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Are Horses Getting Faster
 By Winniefield Park   •   26th Jan 2019   •   900 views   •   1 comments


Back in 1973, Secretariat set a track record at the Kentucky Derby of 1:59 over the 1.25 mile distance. Since then, not a single horse has broken that record at Churchill Downs. A look at Equibase records of the various tracks in North America show that very few records have been broken in the last 10 years. A few tracks have had records standing from the 1960s and 70s. Why is that, especially when human track records have continued to fall and humans seem to be getting faster?

You would think, with the intense selective breeding that goes into producing a Thoroughbred foal, that we would see faster race records. We don’t put a great deal of thought into producing human babies for specific tasks such as running or lifting. Athletes get to the top of their game by a combination of lucky genetics, talent, desire, work ethic and good coaching.

So, why are humans getting faster but horses not if horses are bred to run, but humans aren’t?

There are some varying ideas as to why this is happening. Some speculate that because all Thoroughbred race horses descend from a small handful of horses that this small gene pool might be limiting the ability to run faster. Perhaps, if another breed of horses were introduced, races horses might get faster. Maybe we should open Thoroughbred races to crossbreds, instead of restricting them to ‘purebred’ Thoroughbreds only. Might we discover a faster horse?

Certainly over the years, humans have gotten better at choosing individuals for suited for specific sports. Elite human runners have a certain body type. Marathoners are compact, sprinters are more muscular and both have iron wills. But, we’ve also gotten better at equipping those human runners. Running surfaces have been made faster and safer, shoes have improved, clothing has become more streamline. And, we’ve learned so much about nutrition and how to look after an athlete. Humans are able to give feedback much faster if something is or isn’t working for them. Sometimes it takes a while to suss out what is or is not working for a horse, simply because they can’t just speak up and tell us how they feel.

Another big difference is motivation. Humans are motivated to win races. Horses are not. In fact, it’s speculated that race horses run out of fear, not out of a desire to win races. So there is no real reason for them to be first across the finish line. They just want to outrun whatever everyone else is running away from. That’s why jockey’s carry whips and use them during the race to ‘motivate’ the horse. Success for a human may be a wall full of medals and trophies and their name in a record book. But for a horse success probably has to do with not ending up as someone’s meal.

How could we shave off a little more time in races? Perhaps the footing needs a radical change. Or maybe there is a better type of shoe. Maybe it’s time to introduce a different breed into the Thoroughbred stud books. Or, maybe riderless horses can run a bit faster. There will be a limit as to how fast humans can run, unaided. Perhaps we haven’t explored all the things that could help horses run faster. But then too, there will be a limit.
Horse News More In This Category:  General      Horse News More From This Author:  Winniefield Park
Echo Sporthorse Farm ESF   
Super interesting! I love that you mentioned the motivational differences between horses and people.
  Jan 29, 2019  •  1,431 views
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