On Mythbuster Monday, we tackle a variety of equestrian myths to either bust or confirm. Today’s discussion: Are racehorses only taught to run on one lead while they’re working?
It’s Mythbuster Monday, where Horse Nation dives into different equestrian myths and provides research-based evidence to either bust or confirm those myths. Today’s topic: Are racehorses only taught one lead? Do they run both directions when practicing? Do they switch leads at certain points during a race? Read further to find out!
Myth: Racehorses are only taught to run on one lead
Myth or Fact: Myth
Horse racing involves two or more horses on a track being ridden by jockeys. The ground they race on can be dirt, turf, or synthetic. Horse races can be run with a variety of breeds, including Thoroughbreds, American Quarter Horses, and Arabians, but for the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on Thoroughbred racing.
The fact is, all horses are born with the ability to pick up both leads. We see them do it in the pasture all the time. So the question of the day is, are race horses taught to run on both leads while they’re working?
In an article by The Chronicle of the Horse, Thoroughbred racehorses are taught both leads and use both during a race. They are asked to carry themselves on the right lead down the straight stretches and then are asked to change to the left lead around the turns.
West Point Thoroughbreds published an article titled,Racehorse Lead Changes Explained that also states Thoroughbred racehorses are cued to run on their right lead on the straights and left lead around turns. They have chosen to utilize the left lead around the turn because the horses are running to the left and are more balanced around turns utilizing that corresponding lead. The reason they are taught to switch leads is because horses tire more quickly when running continuously on the same lead. They give the analogy of a person carrying a suitcase all throughout an airport and switching it from right to left hand periodically to shift the weight when tired.
The Kentucky Derby put out an article titled The Art of Training a Racehorse. In this article they also talk about switching leads from the right to the left to maximize a racehorse’s power. The article also briefly discusses the training process. In this process, horses do not get to breeze the track (make practice race runs) until they make it through extensive training. The horses go out in the early hours of the morning and work on the track — not utilizing the pattern of the track at all. They are taught lead changes and strengthened in both directions. They use the example of a human athlete. Just like human athletes, race horses prepare slowly of their sport.
The consensus is that Thoroughbred racehorses are indeed taught both leads during training. Not only are they taught to use both leads, but also they utilize them both during a race to maximize power and decrease the risk of tiring while performing.
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