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.
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.
Examples of Strength (The strength in which an object
#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
How does a racehorse develop "power gearing".
The prime moving bones in
horses belong to the upper body of the fore and
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
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
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
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
How do the all time
We rated what many
consider some of the greatest Thoroughbreds of all time,
and they rated as
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.
Northern Dancer 100
Seattle Slew 100
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