You said pure ?
The purebred is altogether a different horse, a fact agreed upon for different reasons. Some say he is more nervous, others that he is highly strung. One hears also that he is unpredictable, or that he has a delicate mouth, etc...
There are also many different opinions on his most appropriate use. Some believe he is exploited at too tender an age and that it is done for money only and that afterwards he is often infirm before even maturing. Considered to be badly broken in it is complained about that he must be retrained from the start if he is to be useful in another discipline. The prices paid for these young pure-breds is a reason for there to be so much pressure put on the connections.
However, the fundamental differences must be understood. Pure-breds are much tougher than they look. Amongst horses, I believe him to lead the most enviable life. Breeding and training of the pure-bred is a vital priority, one which I shall try to explain.
Firstly, the reason for the high cost of yearlings.
In flat racing, only one criteria is sought after, and that is speed. The winner is the fastest, no other criteria such as gaits are considered. As only this quality is required, genetic statistics are referred to for guidance. Fast lineage produces fast progeny. There will always be some stock from good bloodlines that do not meet the requirements, but good stock from poor bloodlines is seen rarely. As good pedigrees are an almost vital criteria, one can only expect to pay a high pricetag.
In other equestrian sports, the champion must possess many talents. For example, a hurdler needs to be agile and brave; he must also have good strong limbs and tendons. He must be responsive and obedient and his heart must be able to cope with the physical effort.
A good trotter, as well as trotting fast (which is not natural at such a speed), needs to cope with the constraint of the harness, to have good feet, to have articulations which are supple enough to move in such exaggerated manner, etc...
A champion three day eventer must be exceptionnally obedient, supple and brave to be able to perform as he needs to.
The fact that so many qualities are required of one individual allows more room for luck and hazard. Many champions of these disciplines have descended from origins unheard of before. Someone buying a cheap horse can hope that he may have a good one. Competition horses are expensive only when their talents have already been proven because it is not so easy to predict their qualities as it is about purebred.
A good one may be found out of a bad bloodline, so one can dream with a low investment...
In flat racing, the dream is expensive....
The life of a pure-bred race horse gets serious from as early as fifteen to eighteen months of age. He is just a child. Breaking in is quickly dealt in because it is basic and straightforward. The main lesson for him to learn and accept is to carry someone on his back, whilst he trots and runs alongside his contemporaries in the forest or around the lanes. Complex movements like extending his paces are not taught. In fact, he is taught almost nothing.
He is left in a natural state which is a problem when and if he is to pass into a disciplined form of competition later on in life.
Some pure-breds race at two years of age, others at three, and continue up to the age of four or five. A few exceptions may still be racing at six or seven but it is not unreasonable to perceive the career of a racehorse being finished before the horse has reached adulthood. However, as previously explained, instincts lead this breed to appreciate this early and brief experience. After a while the purebred no longer wants to try to get his head in front !
It is not because his spirit is broken but because he is no longer a child.
He has been left in a pure state. We have taught him nothing. We have left him to do what instinctively he would do in the wild. Those same instincts direct him at a certain point in his life to put his thoughts to reproduction and, at that moment, his place is no longer at the head of but at the back of the pack !
Claudia Feh has specialised in the social behaviour of wild horses. Here follow some of her observations.
"Towards fifteen months, young males begin to separate themselves from the rest of the herd. Their time together is spent engaging in various forms of challenges to prove their speed and strenght, often racing side by side which primes them for their future roles in life. At around four years of age, they reintegrate with the herd of females and running ceases to be of primary importance.
For the females the passage differs only slightly. Some enter into neighbouring herds as young as eighteen months and reproduce early on. If the herd is isolated the males will nonetheless throw the females away from their original group. This avoids the possibility of interbreeding. Females do however join in with the young males during the exclusive months of racing and playing especially the quick starts and "races" they run together. At this stage in their life, the young males and females are never seen to have any interest in one another outside playing.
It is around three and a half years of age that fillies separate themselves from the family and seek to belong in a new herd."
The other equine disciplines outside racing require man to teach the horse behaviours and movements which would otherwise be unknown to them in the wild. The acquisition of these skills has an effect of separating the horse from his instinctive mannerisms. He is tamed and his personality is altered. The artificial behaviour may stay with him for all his life; explaining why a trained horse can reproduce during the course of his competiting career. Jumpers and trotters have been known to successfully combine stud and competition duties. This is however rare and generally unsatisfactory amongst flat racehorses.
To take these thoughts and observations a little further, it would not be ridiculous to say that a classic or group one winner would have been a stallion had he been a horse left in the wild in the strength of his dominating speed.
It is effectively the same type of natural selection that we should choose these horses of exceptional quality to reproduce the next generation of racehorses.
Other types of horse are selected for their aptitude to please and meet man's requirements. Their obedience meets the demands made by the professionals and I hold great admiration for this category as a whole. The riders have horses which have been created by man, for man...
These athletes have been formed by human, nature does not accept those which allow themselves to be dominated and controlled to go on and reproduce.
A major consequence which comes from his type of selection (based on obedience and learning) is that it is pointless and stupid to start training them too early. In particular, trotters are started too young and trained too hard. The constraint is too extreme both physically as well as mentally. One would not put a child in 6th form at an age when he should be in kindergarten. The consequences may be seen in the generations to come.
The pure blood is well named because he is left pure, we are doing the right thing in running him early in life because it is the very thing he would be doing in the wild. It is quite normal that riders who inherit racehorses to retrain complain about how little they know : they have been taught nothing.
The life of a racehorse is to all accounts a good one: he is pampered and, in return, asked to do what he would do instinctively. Then, if he is a success, will spend the next twenty odd years at stud being taken care of in order that he reproduces.
If he does not make the grade his problems begin because he will find himself being altered physically and mentally in order to fit into a career for which he was not created. Don't worry, he will at last be happy doing well his job and his life will normally be quite a good one, but if I was a horse I would prefer being a flat racing one...
Be warned, if we continue to allow flat racing to be ill perceived by the ill informed and if flat racing disappears, it is the whole population who will lose this creation which is the real horse.
We would be left with nothing but horses made for man which nature would never have selected.
Already there are few wild horses left; we must protect this special horse which is the closest parallel to what we were given by nature.
Dominique G.P. Giniaux
DVM and Osteopathe
Traduced by Georgina H.
Dominique G.P. Giniaux
Ostéopathe et Acupuncteur
This subject was published by Paris-Turf and Cheval Magazine.
Pictures : Peintre Célèbre - APRH
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