership than write the monthly support check. If you are serious about participating in the Thoroughbred industry and becoming a new owner, consider these suggestions:

Get Familiar with the game

  • READ!

Defining Reasonable Goals & Objectives

Prudence dictates that you begin by answering these questions:
  • How much money can I afford to allocate to horse ownership?

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.

  • How much time do I intend to devote to my equine activities?

Unfortunately, to answer this question you will need to ask yourself: How involved do I intend to be? Will my schedule permit me to spend time monitoring my equine investment? For example, 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?

  • Do I prefer to participate as an individual or in partnership?

The level of investment and amount of time you have to spend on your equine activities should guide you in determining the appropriate form of ownership. TOBA recognizes, however, that personal preferences and past experiences may be equally important. Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to each form. What level of control do you wish to maintain? Are you the type of individual who must call all the shots, assume all the risks, and have all the glory? Or, are you the type who prefers to spread the risks and share the rewards?

  • What are my short-term and long-term goals?

How long are you willing to wait for a return (not necessarily financial) on your investment? Are you looking for the immediate action offered by racing or the long-term challenges of breeding and developing young horses? Thoroughbred racing and breeding offer both types of investment opportunities, challenges, and more!

  • What type of equine investment should I make?

If immediate action is what you desire, then your investment opportunities will be quite different from those interested in breeding and developing young stock. However, the opportunities are not mutually exclusive. You may consider diversifying your investment by purchasing a filly as a broodmare prospect, breeding her and selling the offspring, acquiring a stallion share, and/or owning horses of racing age.

  • Where should I conduct my equine activities?

It seems that every owner wants to be able to see their horse as often as possible, but that is practical for only a very few. However, if having convenient access to your horse is imperative, then you must think and act regionally. On the other hand, given that some states offer more lucrative racing and breeding programs, you may wish to consider how those programs could impact your investment. State owners’ and breeders’ organizations can provide a complete explanation of their respective state-bred incentive programs.

  • At what level am I looking to participate?

Everyone wants to own 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 can participate (i.e. the claiming, allowance, or stakes levels). You can compete on a regional and/or a national level. An owner’s financial resources ultimately dictate the level at which one competes. Again, if action is what you want, your strategy will be different from someone seeking the classic horse. You will likely spread your money out over a larger stable, with more horses racing on regional circuits. If your goal is to find the big horse, you might have fewer horses which race less often. Commercial breeding presents a similar scenario. Not everyone can participate at the top level. However, there are ample opportunities, certainly in the middle markets, where breeders can sell and buyers can purchase a useful horse. Remember, the thrills of owning a claiming horse or breeding a maiden winner often match those experienced by the owners of more accomplished horses.

  • What type of tax treatment do I seek for my equine business activities?

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. A more detailed discussion of this subject can be found in the Business Issues chapter of this web site.

  • What can I expect to gain from my experience?

How does a wonderful network of new friends, endless social activities, a sense of significant achievement and hours of unsurpassed entertainment sound?

Planning Ahead

You want to buy a racehorse. It is really a simple process, but like many “simple” things a lot of thought and planning are done beforehand to make it look simple. We think a good place to start is with a business plan. The plan does not have to be complex or contain a complete sentence, but it should lay out your goals, objectives and projected costs. A plan will be constantly updated as conditions change, so it will never be complete, but it will help you manage your equine investment.

Keep in mind that equine investments are, if treated properly, legitimate business activities and will be treated as such by the IRS. Consequently, manage your equine investments as you would manage any other investment or business activity, including exercising good, sound business judgment.

Business Plan

Selecting Your Team

Every new owner is confronted by the urge to develop a stable on his or her own, specifically the selection of the horses however, Thoroughbred racing and breeding is a team sport. Success in the game is dependent on more than the natural talent of its athletes. As with any other good team, in addition to outstanding athletes, the team must have a good coach, astute scouts, a quality physician, adequate support personnel and a savvy owner.

Recognize early that the success of one’s racing or breeding operation will depend, to a significant extent, on the makeup of the team. Exercise as much, if not more, care in selecting a team of consultants as you would expect to exercise in the selection of your first horse.

Given the size of your particular investment, and with the general objectives of your business plan in mind, you should consider which consultants should be retained. Your particular team of consultants may be as few as one or may include any combination of the following: A bloodstock agent, a pedigree advisor, a trainer, a veterinarian and/or a mentor – someone already in the business such as a farm manager or more experienced owner.

Consider how this team will assist you. Will they merely participate in the selection and evaluation of potential purchases or in refining your business plan as well? Again, in making this decision, remember to exercise sound business judgment.

When selecting your team of professional consultants, keep in mind the following thoughts:

  1. Thoroughbred racing and breeding are businesses; treat them as such.
  2. Be rational, not emotional. Keep an open mind during the preliminary selection process.
  3. Disclose your objectives from the start. Ascertain whether they are consistent with the areas of expertise of the consultants considered.
  4. Stay within your budget created. Realistically evaluate your ability to invest in the industry at the level you have selected. If not certain, scale down your level of participation. Remember, it is just as much fun to own part of a horse as it is to own the entire thing.
  5. Once your consultants have been selected, allow them to do their jobs. Stay involved, but allow the professionals to do what you have hired them to do – provide learned advice in areas where you have little knowledge or expertise.
Selecting Agents
Selecting Trainers
Farms/Boarding Stables

Purchase Options

Now that you have your professionals assembled, the next step in building your team is the acquisition of the athlete — the racehorse.

A racehorse may be purchased in any of three ways: through public auction, claim and private sale. You may also lease a horse in much the same way any other piece of property is leased.

There are advantages and disadvantages associated with each approach. Regardless of the approach taken, the team, whether it is you and your trainer or you and a group of advisors must work together, utilizing each member’s skills in devising a strategy for acquiring the equine assets.

Now that you have your professionals assembled, the next step in building your team is the acquisition of the athlete — the racehorse.

A racehorse may be purchased in any of three ways: through public auction, claim and private sale. You may also lease a horse in much the same way any other piece of property is leased.

There are advantages and disadvantages associated with each approach. Regardless of the approach taken, the team, whether it is you and your trainer or you and a group of advisors must work together, utilizing each member’s skills in devising a strategy for acquiring the equine assets.Auction sales offer the widest selection and often assure fair market values for horses. It is safe to say that they are the option of choice for many buyers.

The table below summarizes the advantages and disadvantages associated with purchasing a horse at the various ages:

Age/TypeMonths of SalesAdvantagesDisadvantages
YearlingJul – DecLarge selection; can oversee all breaking and training; pinhooking options.8-12 months until ready to race and will incur expenses during this time.
2-year-oldFeb – MayReady to race; more developed; better able to assess ability.Smaller selection; horses may be rushed through training for sale.
WeanlingOct – FebReasonably priced; pinhooking options; can oversee growth.Hard to evaluate ability this early; 18 months until ready to race.
BroodmareOct – FebChoose matings; can sell foals or enjoy success of homebreds. Mares can be purchased in-foal (foal in utero), barren, or with a foal at her side.)Pregnancy can be complicated; lots of risk, time and cost involved.

To familiarize yourself with the sales process, we suggest you attend several as an observer; consider it a dry run. This exercise should include selecting horses to inspect, evaluating them based upon their pedigree and conformation and estimating their selling price. As you compare your figures to the actual selling price, a sense of the market will develop. In addition, through attending the sale, you will gain an understanding of the auction environment.

The auction purchase process can be separated into three stages: Before, during and after. However, each phase is dependent on the other. The after phase is somewhat a misnomer as proper provisions for this final stage, such as payment, insurance needs and boarding arrangements, should be made in advance.

Before the Auction
During the Auction
After the Auction
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.

The Art of Claiming
Factors to Consider

Consider the following points prior to claiming a horse:

1. Review the jurisdiction’s claiming rules.

Claiming rules differ from state to state. It is important to note: (a) The point at which the horse becomes the property of the new owner – when it steps onto the track before the race, when it leaves the starting gate or at another point; and (b) the conditions under which the horse must make its next start.

2. Complete the paperwork.

Obtain the proper owner’s license. To be eligible to claim, you must possess the proper owner’s license from the state in which you intend to claim. Licensing is controlled by the particular state’s racing commission or board. If you are not licensed in that state, you are required to complete the application process, receiving either a permanent or temporary license.

Most states now have rules authorizing open claiming, thus permitting licensed owners who do not currently have horses stabled at the particular racetrack where the horse is running to claim a horse.

  • Establish an account with the racetrack’s paymaster or horsemen’s bookkeeper. Prior to the claim being made, an owner’s account must have sufficient funds to cover the transaction: the claiming price plus state sales tax. Sales laws and bookkeeper’s procedures differ from state to state and from track to track. If you intend to have your trainer make a claim on your behalf, there must be an authorized agent form on file. Contact the Horsemen’s Bookkeeper and/or Claims Clerk for more precise information on these matters.
  • Complete the claims slip. Claims must be made on the day of the race and filed prior to the start of the race in accordance with the rules of the specific jurisdiction. Claiming forms are available in the racing office. The information on the claim form must be absolutely correct; a misspelling can invalidate a claim. A person is not permitted to enter a claim for more than one horse in a race. If more than one person wishes to claim the same horse, a random selection system is used to decide the new owner. The system is commonly referred to as a shake.

3. Take possession of the horse.

Title and risk pass to the new owner immediately upon selection as the successful claim. As the new owner, you will be expected to take possession of the horse at the conclusion of the race or after completion of any post-race tests.

While auctions and claims are the two most popular methods of acquiring horses, they may also be purchased privately. Private transactions offer the buyer value and opportunity as well as the option of a pre-purchase exam. Furthermore, the purchaser is not restricted to only those horses offered for sale, but may make an offer on any horse considered desirable, including those which are not necessarily advertised for sale. Again, consultants play a vital role in finding, selecting and inspecting prospects.

As with other purchase options, proper pre-purchase arrangements must be made and various factors should be considered.

Private Transactions
While this form of ownership is not widely used, leasing a horse can offer several advantages, and is certainly just as much fun.

Comparatively, leasing requires very little capital. Ordinarily, the lessee simply assumes responsibility for all costs associated with the board and care of the animal during the term of the lease. In exchange, the lessee enjoys the benefits of ownership, with the obligation to share some of the benefits with the lessor per the terms of the lease. Depending on the purpose of the lease and/or the type of horse leased, i.e., racing prospect or broodmare, the parties may share in revenues derived through racing or sale, or in the ownership or management of progeny.

It is recommended that a professional be consulted before entering into a lease. There are several issues that deserve special attention, and may be overlooked without professional consultation.

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.
Investing with an Established Partnership

Business Issues

Tax Issues

Pay particular attention to tax-related issues in operating your stable. Although some consider the applicable tax code provisions onerous, they are, in reality, manageable. However, it is most advantageous to be familiar with the provisions most commonly applicable to this business. They are the difference between long-term capital gains rates and ordinary income tax rates and the hobby loss and passive loss issues.

The following pages are written to merely acquaint you with equine tax issues. The American Horse Council publishes two very good reference books dealing with taxes. They are Tax Tips for Horse Owners and The Horse Owners Tax Manual. These publications are the tax references for the equine industry. If you are seriously considering becoming an owner or are already an owner, we encourage you to acquire these publications for your library. For more information, please visit the American Horse Council’s web site at

The maximum federal income tax rate on long-term capital gains is 15%. Maximum ordinary income tax rates are 35%, so the spread between the two is significant. For certain taxpayers, the differential is made even greater by the effect of state taxes. Unlike other assets, the holding period to obtain long-term capital gain treatment on sales of horses is two years. Legislation is now pending to change the holding period to one year.
The two problems most often faced by horse owners when audited by the IRS or comparable state taxing agencies are the “hobby loss” and the “passive loss” rules. To prevail, owners must demonstrate that they have exercised prudent business planning, followed good business practices and have documented their business activities.
In general, the tax laws referring the hobby loss rule provide that to deduct expenses that exceed income, the taxpayer must demonstrate that she is engaged in her horse-related activity with the intention of producing a profit. Initially, the burden of proof falls upon the taxpayer. However, if a profit can be shown in two of seven consecutive years beginning with the first loss year, the burden shifts to the IRS to disprove the “general presumption of profit intent.” The IRS cites nine factors in determining whether an activity is a hobby or business. They are very basic business points covering management style, degree of knowledge of the taxpayer, utilization of expert advisors, time and effort the taxpayer spends in the activity, the expectation for asset appreciation and the presence or absence of recreational aspects. From the IRS’ perspective, a hobby correlates with fun, while a business means work: In other words, it is okay to enjoy the business, but only if you have a convincing profit motive.
Under the “passive loss” provision, in order to deduct losses incurred as a result of equine business activities from other income, an owner must be able to prove that she is materially participating in the activity. Material participation is satisfied by establishing that the owner spends 500 or more hours actively participating in the business during any taxable year. If the owner does not meet the 500-hour test, she may qualify with 100 or more hours if she participates on a regular, continuous basis throughout the year and meets certain other criteria. However, satisfying the requirements of this test is more difficult. Hours spent by a husband and wife can be combined to accommodate these requirements. If an owner cannot prove material participation, losses can only be taken against other passive income. The sale of the investment, however, triggers the deductibility of all past losses disallowed. Treat your horse-related activities as you would any other business venture. Carefully plan your time and the timing of your horse-related income and expenses. Simple documentation will aid in proving your intent to make a profit and active participation.
Horses may generally be depreciated as three year property. Longer periods of depreciation may be elected, and always apply in the case of foreign-based horses. In the case of IRS rules, note that age is determined by the actual date of birth, not the industry-accepted January 1 of each year. Furthermore, to prevent taxpayers from purchasing at the end of the year and obtaining a large depreciation deduction, more than 40% of the purchases during one year are made during the last quarter, reduced depreciation results. The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 extends for three years an expensing allowance and bonus depreciation for horses purchased. Please visit the American Horse Council’s website or contact your equine tax professional for more information.
Business Entities
Insurance Concerns

Costs of Ownership

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. It all depends on the locale and the trainer’s “win percentage.”

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).

Entering Races

Entering a race does not cost any money, unless it is a stakes race. The following sections describe what resource is used to find that next race, how the entering process works, and, if you are lucky enough to own a stakes horse, what fees are paid to enter a stakes race.

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. This is also the day when jockeys’ agents filter through the backside, making preliminary deals for their “boys” to ride mounts in the listed races.

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 Racing Secretary, on the other hand, is sometimes required by state mandate to write an average of one per day for state-bred horses only. The Secretary must also accommodate owners by writing an appropriate number of high-purse and “Stakes” races, so that owners of the relatively few top-class horses available within the bounds of a “circuit” have a chance to make good on their investments.

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.

Theirs is not only an extremely detailed and difficult job, but the Secretaries will be the first to admit that the listed qualifications often seem to present a tangled web. No one – least of all you, or your trainer – should hesitate to contact the Secretary for an explanation of any condition that is even slightly unclear. The Secretary’s second main goal is to fill 8-10 races every day: if an owner or trainer hangs back from entering a race because of a confusing condition, and that race fails to fill, the Secretary’s job just got several hours harder.

Before looking through the Condition Book, you might want to be certain you are familiar with the correct definitions of terms and titles you’ll be seeing.

Kinds of Races
Definitions of Common Condition Book Terms
Chronology of Entering
Officials & Their Functions
Deciphering Fees

Veterinary Expenses

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.

Listed below are some common medications and injections you may find on your veterinary bill and their approximate cost. The costs are estimates and actual costs will vary greatly from track to track.


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

Cost: $65 per injection.

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.

Cost: $20 per injection.


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.


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

Cost: $25-$30 per treatment if administered by a vet.

Flu and Rhinopneumonitis Vaccinations:

Given up to six times per year.

Cost: $25-$35 per vaccination.

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.

Cost: $30-$40 per injection for racing.

Gastrogard (omeprazole):

An oral paste used to treat equine ulcers.

Cost: up to $50 per day.


A broad-spectrum antibiotic.

Cost: $30-$50 per injection.

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.

Cost: $50-$150 per injection.


An antibiotic.

Cost: $15-$20 per injection.

Phenylbutazone (bute):

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is available in injectable and tablet form.

Cost: $17 per injection or $30 for 100 1-gram pills.

Tetanus Vaccination:

Given annually.

Cost: $15-$20.

Vitamin “jug”:

Usually a mixture of vitamins and electrolytes in ½ to 1 liter of fluids administered after strenuous exercise. Cost: $30-$40.

EIPH or Bleeding:

Overview of EIPH

Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH), commonly known as bleeding, has been known to afflict Thoroughbreds since the early 18th Century. Tom Biracree and Wendy Insinger point out in their book The Complete Book of Thoroughbred Horse Racing that reference to bleeding can be found in the name of the early 18th Century English stallion Bleeding Childers. Subsequently his name was changed to Bartlett’s Childers. Bartlett’s Childers is the great-grandsire of Eclipse, the horse which 80% of all modern Thoroughbreds trace their parentage.

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. The use of enzyme injections, laser and surgical procedures are all currently being used to try and treat this injury. Less than 50% of horses suffering a bowed tendon come back successfully.

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.

The goal of treatment of a bucked shin is to thicken the front cortex of the cannon bone. This can be done by continued light training with a gradual increase in intensity or pin firing. Pin firing is a therapy whereby a red-hot probe is used to cauterize the affected area to produce a serous inflammatory response. The serum appears to flush out the other inflammation in the area. A horse that has been pin fired usually requires two to three months of rest before training can resume. The benefits of pin firing are open to debate, with some vets believing there is little or no benefit to the practice. Once healed bucked shins rarely recur.


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. Blistering (a therapy similar to pin firing), surgery and rest are all treatments.

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. The treatment is usually six to nine months of rest and an additional three to four months of re-training.

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. If it is determined that the chip should be removed, arthroscopic surgery is performed followed by three months of rest and an additional three to four months of re-training. The cost of the surgery is approximately $2,000.

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. See Fractured Leg.

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. Condylar fractures can be repaired surgically. The prognosis for survival and a return to racing soundness is dependent on the severity of injury. In uncomplicated cases, after surgery to fix an uncomplicated condylar fractures, the horse normally is given stall rest for one month, followed by stall rest and hand-walking for another month. After this 60-day period, follow-up x-rays are taken to determine the rate of healing. If all is going well, there likely is another two to four weeks of paddock exercise before the horse might resume training. In the case of more severe fractures, the recovery period could encompass many months before the horse is ready to return to training. See Fractured Leg.

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. Depending on the severity of the injury, surgery can be performed to treat the fracture. See Fractured Leg.

Fractured Leg:

A fractured leg requiring the placement of screws in the cannon bone or pastern will cost from $2,000 to $3,500, depending upon the complexity of the fracture. In addition, the horse will require four to eight months of rest and another three to four months of re-training.


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. Cost and amount of training time lost depends on the extent of the injury.

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. This ailment can be corrected with a fiberglass or epoxy patch, and shoeing. Cost and amount of training time lost, if any, depends on the extent of the injury.


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. It is the number one killer of horses. Treatments vary depending on the type of colic and its severity. A “simple” colic may cost around $100 for treatment. More severe or prolonged colics can cost several hundred dollars to treat. If the colic is severe enough to require surgery, the cost of treatment can be several thousand dollars.[/fusion_text]

Listed below are some common tests and examinations you may find on your veterinary bill and their approximate cost. The costs are estimates and actual costs will vary greatly from track to track.

Complete Blood Count (CBC):

A blood test used to diagnose a variety of illnesses.

Diagnostic Ultrasound Examination:

An ultrasound machine is used to check tendons and other soft tissues of the body.

Endoscopic Examination:

An endoscope is used to check the larynx and pharynx for signs of Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage. It also is used to examine a horse’s stomach for ulcers.

Tracheal Wash:

Commonly referred to as swabbing, it is used to check for respiratory infection.


Depending on the veterinarian, x-rays are charged by the joint or per “view.”

Not all horses’ shoes are created equally or do they serve the same purpose. Below is a list of shoes commonly used on racehorses.

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.


Conformation is the physical appearance of an animal due to the arrangement of muscle, bone and other body tissue. It is the sum of these body parts and how they blend together which determines the acceptability or unacceptability of the horse’s conformation. Good conformation is the overall blending of body parts to form a beautiful athlete.

No horse is conformed perfectly. Remember that in examining horses the purpose is to exclude those with physical faults your team considers unacceptable.

Overall, when examining a horse you should consider balance, bone, intelligence and athleticism.


Is the horse well-proportioned? Does the frame suit its muscle?


Does it appear to be substantial – not too light?


Does the horse seem in control, aware of its surroundings, alert?


Does the horse look physically fit and capable?

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. It is helpful to know something about the pedigree of the horse as it may relate to a particular horse’s conformation. Some sires pass similar conformational faults to offspring, with some of the faults having little or no consequence with respect to their racing success.

Everyone has different thresholds with regard to what constitutes acceptable faults. Establish your own thresholds, but be realistic considering your budget.


The great Secretariat is considered by many to have near-perfect conformation.

Essentials: Side View
Essentials: Front & Rear View
Walking Stride
Unsoundness: Front Legs
Unsoundness: Hind Legs


“What I am attempting is to prepare the reader for the conclusion that there is no conclusion to the study of pedigrees.” J. A. Estes, former editor of The Blood-Horse

Pedigree refers to a horse’s family tree, with its paternal ancestors — sire/father — on the top, and its maternal ancestors — dam/mother — on the bottom. A horse’s pedigree provides insight into its potential ability and value.

A few basic points to consider from among the numerous facts and attributes regarding a sire are number and size of foal crops; percentage of progeny that are starters, winners and stakes winners; type of horse the sire produces: turf or dirt, sprint or route; precociousness of his foals — does he produce better 2-year-old runners or do they develop more slowly?; and age of the sire — some people believe the horse’s ability to pass on desirable traits diminishes as he gets older.

As with a sire, there are many factors to consider with regard to a dam. Such factors to consider are racing and produce record of the female side, going back at least two generations; performance of her foals on the track — how many made it to the track and started? What was their race record, i.e., number of starts, wins and purse money earned? How long did they withstand training?; and number of full and/or half-siblings that have been stakes performers.

There are as many theories about pedigree as there are theories about how to make money in the stock market. For example, some pedigree consultants pay particular attention to in-breeding and out-crossing, while others elect to focus on the physical or performance characteristics of the horse. Because beliefs differ so greatly, you should be as familiar with as many as you can, and select those theories you find most appealing.

Inbreeding is the term utilized to describe breeding in which the same ancestor appears two or more times within the first four generations of pedigree. For example, if the same ancestor appears in the third generation and again in the fourth, the horse is referred to as being “inbred 3×4.” The significance of inbreeding is that the ancestor to whom the particular horse is inbred will have greater influence, thus emphasizing certain characteristics. Most believe it is radical for a horse to be inbred closer than 3×3.

Grand Slam is inbred to Bold Ruler 4×4, Native Dancer 4×5, Nasrullah 5x5x5, Princequillo 5×5, and Tom Fool 5×5.

Native Dancer
Raise a Native
Case Ace
Raise You
Lady Glory
Mr. Prospector
Gold Digger
Count Fleet
Miss Dogwood
Gone West
Bold Ruler
Miss Disco
Tom Food
Tim Cam
Two Lea
Tudor Minstrel
Mixed Marriage
Persian Maid
Lady Angela
Northern Dancer
Native Dance
El Gran Senor
Tom Fool
Sex Appeal
Traffic Judge
Best in Show
Stolen Hour
Bright Candles
Flower Bowl
Key to the Mist
Key Bridge
Blue Banner
Christmas Bonus
Bold Ruler
Miss Disco
Sugar Plum Time
Plum Cake
Real Delight
Outcross breeding is the opposite of inbreeding in that there is no repeat presence within four or more generations. An outcross is believed to offer greater variety and avoid concentration of good and bad characteristics.
Nicking, the theory that certain lines have an affinity for one another, has perpetuated through Thoroughbred breeding since the 18th century. Measuring the success of a sire line when crossed with a broodmare sire line, nicking is a highly-regarded mating tool within the industry. Some prolific nicks that have been responsible for outstanding sires and runners include Nasrullah/Princequillo, Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer and Galileo/Danehill.

Since the advent of computers, various programs and websites can generate nicks off of hypothetical pedigrees to assist with mating decisions. Nicking sites draw from the number of stakes winners produced by a cross to give a rating for the success of the nick.

As with any pedigree theory, nicking should not be the only criteria considered when planning a mating. Many other principles like conformation, commercial appeal, strength of female family and inbreeding should be considered before breeding. A nick must be weighed against other factors and carefully interpreted to best aid the breeder in their mating decision.

Explanation of Performance and Production Indexes

When you read through the Stakes Winners section of The Blood-Horse and the Stakes Results section of Thoroughbred Times, you will notice the performance summaries of stallions contain production indexes such as SI, AEI, CI, ComSI, etc. Below, these indexes and other performance and production indexes found in the above-mentioned publications as well as other publications are defined.

Racing Index (RI)

The RI is based on the average earnings per start of runners in North America. The RI is calculated by taking all foals born in a given year and determining that crop’s average earnings per start for each year that it raced. Colts and fillies are separated for the calculation. After five years of racing, a runner’s RI does not change, even if it continues to race. The average earnings per start for a crop for a given year is set at 1.00. A RI of 2.00 would have earned twice as much per start during a given year as a horse of the same sex, from the same crop with a RI of 1.00

Sire Index (SI)

An average of the RIs for all of the stallion’s foals that have started three or more times in North America.

Comparable Sire Index (ComSI)

The average of the RIs of progeny produced from mares bred to subject stallion, excluding foals by subject stallion.

Average Earnings Index (AEI)

An index of the lifetime earnings of a sire’s runners compared to the average of all runners in the same years; average earnings of all runners in a given year is set at 1.00.

Comparable Index (CI)

The average earnings of progeny produced by mares bred to one stallion when they were bred to other stallions.

Broodmare Sire Index (BSI)

An average of the RI of all foals out of the sire’s daughters that started at least three times. For BSI to be calculated, a broodmare sire must be represented by a minimum of 75 starters lifetime.

There are a number of books on pedigree available through various publishers. Below is a list of books on pedigree. Some are recent and others quite old, but what they discuss is still relevant to understanding pedigree in the modern Thoroughbred. We do not endorse or recommend one book over another, but only provide this list as a resource.

Breeding Bloodstock by Sir Charles Leicester

Breeding for Racing by John Hislop

Breeding the Racehorse by Federico Tesio

Dynasties: Great Thoroughbred Stallions by Edward L. Bowen

Functional Development of the Thoroughbred by Franco Varolo

Inbreeding to Superior Females: Using the Rasmussen Factor to Produce Better Racehorses by Rommy Faversham and Leon Rasmussen

Matriarchs: Great Mares of the 20th Century by Edward L. Bowen

Names in Pedigrees by Joe Palmer

Patterns of Greatness by Alan Porter

Patterns of Greatness II by Alan Porter and Anne Peters

The Estes Formula for Breeding Stakes Winners by Joseph A. Estes

The Great Breeders and Their Methods by Abram S. Hewitt

Typology of the Racehorse by Franco Varola

Thoroughbred Retirement

The wonder of the Thoroughbred racehorse, and the quality that draws us to them, is their genetic need to run as far and as fast as they can. Added to the traditional training they receive, the effort they put out in any race surpasses the heights achieved by human athletes during Championship encounters in basketball, football or even marathon racing. Like all great athletes, they are prone to injury – in fact, especially prone: when they are competing, over 1,000 pounds of muscle and bone land jarringly on spindly front legs 120 times every quarter of a mile. They tell us about their injuries by the manner in which they eat, walk, canter and respond to human handling.

So the vigilant owner must be a consistent monitor of the horse’s condition. Once the physical signs of deterioration begin to show up, decisive action must be taken. It is far better to retire a horse while he is sound and capable of thriving in a second career than to risk furthering an injury on the track. The question the owner must face when, sadly, the horse’s race career has concluded is, what do we do?

For those who own farms as well as Thoroughbreds, the question of maintaining a retired horse is the decision to provide food and pasture. A large majority of owners do not have that luxury available. Given a life expectancy of 15 to 20 more years (after its racing career), a retired horse becomes a major non-returnable investment.

It’s hard to pull your heart away from a horse you own. They do become something more than an investment, no matter how tough-minded you are. But there is an investment you can make that insures a workable future for horses who can no longer race and cannot or should not be consigned for breeding. TOBA’s charitable arm, Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA), supports many aftercare organizations each year. Please refer to this page for a list of TCA supported aftercare organizations. Please contact an adoption organization to ensure your racehorse has a good home and will have the opportunity to enter into a second career as an eventer, jumper, dressage horse, pleasure horse or much more.

TCA 250x250

Thoroughbred OwnerView is a free information website developed jointly by The Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association for new, prospective and current Thoroughbred owners. OwnerView includes a wealth of information about Trainers, Racing Syndicates, Getting Started, Licensing, Racetracks, Veterinary, Aftercare, Publications and State Incentive programs.

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