Measuring a horse is the first step in biomechanical analysis, which is a fancy term for using mathematics and physics to understand how a racehorse’s physical traits increase or restrict its potential on the racetrack.
[It is worth mentioning that all this analysis is only on potential. Character of the horse, its training regimen, strength of its immune system, physical sturdiness, racing environment, handlers, and pure luck all are factors that also restrict or increase the prospects for any horse to reach its potential. And it is obvious that even among the horses who receive nothing but the best, a notable percentage do not show all they are capable of due to one or more of these reasons (for example, Danzig).]
The second step in the process is running the raw physical measurements through a computer program and database that help to quantify the animal’s merits and place it in a context with other racehorses.
The best-balanced horses, in regard to their mechanical traits of power, stride capacity, and body weight, are graded as Type I. Those with a modest imbalance (or increased specialization as you want to think of it) are Type II, and those who are truly specialized for one mechanical characteristic are S (stride), E or W (light or heavy weight), or P (power).
And third, the animal is then assessed in terms of its traits and mechanics for the use that an owner wants to make of it.
The last point is very important because particular traits will suit a horse to race on a particular surface or at a preferred distance and not others.
The beginning of this process seems simple enough, and many horsemen have watched as a man or woman with a tape has measured one of their horses at the sales. The measurements typically assess the length of the neck, shoulder, legs, back, and body, as well as the girth, which relates to the horse’s body mass.
The most common reason to measure a horse is to assess the animal’s potential as an athlete, but biomechanics also plays a role in selecting breeding stock.
And, since this blog is focused more on breeding, that is the tack taken in the posts on this topic in the coming days.