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The Boston Globe

Sports

How does a horse’s equipment help it race?

Racehorse headgear
Mother Nature designed horses for speed and flight to stay alive. This includes a commanding field of vision to detect predators and an instinct to react when scared or surprised. Much of the headgear worn on race day reins in their natural instinct to keep them running straight toward the finish line. How a racehorse's gear helps control the head for peak performance:
Controlling focus
Horses' eyes are at the sides of their heads giving them 340 degree vision. The location evolved so they could see if a predator was sneaking up behind them and run away. Blinkers are used to keep the eyes focused in front of them and away from other distractions like competing horses.
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Blocking shadows
Attached to the noseband, it partially restricts the horse's vision, so it can concentrate on what is in front of him, rather than objects on the ground such as shadows. Some horses try to jump shadows on the ground, which slows them down.
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Steering the horse
The bit sits in the horse's mouth and provides the jockey with steering power during a race. A part of the bridle, it is attached to the reins allowing jockeys to control the horse by applying pressure to the reins.
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Breathing easier
Introduced in 1999, the nasal strip used by California Chrome is designed to keep his airway from becoming smaller during heavy exertion. That helps provide more air to the lungs and reduce the chance of bleeding in the lungs, a condition common in hard-working horses.
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Clearing the windpipe
A device called a tongue tie, along with the noseband, prevents the horse from retracting its tongue behind the bit. When that happens, less oxygen flows to the horse's windpipe, and a choking sensation occurs that causes horses to slow down until the sensation stops.
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SOURCE: "The Thoroughbred Athlete and the Racing Industry: An Overview of Thoroughbred Racing in America"
James Abundis/Globe Staff

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