Importance of Learning
Weather Conditions in Horse Racing

Horse racing is a sport in which you look at not only the abilities of the contenders (horses and jockeys) but also all the other external factors that can impact the race’s result. One of these factors is the weather conditions.  

How does it affect the race? Horse racetracks do not have roofs, so different weather conditions can indirectly (via altering track conditions) and directly impact the horse’s performance. Weather conditions can drastically change track conditions at any time, and horses have different track condition preferences (see more about Track Conditions in Types of Horse Racetrack Surfaces and Conditions). For example, you have been betting on horses who prefer dry tracks, and suddenly it rains. Hence, it can negatively affect the value of your bets.  

To avoid unexpected scenarios, check weather forecasts daily before placing your bets because weather conditions can change anytime. However, bettors should not solely base their bets on current weather conditions but also consider looking into past weather conditions. Rainfall can also cause secondary effects on the track, such that despite weather improvements on the day of the race, previous races might have already altered the track conditions unfavorable to your chosen horse. Therefore, it is recommended that weather conditions be checked daily and compared to the past days. Then, juxtapose it to the current track condition and the preferences and abilities of your chosen horse.  

Weather conditions are driven by temperature, humidity, air pressure, precipitation, and wind speed and direction. These are also the main factors that can affect the surrounding environment of the racetrack and the horses and jockeys, leading to undesired performances and unanticipated results. This article elaborates on the specific results and causes of these factors. 

Temperature – Hot (Sunny Day) and Cold Weather

The temperature is divided into hot and cold, from highest to lowest. It has different impacts on horses and track conditions. 

Effect on Track Conditions – Hot Weather 

Extreme heat can affect track conditions and differ based on their surface type—dirt or turf. Overly dry dirt tracks will become hard and unforgiving. Turf surfaces without sufficient moisture might become too hard and not firm enough anymore. These track conditions are unsuitable for horse racing and might hurt horses. Understanding track conditions and surfaces are elaborated in the Types of Horse Racetrack Surfaces and Conditions. 

Effect on Horses – Hot Weather 

Hot weather can tire horses quickly because they are already naturally producing a large amount of heat when running. So, when situated in hot weather or exposed to high temperatures, their bodies will have trouble dissipating the heat. It will cause them to overheat quickly, leading to heat exhaustion and, worse, heat stroke. Hence, heat can significantly affect their performance in a race. It can even become deadly that several horse racetracks will reschedule a race earlier or later to avoid an excessively high temperature. 

Effect on Horses – Cold Weather 

Cold weather can contract and stiffen horses’ muscles, decreasing their flexibility and mobility. In horse racing, this can negatively impact their speed and power. Moreover, cold weather can make horses vulnerable to sprains and muscle strains. 

Humidity – Sunny Day

Effect on Horses 

Heat also creates another problem for horses: humidity. Humidity is the concentration of water vapor present in the air. Hot places are more humid than cool places because heat evaporates water faster. High humidity makes it difficult for horses to breathe, decreasing their stamina and speed. Moreover, if the horses are not appropriately monitored and safe from excessive heat, it can also make them sweat more than usual, which leads toelectrolyte loss and dehydration. 

Air Pressure – Sunny to Stormy Days

Increasing high pressure (above 1000 millibars) corresponds with clear and sunny weather. Meanwhile, decreasing pressure (below 1000 millibars) corresponds with cloudy and rainy weather.  

Effect on Horses 

Air pressure or atmospheric pressure can also impact horses. High air pressure, like high humidity, can make breathing difficult for horses, easily depleting their stamina and speed.  

On the other hand, low air pressure can make horses more energetic and anxious. Some might also experience mild to severe colic (abdominal pain) if the air pressure drops drastically. Other horses can tolerate such situations, but some might behave peculiarly and become entirely different. 

Air pressure can also start decreasing long before precipitation begins, and the horse may be incapable of showing its best performance. However, several handicappers deem this insignificant and disregard it when giving tips on horse racing. 

Precipitation – Rainy or Snowy Day

Rain and snow are the primary precipitation forms that can essentially impact horse racing. This alteration can either advantage or disadvantage certain horses in certain situations. 

Rain Effects on Track Conditions – Dirt Tracks 

Horse Racing Dirt tracks are particularly vulnerable to the impact of rain, as rain can turn track conditions from fast to muddy or sloppy (see Types of Horse Racetrack Surfaces and Conditions). As mentioned, racehorses have different track condition preferences, so if track conditions change due to weather, it might suddenly become a disadvantage to some horses. However, it can also be an advantage to some horses who excel in muddy or sloppy track conditions, and they are called “mud lovers” or “sloppy track specialists.” These horses favor the added challenge of wet surfaces. 

Rain Effects on Track Conditions – Turf Tracks 

Just like dirt tracks, turf tracks can be significantly impacted by rain. Continuous rain can soften the turf, turning the track condition from firm to yielding or soft. It is disadvantageous for horses suitable for firm turf and poses a challenge for “explosive” horses to release their best performance. It requires the horse to have higher endurance, as their hooves can sink deeper into the track and exhaust them rapidly. However, insufficient rain can also result in a hardened turf, posing difficulty for horses suited to standard turf conditions. A hardened turf gives each stride more arduous than usual. It usually happens in extreme heat temperatures. 

Rain Effects on Horses 

Horses are also affected on rainy days. Aside from making the track condition heavier, rain can also blur the horses’ visibility, causing a rapid increase in their heart rate. Including the jockeys, rain can significantly decrease their visibility, and it becomes difficult for them to see the situation in a race – whether where to maneuver the horse to avoid accidents, bumping into another horse, or the rails. Choosing the right decision in that situation can be challenging if the jockey is not talented enough, which might cause unprecedented events. 

Moreover, another thing that can cause accidents in rainy seasons is that it can make the track surfaces slippery and muddy. This situation makes it difficult for horses to keep their balance and increases the risk of injury. Then, the mud kicked up by the horses can also impede the performance of some horses while giving an upper hand to others, depending on each situation. 

Snow Effects on Horses 

Snow can usually result in race cancellations due to safety protocols. As discussed above in the temperature subject, cold temperatures can already affect the physicality of the horses. The cold can stiffen the horse’s muscles, and breathing cold air poses a challenge to them, affecting their stamina and overall performance. 

Wind Speed and Direction – Windy Day or Stormy Day

Effects on Horses 

Wind Speed and direction subtle involvement can overthrow early predictions of the race.  

A strong wind can affect the balance of the horse and its ability to keep a steady path, disrupt its concentration, and increase its heart rate due to the noise and movement of the wind. A headwind can slow horses down and make it laborious for closers to catch front-runners down the homestretch. On the other hand, tailwinds can increase the pace of the race and aid horses closing from behind. Such situations can disrupt handicappers’ predictions, grounded on the horses’ usual speed and stamina.

Summary Chart

Significant factors you should check in terms of each weather condition. 

Sunny Day or Hot Weather Windy Day Rainy Day Snowy Day or Cold Weather Stormy Day


Air Pressure

Air Pressure


Air Pressure


Wind Speed and direction


Air Pressure


Air Pressure


Wind Speed or Direction

Further Information

How do you determine if the horse is suitable or not in such weather conditions? 

In selecting the best horse suited to the current weather and track conditions, it is recommended to check its historical performance. Their records should show consistent success under the same weather conditions, not just one victory. It can be a fluke or a matter of luck if they win it only once. It cannot be called an ability or talent to adapt to certain weather conditions. Hence, do not ground your decision in such a scenario. 

If you have doubts, the best option is to rely on the driest track, which usually leads to more predictable outcomes. 

The Role of Jockeys in Unfavorable Weather Conditions

Selecting the best-suited horse for the current weather and track conditions could be crucial, but looking at its jockey is as significant as it is. 

Jockeys are like leaders and commanders in a race. Their commands are essential as they maneuver the horse and decide where to position it, especially under unfavorable weather conditions. An experienced jockey has prepared strategies based on the weather. For example, jockeys might avoid the inside rail if it is particularly muddy during rainy weather. If there are strong winds, a jockey might position his horse at the back of the others to minimize wind resistance. 

Moreover, the jockey should also be knowledgeable about the horse’s comfort level in different weather conditions since each horse has different weather preferences and reacts differently in certain weather conditions. For instance, jockeys must meticulously observe and regulate their horses’ energy levels to avert overheating and secure safety under extreme hot weather. In cold weather, the jockeys need to maintain the warmth of the horse’s muscles to avoid stiffness. 

On a muddy track, jockeys skillfully position their horses at the forefront to take advantage and avoid the annoying splattering mud that can affect the horses’ vision. These subtle handling and positioning can already significantly influence the performance of the horses. 

Cancelled Races

In extreme weather conditions, when a turf track becomes excessively wet and considered “unraceable,” races are called off or canceled to protect the horses and the integrity of the racing surface. Other times, races may be transferred to a dirt track to keep the event. 

On the other hand, fog and snow can still produce overwhelming predicaments. In these situations, even if the track is safe, it can still cancel races because of outside factors such as transporting horses, staff, and attendees to the venue. Another problem during snow is a scarcity of fresh water for horses because the surfaces are icy or frozen. It also poses another challenge in feeding horses outdoors. Furthermore, it can disrupt the horses’ training due to the icy condition of the track. Horses need enough workouts before any race to condition them.  

Unpredictable and extreme weather conditions can cancel races or change the race lineups. Horses can also be withdrawn from a race event due to the altered track conditions and/or relocation of track surfaces (for example, from dirt to turf). Hence, bettors must have adaptability skills and be well-informed about any alterations caused by the weather so they can modify their handicapping strategies appropriately. 


Therefore, it is significant to compare the weather conditions, horse abilities and characteristics, and jockeys skills to come up with a good handicap. These factors make horse racing more challenging and exciting. It defines horse racing as not just about speed and form but also adaptability, strategy, and skills.