What’s a Thoroughbred Racehorse Nursery?

What you need to know about boarding your racehorse

Thoroughbred horses and foals dot the Bluegrass landscape in all seasons, which makes driving by farms that provide horse boarding services a treat. These current and future champions require care and treatment far exceeding what someone who has boarded a pet horse might expect.

A thoroughbred nursery is geared toward one goal—to breed and raise champion racehorses, which is not something that happens by accident. Nurseries like Mill Ridge Farm have generations of experience in the art and science of raising horses from foals until the age of two. At that point, they are ready to leave the farm and learn how to race. 

Choosing the right nursery is a big decision that affects your investment in the long term. The potential of a racehorse develops during these first two years, laying the foundation for future performance. Mill Ridge Farm’s founder, Alice Headley Chandler’s motto was, “Take care of the horse, and it will take care of you.” This maxim remains at the forefront of Mill Ridge’s boarding practices. It has led them to produce 36 Grade 1 winners since 2000, a rate 2.5 times the industry average. 

A thoroughbred may be born with natural talent, but it takes experienced teams to understand the horse’s needs.

A winning horse boarding philosophy

Horses have natural talents. They’re instinctively competitive, intelligent, athletic, and trainable. The best facilities bring out these qualities and hone them using their own philosophy and approach.

Mill Ridge’s approach is to let horses be horses. The thoroughbreds under their care are turned out more than at most other facilities. The horses are allowed to experience all the seasons, from summer to spring. Weanlings and yearlings roam the fields together, and horseplay and roughhousing are encouraged to properly socialize them and engage their competitive spirit. This playful way of letting thoroughbreds be a bit wild builds strength in a racehorse they may not have if they’re coddled. A common Mill Ridge saying is, “there’s a right amount of bite marks on a good horse.” 

In addition to playtime, horses raised at Mill Ridge get a lot of human interaction from veterinarians, farriers, general staff, and tour visitors. Daily health checks ensure proper care, and their comfort around people helps them adapt to training faster.

A winning horse boarding team

It takes a village to raise a racehorse. You’ll find veterinarians, grooms, farriers, and chiropractors at any exceptional thoroughbred boarding facility. A good boarding facility has long-lasting relationships with partners with little turnover.

Mill Ridge’s partners in horse raising have specialized knowledge that helps each thoroughbred be the best it can be. These racehorses are athletes competing at the highest levels in sports. They need support to become the best. 

A thoroughbred’s life at Mill Ridge involves multiple contact points with trained experts.

  • Grooms feed, water, brush, and maintain the stable.
  • Management ensures the health of the horse with daily physical exams.
  • Veterinarians and management maintain vaccination schedules, best breeding times, and overall health. 
  • Farriers nurture hoof health and create thoroughbred-specific horseshoes. 
  • Chiropractors ensure horses’ joints are correctly aligned—a visit most horses enjoy.

Each team member is essential to maintaining a thoroughbred’s good health. Their relationships are built on trust, over time. Mill Ridge has worked with the blacksmith team for over 30 years. Knowing your racehorse is well cared for by a group of experts is crucial.

The landscape

The beautiful scenery of the Bluegrass region isn’t just for looks. The gently rolling green hills, the seemingly endless fields punctuated by the occasional barn, and the iconic stone and black fences are all signature parts of the unique landscape that produces championship racehorses. 

Each hill a thoroughbred races up helps to strengthen their muscles and increase bone density. The rolling terrain that promotes strong muscles and tendons also plays an integral role in keeping thoroughbreds healthy and less prone to injury.

Kentucky’s limestone-rich soil and varied vegetation create nutrients not found elsewhere. The calcium found in limestone helps to strengthen bones, contributing to stamina and performance on the track. The pastures Mill Ridge’s horses graze upon contain a blend of bluegrass and orchard grass. Any foliage harmful to horses is eradicated. Mill Ridge partners with the experts at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center to ensure your horse’s health and safety.

See the facility for yourself

It’s essential to do some research before deciding on a boarding facility for your thoroughbred. It is equally vital that the exploration of what the farm offers includes a site visit. Experiencing the openness and professionalism of the facility in person assures you that your thoroughbred is in the hands of a team you can trust. 

While there, pay close attention to the staff and horses you encounter. Each person should be focused on the thoroughbreds under their supervision. The horses should be healthy and relaxed around the groundskeepers, trainers, and administrators they encounter regularly. This sense of everyone’s being in sync is easy to recognize and impossible to replicate. At Mill Ridge, everything and everyone has one purpose—to raise championship thoroughbred racehorses.

Whatever horse-boarding facility you choose, it is essential to be confident that they care for your horse and understand how to raise horses capable of competing at the highest levels. Here’s some advice straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

  • Tour the facility in person to ensure the horses appear healthy, energetic, and happy.
  • Talk with a variety of people who work at the farm about how the horses are cared for and why they recommend their facility.
  • Ask where the feed and hay come from and what grasses make up the pastures.
  • Inquire about daily care routines and turnout schedules.
  • Ask to meet the veterinary team to get a sense of their routine and how they will care for your horse.
  • Find out what the facility doesn’t offer and if they have people whose services they would recommend.
  • Request information on foaling. Where is the veterinary clinic? Is there 24-hour care? What procedures are in place for emergencies?
  • Have the facility talk with you about the frequency of updates and what form they will take. What are the restrictions around visiting your racehorse?
  • Find out the actual cost of the boarding experience. Prices differ depending on your thoroughbred’s age, racing, and breeding status.
  • Finally, learn more about the history of the farm’s horses. Has the facility produced multiple champions? A Kentucky Derby winner or two? 

As you can see, visiting the facility will give you the essential information you may not find through an internet search. Your horse’s future depends on carefully choosing the perfect boarding facility.

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