Conformation verses breeding, upbringing, & more

Which primary factors affect an untried youngsters potential, and why?

  • Upbringing
  • Breeding
  • Conformation
  • Will to win
  • Training
  • Luck

Further details

Upbringing - Predominantly only affects most Thoroughbreds in a negative way. Such as poor quality feed or pasture affecting growth and soundness, being raised in a paddock solo affecting its social/herd skills, or from mishaps that affect its confidence and/or soundness. A Thoroughbred foal born from quiet, confident stock, but handled with a lack of care via mishandling, can turn into a flighty, nasty and terrified horse, making it impossible to educate, ride and train to its peak potential. Certainly most commercial Thoroughbred foals are raised in good hands, lessoning the numbers of rivals they may have a potential advantage over in this area.

Breeding - Obviously universally regarded as a major factor. Only from its inherited genes can a horse obtain its natural speed and endurance. Nothing can turn a horse that has inherited slow genes into a fast horse. A horse inherits its genes directly from its sire and dam. A genuinely well bred horse will have proven parents, from either/both the racetrack or the breeding barn. Not to be underestimated, breeding is also likely to be mainly (but not solely) responsible for a young horses  heart, lungs, airways, overall energy system and its muscle quality and type.

Training - Compared to human sports training, racehorse training is still rather primitive. This can be confirmed by analyzing race records over the last 100 years. Humans have significantly improved their times while racehorse have also, but to a far lesser extent. Getting a horse fit is a key, but it must also be remembered that this can not affect a horses natural God given ability. Included in training is the critical initial educating process.  For those rare studs and trainers that have the thought & resources to pre-train their horses for months before being even being ridden, with lunging and figure eight work etc, a marked advantage in this area can be gained. it may be argued their is a small percentage of leading trainers who can improve, or keep their horses in peak form for extended periods of time, due to their unique stable environments, and having the resources to match their horses against similar class/distance types during track work etc.

Conformation - A power geared horse has an obvious advantage, having to work easier in races to keep pace through superior top end and cruising speeds, endurance and acceleration. Body type is largely inherited so it may be also argued good conformation is due to breeding. As opposed to power levering which gives a horse speed, the more traditional show conformation is only likely to help a horse to display its true potential by helping it stay sound.

Will to win. Most trainers would prefer a horse with the will to win or heart, as opposed to those that burn the morning track but just refuse to produce on race day. This trait enables some Thoroughbreds to perform above their ability, and beyond their expected exertion threshold. Where each particular horse learns or obtains this trait from, will rarely be clearly defined.  The will to win may be obtained primary from one, or a number of components, including both environmental and genetic factors such as breeding, upbringing and racing experiences.

Luck. This is one factor impossible to estimate, but obviously as it plays a part in all the above factors it may well be the biggest factor of all.

"It is reasonable to assume only conformation and breeding have the potential to significantly add natural speed to a horses makeup"

Overall we see breeding, conformation & the will to win as being the three dominating factors that will determine the real potential of most horses. It is reasonable to assume only conformation and breeding have the potential to significantly add natural speed to a horses makeup, and speed is a requirement for all champion horses.

Not to be under estimated is the over lapping effect of many of these factors, for example a trainer may be able to install a will to win in a horse, or destroy others will to win with over training etc. Another example is how a horses breeding may also affect its temperament and conformation. So the figures can be considered quite subjective and there are certainly n hard and fast rules.

Why does training and upbringing rate lowly?  As an example compare horses to humans in this regard. A young boy who is the slowest in his grade or age group, will never be a fast runner even if he spends his life training for it. Therefore running fast, unlike most other sports, is in comparison reliant on a good given talent, and no upbringing or training can significantly change this. Their is no magic formula to turn slow horses into fast ones.

Once a horse has some its form on the racetrack ,it potential rating based on the above is significantly lowered. Horses actions tend to speak loudest.


Depending on each particular horses history, these influence percentages listed below may vary greatly from horse to horse.