MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Canterbury Park in Shakopee brings in fans of horse racing every weekend.
Visitors show up for those exciting few minutes of competition, but the real work happens off the track.
Trainers work with the horses every day to get them ready for the races. Training starts in the early morning.
Some trainers immediately head to the track, while others prefer a slow warm up of walking their horse around a barn.
But Nevada Liftin prefers to start the day by taking his horses for a dip in the Canterbury Pool.
“That’s Captain Glory. She’s an excellent swimmer,” Liftin said.
Canterbury Park is one of the few horse tracks in the country to offer equine aquatics on site.
The pool was originally built 10 years ago as a therapy pool to help injured horses, but over the years has evolved into a popular training tool.
“It kind of freshens them up a little bit and gets them feeling good, and gets them a little more on the muscle,” Liftin said.
Athletes know game-day success can be found in switching up the training routine. Trainers know the same rules apply to horses.
“They feel good, they’re bucking and squealing and they come out of the pool good,” he said.
Water helps to take the weight off joints that tire from a high-impact sport.
But at the same time, swimming still builds stamina that helps on the track.
“The training method of it and the building up the lungs makes a big difference,” trainer Oscar Quiroz said.
Quiroz is the trainer who helps run the pool. He helps guide the horses as they swim through 12 feet of water.
“Keeping them off the wall is important so they’re not scraping the wall, obviously, or kicking it. Helps keep their shoes on and what not,” Quiroz said.
Every so often, a trainer brings their horse to the pool for the first time. Extra hands are always needed when a horse takes that initial dip into the water.
“The very first time they don’t have really a clue on what’s going on and a lot of them will just rush in and dive in, like little Shamus, not quite sure of it,” Quiroz said.
Each animal eventually adapts to a workout that could make all the difference later that day.
“A lot of swimmers we’ve had this summer make it to the winner circle more often than not,” Quiroz said.