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.

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