Money (Mis) Management
Money (Mis) Management Part 2
Psychology Of Punting
Barrier Trials: Trial tease or future star?
What is unit betting?
Gear changes explained
Speed maps: How important are they?
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Gear changes explained
‘Gear’ is used to describe a piece of equipment applied to a horse to help enhance it's performance. It is a mechanical aid used to try mitigate an issue. Whether that issue be physical, habitual, mental or health.
Gear added or removed can give punters an idea of:
a) the horses health
b) the horses attitude and racing tractability
c) trainer intention
Knowing what and how the gear is used will help you understand issues the horse may have had and/or help forecast improvement.
It should be noted; the removal of gear can signify something just as important as the addition of gear.
Below is an explanation of common gear used and the effects of their use:
Blinkers: plastic eye cups attached to a nylon hood. Applied to focus the horses’ attention on what is happening directly in front of it and ignore what is happening behind it. Horses have a much greater range of vision than humans. A trainer will generally apply blinkers to switch a horse on and that may result in sudden performance improvement - especially if it is the first time they are applied. The downside is, blinkers may fire the horse up causing it to race keen or ungenerously.
Winkers: A sheep skin roll attached to the cheek straps of the bridle. This obscures the horses vision behind them but the horse still has a degree of side vision. A softer version of blinkers aiming for the same outcome: focus.
Visors: Very similar to blinkers, the difference being a slit in the cup around the eyes. This is to prevent a horse from panicking if it can’t see other runners. The slit provides a sense of ‘knowing’ but keeps the focus forward.
Pacifiers: This is a hood similar to blinkers with a mesh material placed over the horses eyes to help it relax. Used for excitable or anxious horses. Horses have 20/60 vision compared to human standard 20/20. This means they really have to concentrate to see when the pacifiers are on.
Tongue tie: As the name implies, it’s a leather band or elastic tape approved to allow a horse’s tongue to be tied to eliminate the possibility of swallowing it’s tongue and choking down, or even playing with their tongue, which can take away from their concentration. It is commonly used to stop a horse getting it's tongue over the bit. This gear change is one to keep an eye on after a horse performs below yours or market expectation. It gives a logical excuse for the horses performance and you can potentially ‘forgive’.
Tongue control bit: Made from a thick wire in the shape of a ‘W’. It sits under the bit with the raised section in the middle of the mouth to stop the tongue from being put over the bit in running.
Lugging bit: Used for horses that ‘hang’. The normal ‘O’ shaped ring bit each side of the mouth is replaced with a different shaped bit. Normally ‘butterfly’ or ‘D’ shaped bits. These different shapes allow the rider to place more pressure on either side of the mouth to keep the horse travelling more tractably. If you see a horse hanging in or out, there is an underlying issue, most likely pain. Some horses are habitual but it does come back to some sort of physical issue.
Norton bit: Used for horses that ‘pull’ hard in running. It has the normal ‘O’ rings each side of the mouth but has two mouth pieces (bits) attached to a nose strap. When the jockey pulls the reins, it causes a somewhat scissor action in the mouth. This puts pressure on the upper inside of the mouth which the horse won’t like, hence stopping it from pulling.
Cross over nose band: Quite simply, this one is to stop a horse from running with its mouth open and pulling. It has two straps that cross over the horses nose forming a ‘X’. The bottom strap does up under the chin. Trainers sometimes utilise this in track work to teach the horse and remove come race day.
Nose roll: A sheepskin roll placed over the horses nose to make the horse hold the carriage of it’s head at a better angle for racing. The more the horse tries to lift it’s head, the harder it is to see over the roll. Not a piece of gear I like seeing as even with the mechanical aid, it is likely this horse will be burning tickets in running.
Nasal strip: Unlike humans, horses only breath through their nose. If the horse has a narrow nasal passage, it can generate negative pressure in their lungs, hence putting extra pressure on the horses physical capability. The flair nasal strip is designed to gently hold the horses nasal passages open to improve breathing. Some trainers swear by it and believe it helps reduce fatigue, speed recovery and reduce lung stress.
Bar plates: This is a sign that all is not well with a horses feet. They take the pressure of the heel and distribute the horses weight more evenly around the hoof. From a betting perspective, avoid.
Glue on shoes: Again, another sign that all is not well with a horses feet. Some horses have thin walled hoofs and there is no room to put a nail in to fit a plate. Instead, an aluminium plate with plastic is used and glued to the hoof. Immediately pen this horse as a betting prospect.
Barrier blanket: This is approximately a 40kg blanket that is placed over the horse as if it were being rugged up and stabled for the night. The blanket is clipped to the barrier on entry and remains in the barriers once the horse has jumped. Mainly used for edgy, agitated horses and helps calm them whilst standing in the barriers.
Ear muffs (pre and during race): Exactly as their name suggests. Used to shield horses from loud noises. Helps reduce their anxiety, nerves and potential of being spooked. Minor gear addition.
Gelded: Known as the ‘ultimate’ gear change. A couple of reasons for gelding; racing focus, attitude, growth and soundness. Intractable colts usually present issues with one or a combination of the above. Gelding takes away the inconsistencies presented by colts as with a build up of testosterone, they are unable to concentrate on the task at hand, they’re not compliant and overall just hard to manage as a racing prospect. Also an issue with some colts is; they have a surge of hormones at around 2YO that close growth plates and stops their bones from growing. They start producing a lot of muscle mass and fill out. Problematic when their front end fills out considerably and outstrips the maturity of their joints. There are plenty of examples of horses improving post gelding and the title ‘ultimate gear change’ has merit.
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Author: Adam Curkpatrick
Twitter: @theraceclub_au @adamcurkpatrick