THURSDAY THOUGHTS: What goes into a winning horse?

November 16, 2017

- Grant Whittington

If there’s one question that racegoers would love to answer, it’s which features distinguish winning from losing horses?

While this is largely impossible to achieve in real-time due to variables surrounding the type of race, conditions and the skill-set of the jockey (among other factors), it’s important to note that individual breeds have their own distinct anatomy and characteristics that impact on their performance.

So, if you were going to build a composite horse that includes the best features from alternative racing breeds, what characteristics would you look to borrow? Let’s take a look:

The Thoroughbred’s endurance and resilience

The thoroughbred is believed to be the purest of horse breeds, and one that has been involved in jump racing for centuries. Arguably, it boasts a set of characteristics that make it ideally suited to competitive racing, while its natural beauty, chiselled head and elegant neck have also established it as the single most attractive breed of horse.

Thoroughbreds have an average life span of between 25 and 30 years, while their intelligence and ability to learn quickly makes them capable of adapting to different courses in no time. Perhaps their best competitive features are their high levels of endurance and incredible resilience, which means that they’re unlikely to pull up or fail to complete a course unless there is an exceptional reason.

Thoroughbreds are not easily spooked, no matter what happens during the heat of competitive battle. This combination of mental focus and physical durability certainly sets them apart from either breeds, while an average height of between 15 and 16 hands certainly lends itself to effective jump racing.

The Dutch Warmblood’s athletic ability and trainability

With a straight profile and large ears, the Dutch Warmblood is one of the most instantly recognisable horse breeds. It also has strong and prominent muscles, which obviously lend themselves to competitive performance and racing. So while it has a relatively restricted life span of around 20 years, it is capable of achieving a considerable amount during this time.

Make no mistake; it’s the innate athletic ability of this breed that sets it apart from others, along with an even temperament that makes trainability relatively easy from a young age. Typically used in dressage, the Dutch Warmblood boasts incredibly straight and purposeful limbs that transfer movement seamlessly and can adapt to almost any physical challenge.

This means that it is capable of moving in harmony with the rider, optimising performance and minimising the risk of falling.

In terms of trainability, this breed is agile, clam and obedient, making it extremely capable of learning various disciplines and responding directly to guidance from a rider. Even in the heat of competition, a Dutch Warmblood will follow instruction and perform to its full potential.

Altogether, this breed is also among the most reliable. This would be an important consideration from a betting perspective, with punters known to like runners that they can back to perform even in the most arduous conditions.

The Irish Sport’s speed and strength

By now, our fictional horse is beginning to take shape. With exceptional mental strength, stamina and athletic ability, it would certainly be well placed to compete in any given flat or jump race.

But what if we added the Irish Sport’s natural given speed and raw strength to the mix? This popular breed is actually a cross between an Irish Draught (more on these later) and a Thoroughbred, and aside from its beautiful large eyes it is also known for boasting an excellent, all-round physical ability (and commonly used in eventing and flat racing).

Its natural physical attributes are also borne out by its average life space, which is estimated between 30 and 31.

Tremendously fast across the ground and blessed with natural strength, Irish sport horses also benefit an abundance of physical energy. This is balanced excellently by a focused attitude and reliable temperament, which allows the breeds to optimise performance during competition and make the most of its natural attributes.

It’s also interesting to note that Irish Sport horses have a noticeably strong work-ethic, which makes them excellent trainers and capable of continuously improving throughout their lives.

The Irish Draught’s versatility

We are now on the brink of creating a true super horse, and one that would compete in almost any type of race or competitive meeting that you could care to mention. Still, there’s not much point in having such an incredible force of nature if it cannot compete at every opportunity, which is why we’re introducing the versatility and adaptability of the famous Irish Draught breed.

This horse owes much of its versatility to its history of being crossed with other breeds, including the popular Thoroughbred. This has bred out many of the impurities and defects that may have otherwise have afflicted the horse, creating a strong, all-round competitor that can compete across a number of diverse disciplines (with no known breed-related health issues).

The purity and the quality of this breed is also reflected by its typical life span, with horses living for an impressive 30 years on average.

The versatility and diverse physical capabilities of this horse across flat and jump racing is underpinned by an impressive selection of mental attributes. These include docility and an even temperament, along with a willing nature that makes the horse to quick to learn and adapt to individual challenges. As a result, the breed is also reliable and capable of providing a safe ride, making it a popular choice for riders and punters alike.

As if to augment the effect of genetic perfection, Irish Draught horses also boast  a pleasant head with beautiful eyes that are set well apart. A long and arched neck completes this look, hinting at an alert breed that is always primed to deliver an optimal performance.

So there we have our ideal composite horse, put together using the most striking attributes and characteristics from breeds across the UK. We’re sure you’ll agree this would be a horse to back regardless of the event, both over the hurdles and across demanding, relentless flat races.

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