With the Olympics only a couple of weeks away, I can't wait to watch one of my favorite Olympic sports, the biathlon. That's the sport where guys and gals ski for like 10 miles, then shoot a gun at a target. Yes, I am serious. I love that sport.
Remember when our basketball coaches made us shoot free throws after a long, hard practice? It was done to practice game-like conditions when we were tired. When we're tired, we make mistakes. We "break" in our fundamentals because our bodies are telling us they're about done.
In the biathlon that's seen almost each race. Evgeny from Uzbekistan is getting tired. Mats from Sweden (those Swedish skiiers kick some major butt, although all are not named Mats) catches him on a hill and Evgeny breaks. He's done. He misses his next few shots at the target to boot. His Olympic gold medal dream is over.
Similarly, horses who get tired tend to break. They want to catch the horse in front of them, or hold off the one coming, but they can't, because their bodies are telling them the discomfort of competing any longer is greater than their will to win. Their opponent has the will to win that goes beyond the usual will to win. Ask any trainer, when your horse has that quality, they are a glorious animal.
Bruno De Julio has been clocking horses longer than Miley Cyrus has been alive and he's seen it all. This month, in the Horseplayer Monthly magazine he wrote, what in my opinion is a fantastic column about a few of them, including Zenyatta and Will Take Charge.
"Shirreffs would send two workmates to deal with Zenyatta, one would make her work early. She would go after that one into the turn, but if allowed to stay on course, she would put away that mate and idle and get nothing out of her work, so, Shirreffs, threw a second workmate to jump into the work at the quarter pole and make her focus again and work hard to the wire. Even that sometimes wasn't enough as she would get lead in deep stretch and then idle out."
She had to chase and she had that will to win to chase as long as that target was in front of her. Even if she was getting tired and sore, and wanted to throw in the towel and get a warm bath and a bucket full of food, she chased.
I enjoy handicapping - that's a given since I am a member of HANA and writing this article - but I am also a fan of raw athleticism. I don't think we give some of our top horses their due at times for being great athletes. It's something that not all of them have, and when they have it, I think it's completely magical.
To read Bruno's article, as well as many others from Barry Meadow, Melissa Nolan, Rich Nilsen and others, please click here. It's free and you can get back issues too.
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