In his latest article, Behavioral Overcompensation: The Greatest Hurdle for Efficiency-of-Motion, Thomas Herding Technique founder Kerry M. Thomas outlines one of the main causes preventing Thoroughbreds from becoming successful equine athletes.
The article debuted in Brian Zipse’s “Technical” blog which he posted at 6:42 a.m. on Saturday, June 12 and later that day, a perfect example of what Thomas wrote about was demonstrated by 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra when she crushed a field of four by 10 ½ lengths in the Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs.
Not only did Rachel win in magnificent style but she covered the 1 1/8 miles in a time of 1:48.78 which was the fastest time recorded for that distance at Churchill Downs’ current meet.
Here’s an excerpt from the Thomas article:
“Like its cousins running free in the wild, the horse was born to run – swift and magnificent. But one of the greatest obstacles preventing it from becoming a successful equine athlete is Behavioral Overcompensation.
What is Behavioral Overcompensation?
“It is when the equine athlete alters its natural running style, due to a physical or an emotionally-perceived restriction, resulting in a loss of the athlete’s efficiency of motion.”
Thomas went on to say in the article that “Footing surface and condition, blinkers, shadow rolls and even the tack a horse wears are a few examples of physical restrictions that can cause the horse to alter its natural running style.”
Many racing fans had wondered why the brilliant Rachel Alexandra had been so dull in her previous two starts this year. A clue to that lackluster performance may come from Sid Fernando who in his recent blog notes that Rachel did not wear the figure-8 noseband in the Fleur de Lis and she had worn it in her previous two starts this year. Rachel also did not wear the figure-8 noseband in all of 2009 en route to claiming Horse of the Year honors.
Thomas continued in the article: “The horse has to feel comfortable and have confidence in order to perform at peak levels. …The most important factor for the equine athlete is to perform with peak efficiency of motion. If your horse does not transition well, or swiftly, he/she is not being efficient, and you are not getting the most from their ability.”
Rachel definitely appeared to be “comfortable” yesterday as she cruised to victory amidst the exuberant cheers of racing fans.
It appears that Rachel is back to her previous racing form and in addition to conditioning, an equipment change may have been just what the doctor ordered to cure Rachel’s 2010 racing blues and overcome her Behavioral Overcompensation.