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Book Review

Professional Care of the Racehorse
A Guide to Grooming, Feeding, and Handling the Equine Athlete
by T.A. Landers
Eclipse Press, January 2006, 304 pages paperback

Most observers of Thoroughbred racing are only familiar with what happens on the front side, under the watchful eyes of the fans and the television cameras. The horses are saddled by the trainers in the paddock, the jockey is given a leg up, the horses walk in the post parade, warm up on the way to the gate, run the race, and then are unsaddled by the valet and given a quick spray of water before being led away. What happens under those endless barn roofs beyond the backstretch rail is, for the most part, a mystery to the casual fan. In this new revised edition of his 1995 book, Professional Care of the Racehorse, former groom turned trainer T.A. Landers has produced a very comprehensive manual to help aspiring horsemen understand the intricacies of working with these majestic animals.

Taking care of a racehorse is more that just exercise gallops, timed workouts, and races, which are mostly the domain of the trainer. The groom plays a very active role in the horse's success, although much of that role is invisible to the racing fans. He or she spends the most time with the horse, performing such important duties as mucking the stall, feeding the horse the right amount of the prescribed meal at the trainer's scheduled times, keeping the horse calm while being shod, and being the first to recognize any signs of lameness or illness. Without question the groom is the one who keeps the horse happy and healthy, ready for the track. Extensive use of photographs and diagrams accompany the text, allowing the reader to visualize the many techniques necessary. Landers explains each technique in great detail but in a clear and concise manner, giving the reader enough knowledge to comfortably put the lessons into practice.

Landers starts with the basics, how to handle and restrain a horse, techniques which should be "second-nature" to anyone who works around these powerful creatures. He moves on to the daily tasks of the groom - washing, feeding, clipping, caring for the feet, and mucking stalls. Finally, he explains how to prepare horses for workouts, such as tacking and untacking, bandaging the legs, general health care, and detecting lameness.

Readers totally unfamiliar with horse care will be fascinated and surprised at just how much work is needed to safely and comfortably get a horse to the races. The groom's role is often overlooked by racing fans but after reading Landers' manual, one cannot help but gain a greater appreciation of the hard work and long hours these underpaid individuals put in. This is an excellent book for anybody who owns a horse or is considering a career as a groom or trainer, and for racing fans curious about what goes on beyond the backstretch rail.

Professional Care of the Racehorse has a list price of $19.95 and is available frpm Exclusively Equine for $14.95 or Amazon.com for $13.57.

Rating:     4/5

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