1920s: Exposure to sun lamps thought to increase racehorse performance

“LONDON, Dec. 11 – Oak Ridge, a 5-year-old, who on blood lines should be a mighty quick steed, but in many fortnights hadn’t even seen the tails of the leading horses in races, suddenly developed unusual frequency and walked away from real quick horses.

The 5-year-old is owned by Frank Crandall, a veterinarian from Newmarket, who purchased the horse for approximately $80. The doctor bought Oak Ridge only to test some artificial sunlight.

Oak Ridge was placed in a glass box and ultra violet rays were focused on him. The horse, who before was one of the most quiet steeds ever seen in a box, immediately after being treated threw his head high in the air and neighed once or twice, and seemed to take on new life. Dr. Crandall gave Oak Ridge a dozen treatments and then entered him against some horses that ordinarily his chances of defeating were nil.

The doctor took Oak Ridge’s temperature, examined his eyes and found the horse’s respiratory faculties were working better than any horse he had ever examined. He imparted the tidings to a few of his associates and they invaded the starting price emporiums and secured 100 to 3 on Oak Ridge.

When time came for the race Oak Ridge, who in all other starts was dilatory at the starter’s box, immediately started quickly and made his field look like a bunch of short-tailed hackneys. He very well romped home by fifteen lengths.

Those blooming sunlight rays did perform a miracle here, and today Dr. Frank Crandall has been offered a dozen horses by some of the leading horsemen to light up. This ultraviolet ray, to make horses quick, is the uppermost topic in horse circles, and it is said that if Dr. Crandall gives his sunlight treatment to only one horse in the next derby that horse will surely win. Lieut. Col. Edward Middleton Perry, one of the biggest sportsmen here and a gentleman of the manor born, says ultraviolet rays will improve any horse ten seconds.” (The Washington Post, 12/12/1927)


“There is nothing new under the sun.

We repeat this well-known axiom because this paragraph deals with a very novel use that has been found for ultra-violet rays. It has recently been disclosed that, in order to provide a substitute for the sunlight that cannot be given race horses in the winter without shipping them South, Mrs. John Hertz, owner of several famous turf stars, has installed $2,000 violet-ray equipment.

Anita Peabody, juvenile racing queen of 1927, takes treatments in this $2,000 beauty shop which Mrs. Hertz has made part of the equipment at the palatial stables of the Leona Stock Farm at Cary, Ill.

While the use of ultra-violet ray on the Hertz horses has been kept a secret, it develops that experiments have been made during the past year. Five minutes of localized treatment, it is said, is equivalent in its beneficial results to a day in the sunshine. In addition to “toning up” the constitution of the animal, the rays are of great benefit in keeping the coat in good condition.

It is related that Reigh Count received the violet-ray bath before racing in the Kentucky Derby, which he won, and again while at the farm before being sent to Europe. Two large quartz lamps are so arranged that it is possible to localized the treatment on any part of the horse’s body. If a thoroughbred is suffering from a sprained ankle, he gets an extra “baking” on the injured member.

Ultra-violet is one of the two major rays in the sun’s spectrum. While there is plenty of winter sunshine, it is not advisable to leave valuable horses in the cold for a sufficient length of time to assimilate the necessary amount of this health-giving ray.” (W. T. Munns / The Toronto Globe, 12/25/1928)

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