The horse paddock and racing stables
Plenty of racegoers have their own preparations for a day at the races and perhaps even a routine during the meeting, but what about the horses? We see them race out on the track, but what happens before and after their race? Well, the paddock and the stables play a big part.
The pre-parade ring and paddock
Often referred to as the parade ring, the horse paddock is where the runners in the forthcoming race are paraded for racegoers to get a proper look at them. The parade also gets the horses moving and relaxed.
The horses do not start in the parade ring, though, as after being transported to the track and checked over, most horses go through the pre-parade ring first. This is situated closer to the stables and the horses are not kitted out yet with racing equipment such as their saddle. The horses are led around by their grooms, with the process designed to help them stay warm and focused. Racegoers can get an early look at the horses without saddling equipment to assess their raceday demeanour and fitness.
Nearer race time, horses will move from the pre-parade ring to the main paddock. A major selling point for racing is how close racegoers can get to the heart of the action in situations like this, where it is possible to get a really good look at the horses before the race. Owners and trainers (often collectively referred to as ‘connections’) will be waiting for the jockeys to appear and to talk over their tactics for the race, before the jockeys get aboard their horses and depart the parade ring to go out on the track.
What to look for
Many racegoers will use the period when the horses are in the paddock to assess each horse’s movement and demeanour. While this is far from an exact science, things to look out for include whether the horse is moving well and is in good condition with a shiny coat. If a horse becomes sweaty or noticeably anxious, its chance of success in the race may be affected.
Watching inexperienced horses like two-year-olds is always fascinating, as pre-race behaviour can provide a clue as to what their temperament is likely to be out on the track.
Following the race, the winner and placed horses return to the winner’s enclosure, which is often but not always situated in a part of the parade ring. The horses will be unsaddled so the jockeys can weigh in and connections will often pose for photos, pick up their prizes and do some interviews. The horses are often kept moving around slowly by their grooms in order to help them recover from their exertions and washing down is a regular occurrence at this stage.
Once every jockey is weighed in and the announcement of ‘horses away’ is given, the horses return to the stables, where the horses who finished unplaced in the race will have already gone.
There are horse racing stables at every racecourse. This is where the horses are kept before and after races and where they are assessed by vets for pre- and post-race injuries. The stables area cannot be accessed by racegoers and is usually situated out of public view.