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Questions about Lead Changes during a race

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  • Questions about Lead Changes during a race

    I've been following the careers of a couple of TBs I foaled out and I am noticing one thing consistently: neither one swaps leads cleanly. Both have won their races in the last couple of days, but when they get to the stretch drive, it looks like they are trying to change (both forelegs are going forward at pretty much the same time) but just never get the complete change.

    Are lead changes taught to racehorses? Or do the trainers pretty much let the horse decide which lead to stay on? It seems to me like getting a clean change would give them a little more drive. Thanks for any insight!

  • #2
    They are taught to switch but often late in the race as fatique sets and and they most need to swap, they struggle to do it.
    They should be on the right (outside) lead on the straighaways and the left (inside) lead on turns. Most will learn to "auto swap" but they are often taught using weight shifting and a few slaps by the riders. Some of our exercise riders can fill in the gaps here.)
    The winner of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes swaped out twice late in the stretch today. I finished correct, but swicthed for a few strides.

    As I often say to those with recently OTTb's, racehorses are are like bicycles, they are better balanced at high speed. They are pretty clever changing leads when going fast and TB's do train on both leads at the canter, gallop and in breezing (or fast work.)
    F O.B
    Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
    Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique


    • #3
      Lead changes are definitely taught.

      The yearlings I've started for the track were doing changes consistently on the farm long before they ever went into race training. One colt in particular was doing them after 5 rides...but he was very smart and exceptionally well-balanced.

      They aren't expected to be dressage-quality changes-- they are done at speed, with "gallop" balance. On a baby, it's pretty easy to shift your weight on a turn, open the new inside rein, give a little outside kick, and encourage the horse to change. Eventually it works down to a slight pull on the new inside rein, very gentle weight shift, and maybe a light nudge with the heel.

      That's not how I teach my event horses to do it, but it gets the job done for a racehorse.
      “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
      ? Albert Einstein



      • #4
        Taught! If they don't change, there may be a physical reason. They need to change.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks for the help everyone! So if you (as a trainer) saw your horse struggling to change down the stretch, would you work on the lead changes themselves or would you work on the horse's conditioning? Or would you just ignore it since the horse is winning?


          • #6
            I believe that some horses are "left handed" per se and are just more comfortable on the left lead and it's not necessarily because of lameness although most that do not switch are either green or have some lameness


            • #7
              I wouldn't be so sure that they are struggling to change. They could just be digging in and altering their stride a little bit because of that effort. I would check their hocks and stifles if they were mine to make sure they were ok but that is part of any daily check.
              McDowell Racing Stables

              Home Away From Home


              • #8
                I've ridden horses in the past that didnt want to switch, they are usually the older campaigners, might have a few aches and pains and keep themselves comfortable. I've never forced these kinds of horses to switch.

                Babies are always taught to switch, I've yelled at many a rider (during morning training) to make sure they are switching at the correct time!


                • #9
                  The mighty Alydar rarely (if ever?) switched leads during races but I've read that he swapped in the mornings with no problem.

                  If only, if only, if only...
                  Sarah K. Andrew | Twitter | Instagram | Flickr | Calendar


                  • #10
                    a horse that is displaced often won't switch coming down the lane.