Exercising the Sales Yearling

Exercise during sales prep can be the distinguishing factor in a horse who is mentally and physically prepared for the sales and its future career. Balancing exercise and progress can be a tricky process to manage to ensure the youngster arrives at the sales in peak condition. 

Q) What is the general exercise process during yearling sales preparation?

A) Typically, sales prep will last between 9-12 weeks before the sales date, but this does vary from stud to stud. The first week is usually when yearlings are introduced to bridles, the horse walker and hand walking, for a minimal amount of time, so they can get to grips with this new chapter. The following week, lunging will be introduced. Some studs will still allow some turnout for yearlings where possible, which helps to keep them happy and mentally sane. 

Q) What are the most important things exercise during sales prep can contribute to?

A) Exercising yearlings can ensure they have a correct level of fitness, are well handled and able to show themselves off in the best way, especially when it comes to parading in front of potential buyers and trainers. Being well prepared will mean the yearling is mentally and physically ready for what can be a stressful time. 

Q) What problems can occur if exercise is not individualised

A) Careful monitoring of exercise during prep is essential. Doing too much, or too soon, can lead to lameness issues, bone development problems or aesthetic imbalances.  The aim should be to gradually increase exercise using a combination of hand walking, lunging and the horse walker. The horse’s individual progress should be monitored carefully so that any issues are picked up quickly and, if necessary, the exercise adjusted accordingly. Most yearlings will have a growth spurt during prep so being able to back off for a few days when needed can mean the difference in a well-balanced pain free yearling attending the sales.

Q) Why is hand walking still used when treadmills are now readily available?

A) On many studs, hand walking is still key in being able to teach a yearling ground manners and how to walk and show themselves. It can make all the difference in how a yearling shows themselves when it matters during sales week. It is a traditional method, which still holds its place in producing potential racehorses.

Q) What would a week’s exercise normally look like for a yearling during sales prep?

A) Again, this can vary stud to stud and yearling to yearling. Generally lunging takes place twice a week (up to 10 min on each rein) and hand walking at least 5 times a week. If you have access to one, the horse walker will be used almost daily during sales prep. It is particularly useful at weekends, when staffing levels are halved, and as a cool off after lunging. Hand walking tends to be done in the mornings and to begin with generally is limited to a short 10 min walk. This is then gradually built up to 45-50 mins, or even an hour in some places, of hand walking each day. Practice parades are invaluable and where possible should take place daily.  Doing the practise parade on the way in from hand walking, when the yearlings are more open to learning after letting off some steam, is usually most effective. All balanced together this combination of exercise makes for a fit, healthy and well-mannered potential racehorse.


By Kirsty Durham  – Thoroughbred Specialist, South West England

A National Stud Diploma graduate, Kirsty has over 10 years experience in the Thoroughbred industry, working in breeding operations such as Hascombe Stud and Coolmore in both Australia and Ireland. She has also worked alongside bloodstock agents Stuart Boman and Brendan Holland, as well as spending a season at Heath House for Sir Mark Prescott.

kirsty.durham@redmills.co.uk – 07860 771072