Gazing deeply into your horse’s eyes could give you the secret of its success, according to researchers at the University of Limerick.

A study, in the veterinary journal Behavioural Processes,by vets Jack Murphy and Sean Arkins, suggests that whether the whorl on a horse’s forehead spirals clockwise or anti-clockwise indicates if it is left- or right-hoofed. And trainers can use this “inside information” to train the horse accordingly.

A total of 219 horses were classed as being left- or right-hoofed, based on which hoof the horse led with when walking, which side they chose to go round an obstacle and the opinion of their rider.

Of 104 who favoured their left hoof, 75% had anti-clockwise whorls, while of the 95 right-hoofed horses, 67% had clockwise whorls.

Dr Murphy told H&H: “Whorls are just a small part of the mix. It doesn’t mean a racehorse will definitely win on a left-handed track if it is left-hoofed, but it may have an advantage.”

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This article was first published in Horse & Hound (4 December, ’08)