Temperament

Head at optimum position; ears pricked

As a racehorse walks around the paddock its head and expression will give a clue to its temperament and its mental state. The legendary Irish trainer, Vincent O’Brien, when inspecting horses at the sales, concentrated his attention on their heads and faces. He was looking at their eyes, ears and expression for evidence of honesty and an equable temperament. How a racehorse carries its head will often indicate its state of mind and, therefore, its readiness to race. Picking Winners On Looks will help you to recognise the positive signs that tell you a horse is alert and concentrating on the task in hand. You’ll also be able to spot the horse that is worrying about the race to come or is lacking in focus.

A horse’s hearing is extremely acute, much more so than a human’s. Apart from their auditory function, a horse’s ears are also capable of communicating its mood. They will indicate whether it is alert, interested and on good terms with itself; or whether it is nervous, unfocused or irritated.

In a similar way, the tail also gives clues to a horse’s mental state, as well as to its physical well-being. The tail usually confirms what the head, ears and neck are telling us about the horse’s emotional state.

When a racehorse runs it converts food into energy to power its muscles. This metabolic conversion produces heat, which is released by sweating. When a horse is sweating up before a race, it’s a response either to heat or to activation of the sympathetic nervous system. If the weather is hot it’s not unusual for horses to sweat up in the paddock. However, if the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated by anxiety or apprehension, sweating is the result. Pre-race sweating can upset a horse’s electrolyte balance, which in turn may adversely influence the efficient functioning of muscles, nerves, lungs and heart. Picking Winners On Looks explains the various types and locations of sweat, and how they may affect a horse’s performance.

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Picking Winners On Looks - Temperament