Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rachel Overcomes Behavioral Restrictions

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.


  1. Hi Calvin, I totally agree. I also took note that Rachel look several times at the grandstand. First time past and several times in the lane late. Calvin had to chirp at Rachel to straighten her out, on her way to winning by 10 lengths with 108 beyers assigned.

    Rachel is back, but they need to figure out why she is playing around and waiting lately for her competition. I still see a noticeable leg movement in the rear area that is different from last year.

    Still much work is required by Steve team.

  2. Hi Calvin
    Really interesting stuff ..I didn't notice that about Rachels fiqure 8 nose band.
    I'll look at Zenyatta today...see if she is comfortable and in her normal 'racing' mode. As Barry mentioned, I saw Rachels' head towards the grandstand, but I thought it was Calvin trying to get his filly out and around the filly ahead of him..and he continued to pull a bit before straighting her into stride. But I was happy to see Rachel quicken & lengthen stride with only a shake of the reins in the stretch. She looked beautiful in winning.

  3. Barry, SR Vegas,

    I was right next to the winners circle but did see the head action on the huge TV screen in the infield.

    With the victory of Zenyatta today, it looks like racing fans may be in for a great matchup later this season.

  4. WOW, Isn't it wondeful to be a horse racing fan. First Rachel Alexandra showing her stuff, and then Zenyatta showing her Heart. Life is GOOD!

  5. Hi Calvin, got you beat my friend, I was in the winner circle with Zenyatta group and TVG.

    I have exclusive video coverage with the Mosses, John and Mike.

  6. SR Vegas,

    Yes, racing fans have been blessed to have Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta still in competition.


    I bet that was exciting. One gets a sense of it watching T.V. but it's not the same as being there in person. Lucky, blessed Barry to have been an eye witness.

  7. Mr Carter,
    I really appreciate your blog.Great Stuff!!I was curious were would you rate Rachel as far as fillies?Hall Of Fame trainer John Nerud said after the Woodward that she was better than Ruffian.I was curious what your thoughts are on Rachel and were you think her place in history is although she is not finished with her career yet.Thanks.

  8. Calvin, would like to comment to Barry Mitchell..

    OH! YOU LUCKY DAWG YOU!! Witnessing History, up close and personal. Closest I got to Zenyatta was a Wed prior to BC 2008. She was schooling in the Santa Anita paddock. I still happily gaze at her picture here above my computer.

  9. Mike,

    Thanks for reading the blog and the compliment – I appreciate it.

    There is no doubt that Rachel Alexandra is one of the all-time greats. She won the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Mother Goose (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1). Rachel is the only filly to ever win the Woodward Stakes (G1) and the second to win the Haskell Stakes (G1) since those races were inaugurated.

    I never saw Ruffian race, but I would defer to the judgement of Hall of Fame trainer John Nerud. Ruffian is ranked 35th in the Blood-Horse Magazine Top 100 Racehorses Of The 20th Century. So, if you use Mr. Nerud’s opinion as the standard that would put Rachel Alexandra somewhere in the top 35.

    When Rachel finishes racing it will be interesting to see where she is finally ranked.

    Again, thanks for reading the blog. Feel free to contribute anytime and you can address me as Calvin - Mr. Carter is nice but it's too formal.

  10. Calvin, I have exclusive video not seen or published from the Zenyatta Vanity. Send me your direct email address on facebook.

    I'll get them to you soon.