How weather and the elements affect a horse’s chance of winning a race

Horse racing is such a popular sport, and betting on it even more so. However, it’s not just the trainer, jockey, and physique of the horse that can impact the outcome of a race.

We get affected by the elements and the weather, and horses do as well. So, the weather is something that can definitely impact the outcome of a race.

Have you ever spent time with horses in the different seasons? They will act differently throughout the year.

Let’s say you want to go for a ride in the spring or autumn months, the horse will usually be fine, no matter the breed. It is not too warm or too hot, and as long as the ground is not too soggy, the horse will be happy to go galloping around.

However, once the weather heats up, your horse might be fine to gallop and canter around, but like us, exhaustion will hit much quicker.

You also need to take into account that weather related horse behavior is not the only thing that is to be considered. When we get bouts of wet weather, there is traditionally a large increase in the number of hoof abscesses.

The moisture causes the sole, hoof wall, and the white line to soften, and it weakens the structure of these. Even the smallest opening can allow bacteria to migrate into their hoof and cause an abscess.

It is wise to be vigilant, studying form of your potentially race-winning steed or mare.

Is the horse being more tender on one of their hooves as they enter the track? Are they lifting their hoof up? If there has been a bout of wet weather, be cautious of hoof problems.

How weather affects horse performance.

Of course, the weather needn’t always affect the horse, proper hoof maintenance can prevent things such as abscesses, and can give a forewarning, so it can be treated long before the race.

This is why it is a good idea to get a look at the owner and trainer of a horse. If they look like the type to be keeping a close eye on the hooves in wet weather, the horse will surely be fine.

A horse with hoof problems won’t be bolting on the track, and is not a winner.

While hoof problems are something worth thinking about before you place a bet on a horse, there are other weather conditions we must consider as well. Horse races are run year round, and this means horses are running in wet and windy weather, sunny days, horrendous heat, and chilly winters.

Being an expert punter means checking out the physique of this wonderful steed, and also checking out their background as well. In winter there are plenty of problems that can arise, are they getting the optimal care to protect them from the chilly weather?

Do they have a good coat, and is their home and their horse-box windproof? These are things to consider. A cold horse is not a happy horse and will likely not be willing to race hard and fast on the track.

While most horses fare well in any weather, some may not be as compliant for more unpleasant conditions.

Of all horse breeds, thoroughbreds are the biggest drama queens, and are generally the most prone to weather related problems. However, if you were to bet on a race in a cold climate, you might want to check out North-bred horses; a horse descended from Icelandic mares, who fare very well in cold climates.

Quarter-horses, Arabians, and Icelandic horses are very hardy and can slay the track in any conditions.

Weather and the track.

A wet and soggy racetrack could cause abscesses and other issues, however, going from wet to dry, is just as bad.

When you look at a racetrack, always consider how wet or dry it looks. If a horse goes from wet to dry conditions in a very short space of time, it can cause chipping and cracking in the hoof, as well as a change in hoof size. The best time to race any horse is in the long dry summer.

The best conditions for a dirt racetrack is dry, it should be dry enough that it needs watering between races. This creates a surface that is drying out and has a little watering and is ideal. A wet track is typically a fast track, but it is also worth considering the horse’s hoof conditions in this case.

Remember, a weather forecast can easily make or break a race. Heavy rain creates quite the mess, and high winds can dry out the surface. Weather can have a massive impact on the horses. Sloppy tracks will create slower finishing times.

Also consider the history of the horse, some horses may never have run on a muddy track before, whereas some may thrive on it. A good punter knows that it is wise to be apprised of the horse’s history.

Sometimes on a wet, sloppy day, it’s best to not bet on the favourite, but instead, on the horse that thrives on sloppy, muddy tracks.

Don’t forget barometric pressure too. While rain and water is the biggest influence on horses and horse racing, when barometric pressure drops, some horses may be negatively influenced, thus affecting their performance.

When a strong, oncoming headwind barrels down the homestretch, you could find the lead horses slow and the field levels out as they near the finish line. This gives the horses trailing just behind the lead a chance to take the head.

Maybe the best question to ask is ‘When is it a good idea to bet on the favourite?’ Our answer to this question would be – in dry, calm conditions, the favourite is a good choice. However, when conditions are sloppy, windy, or downright unpleasant, perhaps turn your gaze to the horses who have a history in these conditions for a more likely chance to win at the track!

Sydney Osborne

Sydney Osborne is an outreach partner with a passion for horses. She produces articles on behalf of TVG - a reputable horse and greyhound racing betting business offering tips for responsible wagering.
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