In Hong Kong, race horses go to heaven

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - In racing-mad Hong Kong, they’ve created a heaven for horses.

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The well-toned race animals may work hard on the track at the island’s famed Jockey Club, but off the course they are pampered with treatments that wouldn’t be out of place at the poshest spa.

“What’s most important is their health and their personal stability,” said Andreas Schutz, a trainer of one of the stables at the prestigious club, which is one of the world’s biggest race organizations.

“They have to be mentally clear, they have to be happy, and obviously healthy,” he told Reuters.

Horse racing is a big deal in Hong Kong, with owners spending millions of dollars on acquiring and racing the animals, so no expense is spared on creature comforts.

The city is also preparing to host the equestrian events for the 2008 Olympic games and the Jockey Club has pumped more than $150 million dollars into building state of the art training and competition venues including a 20,000 seat arena.

Wraps, heat lamps, acupuncture and water-based relaxation techniques are some of the treatments trainers use to keep their horses in top condition.

The animals’ freshly painted, pink stables are kept at a cool 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit), with heating and air conditioning turned on when necessary.

After early morning training, the horses are led to a specially designed swimming pool where they can stretch their muscles. And if it’s a bit chilly, they are placed beneath heat lamps that ensure they stay warm and supple.

Trainers feed the animals with imported U.S. or Australian hay that contains just the right nutrients.

Attendants also wrap their legs and check their physical condition several times a day.

And if after all this pampering the animals are still stressed or sore, veterinarians treat them with acupuncture and soothing electromagnetic currents, rather than pain killers, for long lasting relief.

“The effect of treatments like shock waves or pain killers is only temporary,” said veterinary surgeon Lawrence Chan. “It’s quite frustrating because horses may not perform well if they’re really sore in the back.”

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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