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Learning by Example by Judy Wardrope

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Learning by Example by Judy Wardrope

Learning by Example: Analyzing the Functional Conformation of the Thoroughbred Racehorse by Judy Wardrope

© JW Equine

The Bottom Line

Regardless of your level of investment in Thoroughbred racing, whether you are purchasing expensive racing or breeding stock at auction or simply picking a horse to bet on in the paddock or post parade, the physical appearance of the racehorse will always be an important factor in the decision-making progress. In this latest work, Wardrope simplifies what she teaches at seminars to horsemen around the world, giving the casual fan or bettor a chance to learn the art and science of conformation analysis, skills that can give the on-track bettor an edge over the TV viewer, who will not has as clear a view.


  • Easy to understand lesson on Thoroughbred racehorse conformation analysis
  • Extensive use of photographs (over 400) to demonstrate the techniques learned
  • Drawn on over 30 years of experience in this field
  • Well-written work by an internationally respected expert who usually teaches the high end market


  • May not be useful to "numbers" handicappers who do not use physicality in their selection process


  • Introduction
  • The Underlying Bone Structure
  • Racing Differences
  • The Pillar of Support
  • Conformation and Function
  • The Racehorse in Motion
  • Quarterhorses, Steeplechasers, and Endurance Horses
  • Self-test
  • NOTE: Judy will be available to a limited number of enthusiasts at the start of the Keeneland Mixed Sale (starting Nov. 8)
  • Contact her directly for fees and available dates.

Guide Review - Learning by Example by Judy Wardrope

Functional conformation is easily explained as, how a horse's physical make-up can determine how he or she will perform on the racetrack. However, the casual follower of racing may look at a horse and say that he or she "looks good". You are less likely to buy or wager on a horse that does not look healthy. However, most casual followers of racing do not know exactly what to look for. In her latest book, internationally respected equine journalist Judy Wardrope aims to demystify the science of conformation in Thoroughbreds, drawing from over three decades of experience in this field. Using easy-to-understand language accompanied by over 400 photographs and diagrams, Wardrope demonstrates how the underlying bone structure is a strong determinant in soundness, level of ability (stakes winner or claimer), and distance preference, attributes generally passed on through the genes, explaining why certain horses show up in more pedigrees. Wardrope helps you look "beyond the surface" in order to accurately analyze the functional conformation.

The reader learns what to look for to determine which horses are more likely to blow turns, which racing surface (turf, dirt, or synthetic) he or she would run best on, have longer or shorter stride lengths, and what distances they'd compete over, even before seeing the horse actually run either in a workout or a race. For a bettor, this skill might be useful when handicapping first time starters, horses of questionable pedigrees, or horses doing something they had never done before, such as changing surface or stretching out in distance. Without the benefit of pedigrees or past performances, functional conformation may be the advantage the horseplayer can use to get an edge over purely "numbers" players.

After the instructional section, the second part of the book includes photos of several horses, demonstrating the techniques learned earlier, listing in most cases the horse's name, earnings, winning distances, and whether he or she was a stakes winner. Just sampling some of these horses, it is clear just how powerful conformation is as a determining factor in racing success, and often in breeding success if the stallion or broodmare can pass along these attributes to their offspring, exactly why conformation photographs are commonly used in stallion advertising. A separate section covers yearlings and 2-year-olds; as these horses are still growing, some modifications must be made in what to look for, compared to fully grown horses. After these examples, Wardrope includes a "self-test" quiz, with a photo of a horse and then blanks where you can fill in the findings and then predict the horse's on-track performance (stakes winner, optimal distance, etc).

The game is all about picking the right horse, and this is an important piece of the puzzle to make that winning decision. Those wanting to learn more may want to attend one of Wardrope's seminars to witness this expert first-hand.

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