The horse race is a classic succession strategy that pits several high-performing executives against one another to see who can become the company’s next chief executive officer. While some governance observers and executives are uncomfortable with the notion of an overt contest for the top job, the horse race approach has helped many highly admired companies select their new leaders. To be successful, however, it is important that the board and current CEO understand the culture of the company and organizational structure in order to decide if this type of overt competition is appropriate.
Horse racing has long been a glamorous spectacle, with horses and riders dressed in their finest attire, sipping mint juleps and cheering from the grandstand. Behind that facade, though, is a world of drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter. According to Patrick Battuello, who runs the activist group Horseracing Wrongs, the vast majority of the ten thousand American thoroughbreds that are slaughtered each year have been raced and will never have the chance to become breeding stock.
It is commonly believed that horse races are inherently uncompetitive, a notion that is based on the idea that human athletes are able to achieve faster times than animals (Harris 1998), when in reality, this is not the case. While there have been some improvements in the winning times of elite thoroughbreds, this is primarily due to selective breeding, improved nutrition and – arguably – improved racing surfaces (Gaffney & Cunningham 1988).
There are also a number of other factors that influence horse-race performance, including the fact that animal athletes’ coaches, trainers and owners are far more concerned with achieving the best possible time for their animals than their human counterparts are. This, combined with the fact that race tactics can skew an individual horse’s record in the same way that they do for human athletes, means that the results of a horse race bear little resemblance to pure athletic performance.
In addition, many horse-race participants are not purebreds, which further complicates the issue as far as the resemblance between horses and humans’ athletic ability is concerned. It is for these reasons that the comparison between race times of horses and humans is problematic, and it is therefore important to be aware of the limitations of this type of study.
While there is a lot of debate over the exact causes of this disparity, it is clear that the inherent physical ability of humans and horses has not changed significantly over the centuries. This is in contrast to other scientific studies of human and animal performance, which have shown substantial improvement over the same period. The reasons for this seem to be a combination of both common and esoteric factors, including societal changes in diet and training techniques as well as advances in the genetic potential of each species (Harris 1998) and in the underlying biological processes involved in each type of performance (Gaffney & Cunningham).