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Determination, Will and Form

I would like talk a little about determination and will of the thoroughbred racehorse. I realize I'm getting into a fairly esoteric area here. However, I think we can agree on this much: Horses are creatures of habit. Horses are herd animals. A race is a herd on the move (with little people on their backs, of course). And there are five basic herd or running styles: Early, Early Presser, Presser, Presser/Closer, Closer. When evenly matched, horses demonstrate one or two of these running styles. We could call positioning in the herd instinctual or habitual.

There are exceptions to the rule—jockeys take their horses out of their running style, unsound horses are not up to reproducing their running style or the horse is simply out classed and cannot get into its running style due to pace velocity.

Pace friendly races have a high probability of the herd falling into line relative to each horse's running style requirements. So, determination and a willingness to carry on are products of unique pace positioning requirements being met. In other words, the herd feels comfortable. To race outside of these requirements causes FRUSTRATION which effects determination and will. Frustration results in a physiological breakdown. What was a psychological/instinctual problem becomes a physiological problem, which looks something like this: Heavy early pace pressure or out of herd position—> stressful environment—> excess adrenaline—> increased heart rate—>lactic acid build up—> oxygen debt (anaerobic threshold)—>suboptimal performance. The result is a suboptimal performance that is mistakenly viewed by handicappers as a form cycle problem.

It's important to remember, I think, that a bad paceline might have more to do with herd or running style requirements not being met than deteriorating form. So perhaps determination and will are better understood as by-products of a stress-free trip - a horse got to do what it needed to do. If we're right then we will be rewarded at the windows because anytime handicappers dig a little deeper the prices get a little higher.