Pre-training a Racehorse

Pre-training a Racehorse
– Jane Thomas

Jane Thomas - Far End Stables Jane Thomas of Far End Stables has worked in the SA Racing Industry since 1990. She held an open trainer’s license with the National Horse Racing Authority from 1990 – 2000. Jane’s success in the racing world and her ability to understand the fundamentals of South African racing led her to start a pre-training facility at Far End in 2000.

From buying a yearling at sales until he is sent the trainer to begin his racing career, is the phase called “pre-training” which entails transferring well-conditioned yearlings into sleek racing athletes. Jane offers to help with yearling selections at all major horse sales, which is provided free for horses that are pre-trained at Far End Farm.

Jane also prepares horses for Ready-To-Run sales and last year, 10 horses that were prepared for the sale realised the highest average of all the horses on the sale, and testimony to Jane’s ability to turn a horse out and realise its full potential.
A few trainers may choose to take this on themselves, however it does make the trainer’s job easier for the horses to arrive mentally and physically prepared for their training regime and future careers as racehorses.

Facilities such as Far End Stables are available which specialise in bringing on and pre-training young horses, as well as offering spelling and recuperation to convalescing racehorses, in a more relaxed environment for the horse.

Pre-training is a very important step forward for a horse, and not just for his future racing career, but for the rest of his life. Ensuring a horse is broken to saddle properly, without frightening him, is of paramount importance for his future handling and should only be done by a professional. The horses are mouthed to the bit and taught to trot in a correct outline before being backed. This ensures that the horses back muscles are strengthened prior to taking the weight of a rider. They are taught directional aids before starting track work.

Once he begins ridden work, he is brought on quietly and schooled and conditioned both mentally and physically for the rigours of full training. The horses are exercised on hills to strengthen their joints and build up back and hindquarter muscles. Far End has grass and sand tracks for the horses to work on to develop their strength and fitness. This is only done when they are physically mature enough to do so, allowing them to work on stamina and endurance. The result is a well-conditioned fit horse. After morning exercise they are turned out into safe paddocks which contribute to a happy learning environment.

Jane also schools the horses through starting stalls and teaches them confidence to approach and stand in the stalls quietly. Starting Stalls can be a very daunting experience for a young horse as they are large and imposing and the space is limited once the horse is inside. A few horses may find the experience a bit claustrophobic. This is a vital step in training a racehorse, because without a Tractability Certificate (a certificate that specifies a horse is able to enter the starting stalls in a reasonable manner on race-day) a racehorse doesn’t have a future. If a horse misbehaves repeatedly at the racetrack by not wanting to enter the stalls and giving his handlers a hard time doing so, the Stipendiary Stewards may withdraw the certificate and the horse will not be able to race until it can be proved he is fit to do so, and the horses are given limited chances to do this before being banned completely from racing – part of the reason being that the horse will not only pose a danger to his handlers and rider, but potentially to other racehorses participating in the race.

All of this forms part of the fundamental building blocks for the future and allows horses to cope with their careers and as soon as Jane feels they are strong enough, they are sent to the trainer to begin more strenuous work towards making their track debuts.

Jane pre-trains for some of South Africa’s leading trainers and owners, including Charles Laird, Robbie Sage, Wendy Whitehead, Colin Scott, Mark Dixon, Marcus Jooste, World Wide Bloodstock, Cecil Baitz, Braam van Huyssteen and Richard Fitzgerald. Stud Farms that support Jane include Spring Valley Stud, Klawervlei Stud, Scott Brothers, Bush Hill Stud and Middlefield Stud.

A few of the horses Jane has pre-trained include Warning Zone, Saddlewood, Warm White Night (now standing his first season at Klawervlei), Count The Money, Urabamba, Dunsinane, Bedloes Island, Grey Cossack, Fighting Warrior, Merlene de Lago and National Spirit.

Should you wish to contact Jane Thomas, please phone 082 806 4041 or alternatively email

Training in stalls

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