It looks like it came from outer space — but will it actually make a difference in racehorse training?
Turkish racehorse owner Mehmet Kurt is convinced that removing the weight of jockeys could significantly reduce injuries in early training. And he’s got the cash to test out his theory with Kurtsystems, an automated training system being installed at the U.K. Kingwood Stud at an estimated total cost of $46 million.
The Kurtsystem is designed for early training of both racehorses and camels (?), and has two versions. One is a single-horse “car system” which kind of looks like an RV attached to a horse, and the other is a “rail system” in which several horses are exercised on a sort of hotwalker/trolley track hybrid. Both versions have people supervising from a pod behind the horse(s) that drags the footing as horses pull the device around the track.
“This is about making a horse ready for training,” said Kurt to the Daily Mail. “The idea is to make it as natural as possible with no restriction on movement.”
The system is not designed to completely remove jockeys from the equation — rather, it will be an aid to get young horses fit enough to carry a rider. But take a quick glance at online comments about the new track, and you’ll find concerns ranging from why a change from typical methods is needed to worries about horse welfare and how the “rail system” model would shut down in an emergency.
“It significantly reduces the stresses and injuries that can occur in pre-training,” said Tony Lodge, spokesman for Kurt Systems, in an interview with The Guardian. “It is gentler on the horse, and removes the possibility of jockey error as there isn’t a jockey. Horses can be brought on steadily over a period of time before they get to the point where a jockey is involved in riding work at a later stage.”
Just my two cents, but I wonder if Mehmet Kurt is aware that a longe line does the same thing for a LOT less money… in any case, it will be interesting to see if this catches on at other tracks.