their great range of motion as well as the overall speed. Top-class trainers are well aware of this.
Selective conditions—that is, the type and duration of effort expected of a championship performer—have changed since Tom Bass’s day, when five-gaited stakes were held outdoors on a racetrack and might last well over two hours. No horse can rack for two hours at top speed, any more than any horse can gallop for that length of time, so in the old contests the horses would repeatedly change up or down through five gaits, including walk, trot, slow gait and canter as well as rack. Back then, the horse could rest and stretch himself at the walk while still moving well forward, because what was considered a “walk” was indeed a walk and not, as almost universally seen today, a jig.
Sometimes in the old days, changes of gait were per the announcer’s call. At other times competitors were allowed to “show at will,” so that a horseman could select the gait that would most benefit his horse in terms of preserving his energy and also in the way he appeared to the judges. Winners were not heavily shod or shod with toe-extensions (which delay breakover, forcing snappy action but also straining tendons and suspensories). While racking horses have always worn hinged quarter-boots—better protection than bell boots in case the horse steps on a heel—in Bass’s day neither boots nor shoes were weighted because weight told against the horse on a two-hour ride. Further, losing a shoe in those days was not only a nuisance but penalized. Microscopic examination of turn-of-the century images of horses ridden by Tom Bass, John Hook and others reveals that many of them were in fact barefoot.