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Keeping horses warm and ready for another racing season

Diet, training and properly warming up all contribute to horses’ comfort.
Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 8:06 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2021 at 8:12 AM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The 68th season of Fonner Park’s racing season begins Friday afternoon and the two big priorities are preparing the race track and ensuring the horses are kept warm and ready.

When not warming up or racing, the horses are kept in the barn and being constantly treated and prepared. To keep them warm the trainers are monitoring them, running them through the indoor trainer, keeping blankets on them when they return from outside and making sure their diet is helping generate heat.

“Horses have a nice furnace inside of them so when it does get cold, when you give them hay, that hay actually warms them as they eat,” Chris Kotulak, Fonner Park CEO, said. “You might add a little bit more grain in here and there but that hay is really what helps them generate the heat.”

Much like humans, the horses warm up to prepare for their runs, work up a sweat, then require a cool down. Leaving the warm barn, running outside in the cold and returning into the barn isn’t a difficult task as many of the trainers began training horses back in late fall or early winter to get them ready for a February opening day.

“They already have that fitness foundation in them,” Kotulak said. “For those trainers, this is not a significant break in training.”

As of Wednesday, the race track has a layer of snow over the top which, according to Kotulak, is acting as a natural insulator and keeping the ground beneath it soft. The plan to remove that snow and get the track race-ready is still up in the air, but there are a few ideas they are working on choosing between.

Regardless, Kotulak says race day will happen.

“Two years ago, we raced through a blizzard on opening day; last year I believe we had temperatures in the 60′s on opening day,” Kotulak said.

To begin the season, Fonner Park will operate at 75 percent capacity and require all fans to wear masks.

More information on the season and schedule can be found here.

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