California: Al Shelhamer Screens Revealing Film Explains Shoemakers Win Consistency? Force between Hands,, Daily Racing Form, 1955-06-27


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California By Oscar Otis - Al Shelhamer Screens Revealing Film Explains Shoemakers Win Consistency? Force Between Hands, Feet an Equation HOLLYWOOD PARK, Inglewood, Calif., June 25. Alfred Shelhamer is en route to Denvers Centennial Park where he will serve as an associate steward, a prqmotion which is perhaps long overdue, for during his years of service on the major California circuit as a combination patrol judge-expert film patrol analyst, he has built up a reputation based on ability and sound judgment which could only forecast a career as a steward. Just before leaving, Shelhamer invited this corner to the film projection room, saying, "As most everyone is aware, these films have a de cided educational feature for riders if they care to avail themselves of the opportunity of studying them, and most do. I have been aware for some time that Willie Shoemaker has a lot of ability, but that isnt news, either. However, when I have tried to explain certain things he does to young apprentices coming alorig, Ive never been able to quite make it clear, with words. But we just happened to get an unusual shot the other day which shows quite vividly what I have been trying to make clear." Willies Stirrups Remain Almost Stationary So saying, Shelhamer unreeled an ordinary oyer-, night race which, better than any other film yet taken, at least in California, provides some clues as to why Shoemaker has managed to amass such an amazing record of sustained success. Shoemakers stirrups remained comparatively stationary while the horse was in stride; and although they did move a few inches, they were not bobbing back and forth in rythm as was noticeable with some of the riders in the same race. The best comparison that could be made in another field of Sport was with an oarsman. The stirrups apr peared to act as a fulcrum for the delivery of power to urge the horse- forward, and at the same time the pressure was exerted in the stirrups, his arms and hands were returning to his torso and gathering the horse for the next stride. Of course, on the forward move of his hands and arms, some propelling power was evident, but it was evenly balanced with the force exerted by the legs in the stirrups. In other words, the urging tended to demonstrate itself as a pure equation. It was quite a different appearance from the rider who obviously- urges with his hands alone, let his feet do what they may as long as they served to help provide a balance in the saddle alone. "There is a prevailing idea," observed Shelhamer as he ended the filming, "that Shoemaker can improve on a lot of horses. One cannot be absolutely certain, of course, but this, picture would indicate that there is a constant force being exerted, alternately with, the hands and feet, and coordinated to a nicety with the .; stride of the horse, that he is able to make a horse stride say an inch or maybe even two inches further than otherwise would be the case. Assuming a stride jot about 32 to a furlong, this margin would add up to as much as 15 yards in six furlongs, a substantial bit of ground when it is considered that races are won or lost by noses, heads, and necks. "It is my opinion," added Shelhamer, a former jockey and an able one, "that some increase in the speed of the American thoroughbred, as taken by the continued breaking of tracks records, is due to the changed, and I am sure more efficient, styles of the riders of today. Of course, tracks may be faster and better conditioned than they used to be, but that couldnt be the whole answer. A prolonged study of the pictures would seem to indicate that the short stirrup, delicate balance of the rider of today is the idea in getting the utmost of speed from the horse, far better than the old method of long stirrups. These long stirrups were a necessity in their day because a boy needed more control over his horse at an open, or web, barrier. Modern Rider Has Greater Opportunity "Indeed, it might be said that in modern racing, the boy just goes along for the ride and to steer, but this is not a deterioration, but rather may be looked upon as an improvement. For it allows a jockey to concentrate upon getting the utmost from his mount in a race, and, if the pictures of Shoemaker may be taken as representative, an opportunity to develop a style that approaches the ideal. There is only one real disadvantage, and that is in case of trouble the jockey, lacking the old time control, is more apt to part company with his horse. He has, comparatively again, little or no purchase with which to retain his seat in case of a stumble or bobble. But I would not say that riding is a more dangerous profession, statistically at least, than it used to be. The old rough stuff wont get by any more, thanks a great deal to the films plus a new attitude on the part of the stewards." We are inclined to agree with Shelhamer when he says that modern American riding styles are a substantial factor in the breaking of track records, al-! though we think that better feeding, greater freedom from disease, especially parasites, also have a part in the matter. Moreover, the thoroughbred in America is bred and trained to a more specific purpose than those in England, where, to win classics, a horse must be more versatile, and prove it, by going up hill and down, around sharp turns, and race both to the right and lefk To the contrary, the pattern in America is more standardized. t . ,

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