As may naturally be supposed, a great deal of difference exists between the methods of trainers of thorough-breds, not merely as regards their treatment of individual animals, but in connection with the entire prin-ciples which regulate the preparation of race-horses. Some persons are still advocates of "strong" preparations, entailing a tremendous amount of work upon their charges, whilst others are believers in sweating the horses for miles under heavy rugs; some also go to the length of Squire Osbaldiston, who used to state that " one month is necessary to prepare a horse for a race, but if he be very foul, or taken from grass, he might require two ". There are those again who take an entirely different view, and are in favour of a slow and gradual preparation.
It is, however, probable, that the views of the extremist on either side require considerable modification save in very exceptional cases, and at all events there is no reason to question the soundness of the old adage that a hurried preparation is never satisfactory to man or beast. In regard to the amount of work which should be given a horse it must be left to the discretion of the trainer to decide. Some families, and notably the Newminsters, usually do best, or at all events in some cases remarkably well, upon a course of very easy work, whilst other animals are perfect gluttons, and require a large amount of exercise to keep their flesh down and their condition up. Constitution, temper, habit, and idiosyncrasy are seldom alike in different horses, and even the same horse may change in these respects from time to time. Nothing, therefore, in the shape of a hard-and-fast rule can be laid down for the instruction of a trainer, who can only be guided in his treatment of each animal by the knowledge gained of him while under observation, and the amount of progress the horse makes.
Yearlings, after begin mouthed and broken to driving-reins after the manner described in the chapter on Training the Trotter, may be mounted and gently taken by degrees through all their paces until they become perfectly handy, when they may be regularly exercised, but always by themselves. In the matter of work, three, or at the most four, furlongs should be the limit of a yearling's canter, as if this distance is exceeded the strength of the juveniles is certain to be overtaxed, to the prejudice of their future speed and stamina. In the case of older horses being trained for long distances, it is not desirable that they should commence by galloping a course of the length they will have to run, but may begin at a mile and gradually work up to the full distance. It is also a very bad and objectionable practice to gallop any horse the long course at full speed; but, on the other hand, steady work over it will be necessary to strengthen his wind. The requisite number of strong gallops will depend in part upon the condition of the animal, and in part also upon the weather and state of the ground; as when the going is heavy the efforts of the horse are correspondingly increased.
Some trainers through conviction, and others through necessity, give their horses comparatively little galloping to do; indeed, Tom Oliver was wont to boast that he could get a steeplechaser fit for a two-mile race by merely walking and trotting him about; but this is a bad principle to work upon in ninety-nine cases out of every hundred. Long four-mile sweats under heavy rugs were condemned by the best of the old writers upon preparing horses, in spite of the fact that Samuel Chifney, in his book, speaks of sweating horses six miles three days a week. A severe course of sweating is objected to by most trainers of the present day, for even though the practice is popular with some people, there can be no doubt that if carried to anything like excess it is weakening to the horse. If horses in training are away from their stables for an hour and a half at a time it will be quite enough for them, and it is always best to avoid taking them out during the heat of the day - early in the morning during summer, and as soon after breakfast as possible in the winter, being the best time for the heavy work.
The earlier horses can be got to work in the spring the better it will be for all parties concerned, as their preparation then need not be hurried, though, of course, animals with early engagements before them must be rattled along whenever the state of the ground permits. Those, however, which will not be wanted until later can be given just enough exercise to prevent them from getting big, but not sufficient to cause stale-ness when their preparations begin in earnest. On the other hand, even if the presence of a long frost has necessitated slow work on the straw bed, it is not desirable, except in very exceptional cases, to gallop a horse severely directly he gets back to the training-ground, lest undue pressure should break him down. Although, of course, the two-year-olds will not be wanted until the season is well on, they should nevertheless be kept gently at it under the tutorship of a steady school-master, whom they should be permitted to beat when anything like fast work is indulged in, else they may be encouraged to turn out faint-hearted on the Turf.
The responsibility of discovering whether a horse is possessed of stamina, or deciding whether he be merely a sprinter, devolves upon the trainer, who must also settle the question of fitness. This is proved by the state in which an animal pulls up after a good gallop. If there is a heaving flank and dilated nostrils, the horse requires another gallop, and so he will if he finishes tired. On the other hand, sweating is not by any means an infallible sign of unfitness, as many horses will sweat even though they are drawn to the limits of fineness, which is perhaps the condition in which most thoroughbreds run best. Were it possible to get horses to do their abilities full justice when run big, it would be a relief to the trainer, and in fact the best for all parties concerned; but, unfortunately, the vast majority of animals require to be run light, and therefore their preparation becomes a more serious matter than it would otherwise be.