Preparing before the race means preparing your birds for they type of race they will compete. This chapter does not cover "setting up" or different psychological tricks you can play to motivate birds. This chapter covers how to physically prepare your birds for the race they are going to compete. It covers how much you should train your birds, how much you should rest your birds and how much you should feed your birds.
Sprints are generally races between 50-150 miles. A sprint race in good weather with good wind will not stress out a racing pigeon that is in good physical condition. They will be able to compete in the race, make good time and be ready to compete the next week. If you are making short tosses during mid week, continue to do so even if you plan on shipping to a sprint race on that weekend. Feed the birds as you normally do. If you feed in the evening, you may want to change to a morning feeding on the day of shipping. The birds will be ready. A sprint race is often just another training toss compared to the long difficult races yet to come in the season.
Middle Distance is generally any race between 200-400 miles. A good weather and wind middle distance race can be flown with the birds bouncing back and racing another middle distance race the following weekend. sometimes, in very difficult weather or conditions, a middle distance race can be just as tough or long as a 500 mile race. This is probably the most difficult distance to prepare. There is a fine edge on the nutrition necessary versus, lack of loading that may be required. On a good weather, good wind race, you can feed the birds as you normally do the day of shipping. If you feed in the evening continue to do so. If time allows you may want to move feeding up a couple of hours. If that is not possible it won't be a detriment. You should ensure the birds get a good drink before shipping. I am not a fan of force watering birds, as I feel there is a danger when ever you attempt for force water via a syringe or other method. The best method is to remove the water pans an hour after feeding the night before shipping night. Feed again in the morning and put the water pans back for a half hour. Remove the pans again. When given their meal the day of shipping, put the pans back after feeding. The birds should take good long drinks prior to shipping. Most racing trucks trailers do have water systems for the birds, but there is no guarantee that your birds will on the right side of the shipping crate or will take it upon themselves to drink. If it look as though it is going to be a hard race with rough weather, prepare the birds as though it was going to be a long distance race. NOTE for hot weather -- If you are in a hot weather climate, do not remove the water pans at all. Ensure water is in front of the birds all day as they will need to hydrate throughout the day in the loft.
Long Distance races are considered between 400-600+ miles. Most clubs consider them 2 day races. Race winners will generally on a good race clock by the end of the first day. Long distance races are different because the birds need to be nutritionally prepared much differently. There are two philosophies regarding preparing for long distance races. One is to carbohydrate load the pigeons. The other is to include fats and oil rich foods as well. A good rule is to consider the race by the distance. The longer the distance the earlier in the week you need to start preparing the birds. You also need to not feed your middle distance and sprint birds the same as you will prepare your long distance birds. This will require selecting your pigeons in advance and separating them when you feed. You still need to feed the birds enough to nutritionally sustain them, but so much that you are over feeding them. This is probably one of the most difficult things for a fancier to master. What you are changing is the types of feed you are supplying our pigeons.
For a 400 mile race start mixing corn (maize) into their diet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday if you are shipping on a Thursday night. I would give safflower on Wednesday and Thursday as well.
For a 500 mile race, start adding corn on Monday and start adding Safflower on Tuesday. On Wednesday night I might even add peanuts
Fora 600 miles race, start adding corn on Monday, Safflower on Tuesday and Peanuts on Wednesday.
Some fanciers like to mix their feed with wheat germ oil or other fatty oils to increase the fat or carbohydrate amount of the feed. I have never done this, but it seems like something to consider.
Training. These races take a lot out of our birds. There are some birds that may be able to go to long distance races week after week, but are those birds also giving 100%. I think a well rested pigeon is required for a long distance race. Short training tosses are fine, but for a Thursday shipping of a Saturday race, I would not train any later than Tuesday and I would keep training tosses shorter than 25 miles. I do not race my long distance birds the week before an upcoming long distance race. Every time that I have had a pigeon do well, on a middle distance race the week previous and due to a tough season bit on the temptation to send them to a long distance race the following weekend, they have not done well or been lost. There are always a few exceptions. As a general rule, I believe they will give their best if they are well rested before a long distance race.
Continue to Racing Part 2.1 Preparing Before the Race