racehorse thoroughbred conformation
racehorse thoroughbred conformation
racehorse thoroughbred conformation
racehorse thoroughbred conformation
     
 

Gears Theory



Gears theory...a modern take on racehorse selection


Ideal Thoroughbred conformation is a subject many hardened racing people spend a lifetime studying, yet still never completely conquer. But to even the most experienced, it all to often remains an area of mystery.

In this article we go beyond the text books, and instead examine the racehorses from scratch, & in depth, evaluating bone lengths (levers), joint angles, muscles, origin & insertion points, & more. This analysis truly shows how brilliant nature can be. The horse naturally has gears built into its conformation, and can take advantage of this by using joints from the same limb specifically for generating strength, and others for speed.

Through technical analysis using refined computer software, we have done away with personal opinion, illusions, judgments by eye, and myths, to detail a theory which highlights the key characteristics of conformation, which place Champions ahead of the pack.

Of course, a Thoroughbreds racetrack success will ultimately be determined by a number of factors, including muscle quality and type, temperament, energy system, training, amongst others. But today we will look primary at the horses bone structure, and its affect on acceleration, power, speed and endurance.

A champion racehorse will process acceleration, strength, speed & endurance. Gears Theory is centered around the two key requirements to produce power, being speed and strength.

Speed

Examples of Speed. (the pace at which an object moves)

#1. A flying bullet.
#2. A fighter jet flying overhead
#3. A Olympic sprinter crossing the finishing line

As far as the racehorse goes speed can be considered to be its top cruising speed, a horse with fast speed will often appear to be cruising mid race.

Strength

Examples of Strength (The strength in which an object moves)

#1. A bulldozer
#2. An elephant
#2. A goods train

Strength will give the horse a good initial jump, the power to maximize top end speed & a large stride from its strong hind quarters.

Horses natural assets in the wild.

Horses are designed to quickly flee and escape capture in the wild, therefore it's natural they will have a mix of power, acceleration & speed components amongst their prominent assets.

Indeed, detailed analysis of racehorse confirmation points to a common denominator which consistently applies specifically to Stakes performing racehorses. It is the combination of speed and strength that produces the ideal ratio of "power gearing".

So what is "power gearing"

The compounding relationship between the length and angles of specific bones and joints that are used to generate power to transmit motion. Importantly power gearing is primary generated from only a small portion of a horses many levers, hence these specific levers are solely what power gearing relates to. A power gearing rating reflects the mechanical advantage resulting from these lever lengths and angles, that provides high portions of both speed and strength to the Racehorse



Why is "power gearing" so important to the racehorse?

"Power gearing" quickly enables a racehorse to reach its top speed, using a combination of acceleration, strength and speed, which is then used to efficiently maintain its galloping momentum.

A power lever combination that is geared towards speed, will not process enough strength to maximize a horses stride length, thus having to work much harder to match the same pace of a ideal powered lever.

This can be likened to a racing cyclist racing in a speed to high. Despite a high peddling speed, the cyclist finds the energy required to keep pace just too great, and cant be maintained over a period of time.

A power lever combination that is geared towards strength, will not process enough natural speed to generate a fast stride turnover, thus having to work much harder to match the same pace of a ideal powered lever.

This can also be likened to the cyclist who rides in too higher gear, with a low peddle speed, despite the force he is applying to the peddles, the cyclist finds the energy required to keep pace just too great, and cant be maintained over a period of time.

Importantly, the horse with ideal Power Gearing has high levels of both speed and strength.

How does a racehorse develop "power gearing".

The prime moving bones in horses belong to the upper body of the fore and hindquarters. The forequarters include the scapula and humorus, and the hind quarters the pelvis and femur. These large, thick bones are linked via a large muscle mass and when contracted produce the strength of a horses stride. Underneath the main carriage of the horse extends its long limbs, which contain slender muscles and tendons. These long, elongated levers are what the horse uses to gather speed.

When the specific strength and speed levers are combined in the preferred mechanical proportions, they produce the ideal "power gearing".

Thus the racehorse, with the desired "power levers", who can power its prime levers efficiently by applying the greatest force, and via gearing, transfer that to speed through its extended limbs & hoofs, in turn generates the fastest racetrack speed. Importantly this provides a Thoroughbred with a range of racetrack "ability" skills, by potentially producing the fastest & most efficient galloping speed, endurance & acceleration. This compounding gearing system is what enables a horse to quickly jump into full stride, and maintain that speed over sustained distances.

The position, angle, muscle type/mass, their origins and insertions points, and the varied length of each bone, is what results in each horses own particular gearing ratio. Horses with levers geared with a bias too heavily to either speed or strength will be greatly disadvantaged.

Is power gearing the same as distance gearing?

Traditional gearing has been usually been related to a horses ideal distance, for this reason there has been some confusion about the relationship that the modern power gearing has with distance gearing. It is important to note that power and distance gearing are both calculated using independent bones & levers, and should not be compared, confused or directly related to each other. Power gearing has little bearing on a horses most likely preferred distance, rather it gives an indication of the ease of speed a horse will travel over its ideal distance, whatever that may be, and is calculated using only a small portion of specific levers. Where as distance gearing takes into account a wide range of levers from many areas of the horse.


Other prime considerations of the racehorse.

Overall balanced body conformation.

Apart from a horses power levers, no specific bone structure of a horse can allow it to go significantly faster, but it is important to note, undesired conformation anywhere within a horses body can certainly slow it down. Thus a horse with "power levers" may not be any faster than the average horse, if it also has significant weaknesses. For this reason it is important that a horses overall body balance be considered in any assessment. Thought should be given to lengths of bones, angles of joints, key vertical and horizontal lines, length X height ratio's etc. Keep in mind each horse is unique and will never process perfect confirmation. It should also be noted their is a very fine line in regards to a horses conformation, small percentages of variation in a compounding fashion can make all the difference between a fast and slow horse. These can often go un-noticed to the human eye, thus the desired use of computer software to assess horses accurately.

How do the all time Champions rate

We rated what many consider some of the greatest Thoroughbreds of all time, and they rated as having excellent conformation,  with notable power levers. Any horse that rates 100 or above is considered to have excellent conformation. Most of the best ever champions have excellent conformation. Most horses range from ratings between 90 and 103, & we consider any rating at or above 100 as excellent.


Secretariat 101
Northern Dancer 100
Seattle Slew 100
Affirmed 101
Spectacular Bid 102

Summing up, a potential racehorse may be athletic, well balanced, well co-ordinated through smooth and flowing movement, and appear appealing to the eye. But only if its prime moving joints process the crucial ideal "power gearing" ratio's throughout its body, is the horse likely to have the right balance of acceleration, endurance, strength and speed. If not it's unlikely to make an outstanding racehorse & may well be better suited to pleasure hacking.

 

As published in the Breeding & Racing magazine

 

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