How many truly great trainers are there in Australia today? My vote says only a handful.

Most trainers, in my opinion, are sad excuses for conditioners of horseflesh! I know that's a bold statement but just have a close look at the condition in which many horses are presented in the mounting yards around the nation, particularly on minor country tracks. I think you'll see what I mean.

Not that I've any wish to be a trainer. Ever considered how much work is put into one racehorse? He has to be fed, cared for, and trained 365 days in a year and inevitably he will be plagued with ailments, from illness to raceday injuries to picking up stone bruises while walking along off the training track!

Horses eat four times a day and each has a different capacity; a large horse obviously will eat more than a smaller one but each horse requires a diet that is laced with calcium to phosphorous about 2 to 1.

Dry feed - like hay and oats - is sufficient for a normal diet but when a horse is in full training and racing he requires a mash feeding with an additive like black syrup. Most horses regain vitality swiftly after absorbing a feeding of mash that consists of oats, bran, corn, and chopped carrots (corn is omitted in warmer weather).

Did you know that the average horse can eat 14 quarts of oats a day? And that most horses drink large amounts of water, anything from four to 10 gallons a day?

For all this, a horse's stomach is quite small and this means he must be fed frequently but lightly. Gorging upsets him and causes violent indigestion and colic.

So anyone who trains a horse has to know, just for starters, all about feed. A horse's diet is all-important to how he will measure up against the opposition on racedays.

If you're at the races you should always try to take a look at the runners when they are paraded in the mounting yard.

Even if you don't know a lot about horseflesh you'll soon learn to identify those horses that look extra fit.

Their coats will gleam and they'll be a bit "ribby'. Be alert for those horses who 'fight' their strapper and appear unruly.

Look for the settled, happy horse, one that isn't working itself into a lather. Nervous animals are usually poor betting propositions.

Shun those horses that want to 'fight' the jockey on the way to the starting gates. You can sometimes tell if a horse is sore by the way he throws his head around, apparently wincing in pain when being asked to gallop.

Bandages are a warning sign that a horse is unsound. Watch for tell-tale lather (white) between a horse's rear flanks - that's sweating. Kidney sweat, in fact.

A trip to the mounting yard to watch the runners can pay off.

By Statsman