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downhill conformation in racehorses

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  • downhill conformation in racehorses

    There is a story on bloodhorse.com about Bluegrass Cat's first foal being born. I clicked on the link to the story and was surprised at how downhill Bluegrass Cat is:


    This isn't a good thing for dressage and eventing, because it makes it harder for the horse to shift his weight backwards and collect himself. Does this kind of conformation matter in racehorses? Maybe not, since Bluegrass Cat was a Grade 1 winner. Would being built downhill be a good thing for a racehorse?

  • #2
    It seems to me like there are more and more TBs with downhill conformation. Many of the ones I'm seeing have Seattle Slew and/or Storm Cat fairly close up, and since both were/are such popular sires (for good reason -- they produce winners!) well...there you go. A powerful "engine" lends itself towards racing in this country, where we have so many races at 6f or less.

    Certainly it can be a contributing factor towards the blowing out of ankles and/or tendons, if the horse can't help but tank around on his forehand. FWIW I wouldn't consider being built downhill desirable.

    I always thought it really interesting that Paula Turner put some dressage work into Seattle Slew when she started him, encouraging him to use himself correctly.


    • #3
      I knew Paula "Pat" way back when at Laurel... I had heard she had a farm, and never looked her up... this reminded me... I'm going to give her a call... we had a client just buy a baby from us, and would love to send him to her..Thanks!


      • #4
        Not only is Bluegrass Cat high butted, his shoulder is straight and his pasterns are dreadful. I saw him several times at the track and was never thrilled with him. I cannot imagine how his front end would ever stand up to alot of work.
        F O.B
        Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
        Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique


        • #5
          Not to defend his conformation but I think he is standing on a slight hill in that photo or maybe the photo is crooked. Look at the distance between in front feet and the bottom of the photo and his back feet and the bottom of the photo.
          A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton


          • #6
            I'm just going to bump in here for a moment.

            I've seen a lot of TB's, and a lot have really REALLY skinny legs. I sometimes wonder, how can they stand up to all the running and the weight on those? When I look at racing paint and QH's and they have nice thick legs. Are breeders crossing TB's and stock type horses to create better legs?
            To be loved by a horse, or by any animal, should fill us with awe-
            for we have not deserved it.
            Marion Garretty


            • #7
              For Thoroughbred racing, you can't cross to outside breeds.

              For some reason, I got the impression that the extremely fine-boned conformation was seen more in American horses, rather than say European or British horses, but I may be way off the marker. Anyone care to clarify? Personally, I like the look of a fine-boned horse (think they're puuurty ), but cant see how it would help them hold up to the stress racing puts on them.


              • #8
                Originally posted by AmandaandTuff View Post
                I'm just going to bump in here for a moment.

                I've seen a lot of TB's, and a lot have really REALLY skinny legs. I sometimes wonder, how can they stand up to all the running and the weight on those? When I look at racing paint and QH's and they have nice thick legs. Are breeders crossing TB's and stock type horses to create better legs?
                There are lots of TB crosses that are developed to improve upon the TB's short comings, conformation, precocity, early speed, etc. I think all but Selle Francais, they went to the source Arabians, have TB bloodlines, skewed toward the TB bloodlines, and of course there are appendix's QH/TB.

                However the size of their legs, or their build is far from the determining factor regarding their fortitude, and longevity. Bone is relative, take a look at a world class marathon runner, or tri-athlete. The fact is that the bone, specifically cannon bones, in horses are not stagnant, the density can increases with proper training, like muscle to some degree.

                A horse that has a heavy build is just as prone to catastrophic injuries like fractures etc. as fine horse. The likely hood of a draft, for instance, running hard enough to injure its self the way you see a racehorse is slim to none, but in theory it is just as likely given similar circumstances.

                Obviously though once a TB is crossed with any other breed it is no longer a TB, and cannot be registered through the JC, so it could not run anyhow, and it would probably eat so much dust if it did, it would never show it's face on a track again.


                • #9
                  I'm not so sure that a X would be eaten alive in a race with TBs. The French allow non pure TBs to race, and some of them have been very successful, if not on dirt flat tracks, at least over fences. There are a fair number of recognized Half Blood families that C J Prior did the research to establish back in the 1920s.

                  The Brits don't keep the half blood families from running in chases, but I have no idea if they allow them to run on the flat.

                  It's only the US Jockey Club that is completely closed minded about allowing TBs to compete with non purebreds.
                  "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                  Thread killer Extraordinaire


                  • #10
                    I cannot imagine any US dirt race in which a non TB would be remotely cometitive. Even the slowest horses at the lowest level tracks are faster than racing Arabians for example.
                    F O.B
                    Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
                    Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique


                    • #11
                      If a TB is crossed say to a paint or QH, they can still race as an Appendix QH or Paint. My mare (who is now 20+) we rescued raced out in OK a few times, got caught up in the gate, then went to the NBHA to win money, then abandoned in a kill buyers pen until some friends spotted her while shopping for their own curly horses.

                      This mare is QH x paint, and has a lot of TB in her lineage. The stud that failed to breed her was Paint x TB, and a very nice runner. He won quite a few stakes races that year at MT Pleasent.

                      And I agree with Linny, Arabs are slower compared to any low level racer. I'm sorry if I offend you if anyone here races them.
                      To be loved by a horse, or by any animal, should fill us with awe-
                      for we have not deserved it.
                      Marion Garretty


                      • #12
                        Most racing paints and QH's are at least half TB and none of them could go 6 furlongs with the slowest TB's. They could probably run w/ a TB (possible outrun a TB) for 2 furlongs but not much more. Even the slowest TB's are usually capable of an opening quarter in 45 seconds if pressed. They are rarely pressed as most TB races are 5 furlongs or more.
                        I cannot imagine what breed could cross into the TB to "strengthen" the breed without making them so slow as to be uncompetitive. Just over a century ago a TB breeder, looking to fortify the breed decided to re-cross some Arabian strains. It made sense as the breed was evolved from Arab stock. Not a single one of his "cross breds" could even warm up his TB's and they all shortly dropped out of the anals of TB history. No one wants to breed to a slow horse.

                        The TB registry is a closed book. In order for a horse to be called a thoroughbred, he must be the offspring to two registered thoroughbreds. TB's are famed for adding quality, lightness and fire to "colder" breeds. Intense crossing of TB's into WB stock has changed the physical type of the WB over the last 40-50 years. Part bred TB's have been successful as showjumpers and hunters, pleasure horses, even western sports and saddle seat. The one area where they would not succeed is in the racing worl.
                        F O.B
                        Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
                        Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique


                        • #13
                          Well I think the ideal racing conformation is NOT "uphill" like a dressage horse, but not extremely "downhill" either. Individuals with less than ideal conformation or builds can sometimes surprise with what they can get accomplished, they can outperform their conformation. But this doesn't mean that their conformation IS the ideal. The racehorse needs to carry himself lower in front than a really uphill built horse can do, too much of an uphill build will lead to more "up and down" motion in the stride, rather than forward motion. The ideal carriage for a racehorse is low in front, with the hind end engaged and under him at the same time. But not neccessarily built really low in front. An uphill built horse engaged in disciplines other than racing has much more dwell time and swing time in his stride than a racehorse's smooth, flat stride. You do not want to see "action" in the front end of a racehorse, though hock action behind is still a good thing. With his head low and hind end engaged, the horse becomes a loaded spring, held in place by the rider. When the spring is released during fast work or a race situation, the head is slightly higher than in training, the horse more hollow in the back as the stride stretches longer to give full speed, but the hind end is still engaged. Racing carriage is schooled, just like dressage carriage is. As such, it can be changed when the demands on the horse change with a different discipline.

                          Lightly boned racehorses may have stronger, denser bone than more heavily boned horses, if the bone has been remodeled appropriately. Just looking at bone and gauging it's size is not a valid judgement of it's strength. Light boned horses are often also light bodied horses, so carry less weight when they run. This can give them an advantage, both in speed and soundness.

                          As for crossbreds and racing... I am of the belief that "horseracing" would benefit from being opened up and run like "showjumping", where the sport is open to all and any horse you wish to enter, and let the placings decide which are the best ones on the day. Naturally, the TB would dominate, and would continue to dominate most of the time. But to allow some other breeds to be intermingled over time, especially breeds that have already done some racing selection (QH, arab, Appy etc, or even some light WB breeds) many of these already have some TB blood involved in their backgrounds, then breed back again to TB with these mixed blooded horses, I think you might find some of the flaws that are cropping up in TB breeding being improved. Weak feet, bleeding, immunity problems, psychological stress management, all may show improvement with some genetic wild cards strategically placed 2, 3, or 4 generations back in a new and improved racehorse, who is probably 3/4 or 7/8 TB, but less inbred than the models we have now with a fully closed registry. Would they/could they compete with the best TBs on the track? I think that over time, their performance would improve with selective breeding such that they would be competitive, and the genetic variation they would provide would keep racing healthier. Unfortunately, I don't think it will happen, and the TB breed and racing in general will suffer as a consequance.

                          Edited after reading Linny's contribution above... We have a mare locally who has one of those "arab" ancestors of which you speak. She was one of the best stake mares running a few years ago, and has produced stakes winning offspring. I looked up her pedigree for some reason a few years ago, and was surprised to see it, but there it was. She and her family all have real dishy, arab faces too.


                          • #14
                            I agree that racing should be open to all breeds like shows are. Some races could be breed specific. I know MI has only one multi breed track that comes to my mind, and a few TB ones. The TB tracks are slowly closing. I think racing in general would thrive if more breeds were allowed to race. I personally like the idea of youth racing that we have here. Kids age 13-19 race a quarter mile from a walking start in a saddle of their choice, helmet, body protector, and proper attire.
                            To be loved by a horse, or by any animal, should fill us with awe-
                            for we have not deserved it.
                            Marion Garretty


                            • #15
                              I have to say it : this thread cracks me up. Maybe we should start running poodles with the greyhounds, too.


                              • #16
                                I have found in previous runnings of Pasture Cap that thoroughbred always outlasts appaloosa.

                                The 6th race on the card tonight at Los Al was a $2000 claiming at 870 yards; entered were two appaloosas, one quarter horse, and three thoroughbreds. (Seriously. No joke.)

                                The order of finish was:

                                1. appaloosa (going away!), 2. appaloosa, 3. thoroughbred, 4. quarter horse

                                Then of course there is my favorite (or perhaps I should say, favourite) racing breed (well, outside of TBs that is), well-known for its hardiness and strength: Go Baby, Go!


                                • #17
                                  On the subject of the downhill TB....

                                  I think that this downhill trend in conformation we're seeing is the result of the trend in shortening the distance of races - something happening across America. Horses built this way with 'big engines' don't seem to show the staying power that a more balanced conformation has provided - but as breeding for speed becomes more and more prevalent, I think this is a conformation aspect that his surfacing as a result.

                                  As an interesting sidenote - I don't see many successful turf runners built this way....can anyone name one? (Just out of curiosity?)
                                  "To understand the soul of a horse is the closest human beings can come to knowing perfection."


                                  • #18
                                    Purely for sake of comparison, it's interesting to look at all the confo shots in these lines tail male:

                                    Danehill Dancer,


                                    ooh, here's a real dandy: A.P. Indy,

                                    and look at how they differ from say Cryptoclearance,

                                    or this big fella: Dynaformer.
                                    Last edited by Barnfairy; Jan. 27, 2008, 03:20 AM.


                                    • #19
                                      From all the pix posted, it seems to me, in only two of them is the horse is on fairly even ground. Crypto and Dyna. And they don't give the appearance on "downhill'".


                                      • #20
                                        It would seem logical to me for people that breed racehorses would want offspring that are at least above average confirmationally. It seems ill-logical to me that confirmationally challenged horses would be faster than those that are not. Those that are would seem to be the exception to the norm. If racehorses have become too fine boned, too downhill, too what-ever then breeders could now look out 2 or 3 generations out and breed today the TB that they want for tomorrow. Breed to another TB that is "Bigger"/"heavier", then take that offspring and breed in another "heavier" TB. This third generation may be the beginning of better, stronger, sturdier animal.

                                        Just a thought.