How Horse Racing Has Adopted Smart Technology to Improve Equine Welfare

Horse Racing
Horse Racing

Many sports have enjoyed a big data revolution over the past decade, but horse racing has typically been left behind in that regard.

However, changes being made to the sport and its key races are designed to improve their safety and enhance the welfare of the horses involved.

Here’s a look at how horse racing has embraced data and smart technology to improve the sport in many different ways.

Crunching the Numbers

The Grand National is one of the biggest races held on UK soil.

Millions of people will watch the race on TV, and many of these will have a Grand National bet – placing their wagers on the latest horse racing odds provided by online betting sites and mobile sportsbook apps. The likes of I Am Maximum and Vanillier are at +1000, with and Corach Rambler at +1200 as the favorites to win in 2024.

The race is held at Aintree Racecourse over a distance of four miles and two furlongs. This is an incredibly long way to go, even for these four-legged powerhouses. What’s more, the fences they have to jump are mammoth – some standing as high as five feet from the ground.

So, the staff at Aintree have moved to make the race safer in 2024, using data-led intelligence to identify a handful of alterations. They will bring the first fence closer to the start line, which will lessen the speed with which the horses jump it. This enforces a standing start – rather than allowing the horses to be moving forward when the starter calls their orders.

The field size will also be reduced to 34 from the traditional 40, and the start time will be brought forward more than an hour to 16:00 GMT. This is to help ensure that the conditions are optimal.

The idea is that these changes will enhance equine welfare at the Grand National – a great way for horse racing to leverage big data.

A Smarter Way to Race

Over in Australia, racehorse trainers are utilizing wearable technology to monitor and analyze the performances of their horses in training.

The data collected by these GPS devices includes speed, distance covered, sectional times, length of stride, and heart rate. They will also include an all-important statistical look at the quality of the horse’s recovery.

This information can be useful for spotting the potential for ‘burnout’, but also in preventing injuries before they occur. Some smart tech in racing even includes measures of hoof pressure, which reveals whether a horse is running at their maximum velocity, or not.

The Lindsay Park stable has even employed a data scientist to monitor the data and curate daily reports, which are then fed through to the individual trainers. The upshot? They are able to tailor training programs accordingly, and ensure their horses are peaking at just the right time heading into a raceday.

The data is also used in creating strategies for jockeys. Using sectional time data, trainers can identify whether their horse is best as a frontrunner or a back marker, timing their run for the finishing line in a way that suits the individual horse’s running style.

Big data is big business these days, as is smart technology and tracking devices. Horse racing is finally catching on to the benefits these can bring.