Cantering sensibly to post
Watching a racehorse walk around the paddock can tell you a lot about its athletic
ability, as well as about its mood and readiness to compete. Ideally the horse should
stride out willingly, and with a bounce in its step. It shouldn’t be jumping around and
fighting with its handler, or plodding around the paddock like an old sheep. As an equine
chiropractor, I spend a lot of time watching horses of all shapes and sizes walk, trot and
canter. I like to see a horse really ‘track up’ by placing its hind feet more or less in
the tracks of the forefeet. This shows that the joints of the hind limbs, hips and spine
are moving easily and freely.
After the horses have left the paddock it’s a good idea to watch them canter down to
the start. Sometimes a horse that has been showing signs of nervousness or irritation in
the paddock will relax and go to post calmly once it’s away from the noise of the crowd.
A horse that hasn’t inspired confidence by seeming lethargic in the paddock might liven up
on the way to the start. Some horses, particularly sprinters, don’t walk fluently in the
paddock and are better judged on the way they move to post. In general, you don’t want to
see a horse wasting its energy by pulling hard or fighting its jockey as it goes to the
start; it should be relaxed and in a comfortable rhythm.