Problem: Leaning on you, crowding into your space, trying to drag you off in his direction.
This problem is best solved by some creative groundwork inside an enclosed area where you can create an environment where the horse is required to notice where his feet are.
Learning to focus in a small space is something your Thoroughbred has seldom been asked to do, he has spent his life looking down a mile track of perfectly harrowed ground and going in a straight line.
Now he must adapt to smaller spaces and the precise motions of a riding horse.
Learning to think his way through obstacles is the best way to teach him To create a course for him use ground poles, bales of straw, cones, barrels or whatever is at hand to make a challenging course like you might use for trail training.
Your training goal is to create a path where the horse has to look down at his feet and learn to turn, halt and back on command in order to successfully negotiate the course. .
The fact that the world is a tricky place to walk around in and that his person is there to provide guidance as to how this should be done is BIG NEWS to your horse! What he is learning is to focus his vision down into a small and complex area and to become aware that he has four feet that must be moved individually, according to your plan, not his, in order to negotiate the course.
This is new ground for your friend who has been on a smoothly harrowed racetrack looking at the horizon.
This is time well spent because what you are also learning is how he will react to challenges that you present in his training.
You will soon know his “learning curve”, if he is quick and responsive or becomes nervous and hesitant.
This gives you a good reading of how he will progress in his training, and it is remarkable how learning to negotiate a ground course as a team will open your horse’s mind to whole new possibilities of partnership with humans! It will make him a much more settled horse on the lead., and only when he has a good foundation of walking straight and is reliably controllable on the lead is he ready to graduate to the next level of basic training, the lunge line. page 10 of 17 RETRAINING A FORMER RACEHORSE by Priscilla Clark 661.823.0307 www.tranquilityfarmtbs.org firstname.lastname@example.org Does my Thoroughbred know how to lunge? Your horse may have had some experience on the lunge but most likely it was for a small period as he was being trained to saddle and not repeated after he learned to accept a rider on his back.
Ground work of any type is not the norm for any extended period in the breaking of a yearling, and he very likely has not seen a lunge line since that time.
Training on the lunge: Begin with the proper equipment: a bridle with a loose ring snaffle bit, side reins, surcingle, lunge line, lunge whip, polo wraps or splint boots. Tacking up: Your work with your horse .up to this point has concentrated on going forward on the lead, under control, at the walk.
Beginning your work on the lunge is the first time you will allow your horse to go forward at a greater speed, and for this reason it is wise to use polo wraps or other leg protection.
Adjust your surcingle to fit snugly , and use a fleece-lined or smooth leather surcingle with a fleece pad to feel comfortable to your horse’s back.
Now you are going to find out if your horse is “cinchy”, and the trust you have gained with him while grooming should pay off and allow him to accept your equipment if it is comfortable and gently applied.
If the girth of your surcingle is canvass strapping you may want to use a fleece liner to make this more acceptable to him.
A bridle with a basic loose ring snaffle bit of your choice fitted with side reins completes his equipment.
The reins should be adjusted for a loose contact that will allow your horse to stretch downward during his transitions but still feel that he has a bit in his mouth. page 11 of 17 RETRAINING A FORMER RACEHORSE by Priscilla Clark 661.823.0307 www.tranquilityfarmtbs.org email@example.com Attach your lunge line by running the snap through the ring of the snaffle on the side of the handler, running it over the top of the poll, and attaching it to the ring on the opposite side of the snaffle.
This gives you the ability to rein in the horse if he tries to run off.
Going forward: If your horse is unfamiliar with the round pen or enclosed area where you will lunge him begin by leading him quietly a few circles in both directions and let him have a look at his surroundings.
With the racehorse you need to do this in a quiet area where other horses are not being worked at the same time.
Why? Because he has been trained to key on other horses and get ahead of them.
This needs to be dealt with at a later time but the distraction factor will make quiet lunging nearly impossible for the green horse.
When you are ready to begin, start by stepping back into lunging position on his left side where he is most accustomed to seeing you, and keeping your whip low and quiet, give him some line and point the whip approximately at the level of his hocks or simply tap the ground toward his rear and give him a verbal cue.
If he quietly steps forward praise him and try to keep him walking in a circle around you, being careful to stay at all times out of range of his rear incase he bucks or jumps forward.
Horses often kick out if they are nervous or excited with no ill intent; nevertheless accidents can happen.
If he jumps forward or sideways simply stop and repeat your cues until he is capable of walking forward.
If you are inexperienced with beginning lunging or have difficulty achieving a circle with your horse it can be helpful to have a handler walk the horse around you to give him the idea of what is required.
Never be afraid to ask for help as sometimes a team can quickly accomplish a lesson with a green horse that is extremely difficult for one person alone! Your position while lunging : Keep your body positioned so that your leading hand (the line) is aligned with his head, and your driving hand (whip) is aligned with his croup.
It is useful to imagine you and your horse as a bicycle wheel: you are the hub, your left and right hand are the spokes, and the horse’s path is the tire as he circles around you.
Walk an inner circle with your horse to maintain the correct position and he will soon learn to do his part.
Be judicious with cues from the whip, keeping it low and quiet.
If you feel inclined to snap or wave it try tapping the ground behind him and you will see that your horse reacts by responding without feeling threatened. “Burning Rubber”: A common misconception: NEVER let your horse “burn rubber” on the lunge line! One of the worst mistakes made in handling off-track horses is thinking that by allowing them to rocket around on the lunge line they will miraculously calm down when they have burned off some energy.
Rein them in immediately and ask again that they proceed outward in a controlled manner. page 12 of 17 RETRAINING A FORMER RACEHORSE by Priscilla Clark 661.823.0307 www.tranquilityfarmtbs.org firstname.lastname@example.org If you allow your horse to race around he isn’t going to be capable of learning anything.
Remember he is on the lunge line to learn first, and exercise second.
If you do not gain his respect and achieve control at this stage of training he has no reason to believe that it is not acceptable to “burn rubber” with you in the saddle! If your horse repeatedly wants to run off on the lunge give him the benefit of the doubt by scheduling his training session after he has been turned out in a paddock to run and play.
That way you won’t be tempted to make excuses for his lack of attention to the work at hand! It can take a few weeks of consistent work to teach your horse to go forward quietly in both directions at the walk and trot, and the best way to achieve control and create a calm and responsive horse is to concentrate on making smooth transitions: walk to trot; trot to walk; walk to halt; and so on.
Your careful and thoughtful work on the lunge is the key to laying a safe foundation for work in the arena under saddle.
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