Alfred Hitchcock had first shown horses on treadmills in his 1964 thriller Marnie, a similar clip became a joke for students of Virginia Tech in United States when it was played at a football game along with the advertisements. But the scene at Mahalaxmi Race Course here doesn’t have the thrill nor jest. The veterinarians and trainers mean business when they make the colts and stallions run on the treadmill on a daily basis to keep them fit.
With a day remaining for the Derby, the horses are sweating it out like they have never before, both on track and on the treadmill.
So what are the advantages of having a treadmill around a stable? “The horse may have a back problem when you would not want a jockey on top though you know it needs to train. Then the treadmill comes into play,” said Dr Phiroz T Khambatta, who is regarded as the best horse vet in India.
Khambatta has been associated with Mahalaxmi Race Course for more than 25 years now and has grown up on horses and Derby.
“If the horse has a problem with tendons and you do not want it to run on an undulated surface, then also the treadmill is helpful. At times, there might be behavioural problems and mood swings and it won’t be ready to run on the track. The treadmill also reportedly improves the bone structure and strengthens their tissues,” he added.
On a daily basis, the horses use the treadmill from 8.30 am to 12 noon and then again from 3.30 pm to 6 pm. Most horses that are on the track in the morning use the treadmill in the afternoon.
“Young horses are prone to bone injuries. It is proven that if they run both on the track and on the treadmill, the combination reduces the chances of getting injured,” said Khambatta.
The speed on the track is around 60kmph but on the treadmill, Khambatta said they do not usually cross more than 52kmph.