Kenny McPeek on Racehorse Balance


Sports are inherently damaging to athlete’s bodies. That is a fact. All sports involve repetitive movements resulting from maximum muscular contractions, which also cause dangerous imbalances from front to back, or left to right. It’s particularly dangerous for horses, as Kentucky based trainer Kenny McPeek alludes to in this fantastic interview:

When asked what was the best thing a racetrack could do to help with keeping horses sound, McPeek mentioned the seemingly simple change to allow training the ‘wrong way’, or here in America – clockwise. He understands that going around only left-hand turns at high speeds for mile after mile is a bad thing – and greatly contributes to injury. Humans are allowed to address the muscular imbalances of their particular sports in the training process. For instance, most do weight room exercises for what is called the ‘posterior chain’: essentially all the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that are located on the back of the body. Sports involving repeated all out sprinting and jumping radically overly develop the frontal muscles of the body, so athletes are taught to condition the antagonistic muscles in between competitions.

Years ago I saw a study that I will attempt to paraphrase. When strength and/or flexibility differs on one side of the body from another by more than 10%, the chances of injury rise something like 600%. It really is that drastic. By training 3 days a week in one direction, and 3 days a week in the other you can greatly alleviate this problem. It’s NOT the same to jog the opposite direction of the track prior to completing the days’ gallop work, as many horsemen believe. One has to go at speed in both directions equally.

Magdalena Farm, his off track training facility in Lexington, also offers European style uphill turf gallops, which many horses will thrive over – even jump starting their careers after being broken down (physically and mentally) from hard dirt surfaces. Hard Buck(BRZ) was cited as one such example by McPeek.

A few other interview nuggets:

-Curlin is best example of his ‘budget’ buys – $57k purchase at the yearling auction, turned into $10 million in earnings.

-HorseRaces NOW app developed in order to bring more fans in to the game.

-Drugs: has had one violation in 27 years, sees raceday pharmaceuticals OK for claimers, but not for stakes winning future breeding stock

Finally, two last things – one which we differ immensely, and one which we hold in common. Kenny is a UK fan and I am a Louisville guy. In roughly 24 hours from now we play each other in the yearly basketball matchup. Also, Mr. McPeek was taught to be a voracious reader by his late mother, and I too have read at least 2 books per month for the past several years: typically one each of fictional and non-fictional works.

My most recent read was called The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson.
I hope to utilize these principles before my 43rd birthday on March 14th in order to finally finish writing my book, titled Internal Horsemanship.

Wishing all readers an amazing 2013!

Attempting to work with Kenny McPeek is one of my New Year’s Resolutions. We traded emails and voicemails in the past, but I am going to kick it up a notch come January.


About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on December 28, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Excellent read

  2. always find articles like mr Mcpeeks very interesting in australia most train on public tracks working both ways near impossible, though having played sport believe in training both clock wise and anti-clock wise , just wondering what a round pen is and what is it used for ??

  3. I find it hard to believe that a trainer would train a horse substantially in one direction. One may as well not train a horse at all. Every aspect of a horse’s life is about balance and to overstress one side and under train the other by working the horse one way only is making a difficult task even more difficult.
    It would be interesting to see the stats on fore limb injuries.
    Although it may be that these stats don’t support my comment but there could be many other reasons for this.

  4. Phillip Haycock

    Some horses due to conformation defects will only race well in one direction. In these cases one must decide whether to train to the strong side or build the weak side.
    I have a horse like this. She will probably only race to the right and I wouldn’t waste my time or her health trying to change that.
    Training her is a balancing act, each side is trained individually.
    In her case the defect is small but at speed small imbalances can multiply exponentially.
    Often I hear of horses that race better to one side and wonder if the horses connections have ever had a really close look at the horses way of going or even shoe wear and lateral/medial level of heels.
    Treadmills are excellent for this purpose.

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