◊ CENTER OF GRAVITY OF THE GALLOP – The horse’s withers and shoulders are the center of gravity at the gallop.
The rider moves in sync with the horse’s motion.
When the rider is stiff the horse becomes uncomfortable, due to the extra work it creates for both the rider and horse.
Ideally, the rider keeps his balance in two point over the shoulders during the gallop (see centered riding).
Exercise riders and jockeys balance their weight over their feet, they do not grip with their legs.
To maintain a straight back the abdominal muscles are pushed out rather than arching in.
The knees of the rider absorb most of the shock.
All of the joints are absorbing some of the shock allowing the rider to be strong and flexible, not rigid.
The rider’s head and upper body remain still.
When the rider’s position is correct and balanced, he will be thrown back in the tack rather than pitched off when the horse spooks or stumbles. ◊ RELAXING ON THE TRACK – When galloping or jogging, in company, the exercise rider may stay just a nose off the other horse.
This causes him to relax, wait and be patient.
This is worth remembering when retraining your ottb to trail ride or hack with other horses.
Jockeys do this in races to get the horse to relax and save himself for the end run.
The rider’s body must remain supple and soft, while exerting tremendous strength. ◊ LEAD CHANGES AT THE TRACK – The racehorse travels on the inside or left lead in the turns and on the outside or right lead on the straights of the racetrack.
Riders ask for a lead change with the transfer of their weight, not by use of their leg. (This helps the jockeys in a race.) The changes must be effortless.
Most horses learn quickly that it’s easier to change leads in these places on the track.
All tracks are basically the same, so the horse learns through habit to change and the jockey doesn’t have to ask the horse to change at all once he learns this.
You do not teach the ottb to change leads he knows how to do it.
You only have to “remodel” they system.
The horse is used to having momentum.
Momentum does not mean speed, it means moving forward impelled by the horse’s velocity and strength.
The horse also responds to a slight shift in the rider’s weight.
This is how the jockey changes leads.
They put more weight in the stirrup on the side of the lead they want at the point in the stride where the horse is stepping under with the inside hind.
This is not done by leaning, it is done by dropping weight into the stirrup.
If you are balanced and in the center of the retired racehorse, you should have little trouble getting your lead if you put more weight in the stirrup of the lead you want, but be careful not to lean as this will interrupt the horse’s balance.
If you put your outside leg back, be careful to keep your weight in the inside stirrup. 29 ◊ REINS AND USE OF THE BIT- The wide race reins are usually held in a full or half cross.
These techniques allow the rider to let the horse pull on himself instead of directly on the rider causing fatigue.
A full cross is when both reins are held together in both hands making a bridge to be placed on either side of the withers.
The hands are held the same width, often 5”, as the bit in the horse’s mouth.
This cross is for the toughies. Most riders prefer the half cross.
The left rein is held in the left hand, crosses the withers and held in the right hand.
The right rein is held only in the right hand.
This can be done in reverse, too.
Hands are kept on either side of the withers the same as with the full cross. 30 Most horses are ridden to and from the track on a loose or gentle contact rein, the reins are picked up when preparing to trot or gallop.
On the bit means the horse is in a frame and listening to our aids, similar to the riding horse’s “on the bit”.
The difference is at the track he is on the forehand.
Racehorses are encouraged to take hold of the bit.
When re-training, putting a harsh bit in their mouth to stop this is not recommended.
Racehorses trust the bit; they are not slowed by severe bits.
Many times, the use of a severe bit will result in an out of control horse.
When the bit is more than the horse requires, he will probably become resentful or frightened and is more likely to run off to get away from the bit.
Bits do not hold horses, good riding does.
It’s better to put a snaffle in and re-school the mouth.
Good riding determines the pace.
Severe bits are torture to the horse and are a psychological crutch for inept riders.
The mouth needs to be retrained, not abused. ◊ HAND POSITIONS ON THE RACEHORSE The “home position” of the exercise rider’s hands has the knuckles of each hand pressed flat into either side of the withers.
This is one of the most difficult things for the show rider to master when first galloping racehorses.
Each horse pulls differently, some pull very hard and others not so much.
When the horse pulls hard, it does not mean he’s going to run off.
Tough horses run off because the rider cannot sustain the hold, not because they intended to run off that day.
Horses will pull harder when they are sharp or before they break off to breeze.
A good rider gives the racehorse a stable place to pull.
The rider lets the horse take hold of the bit; he never initiates the pulling contact.
A misconception is a horse that pulls doesn’t have a good mouth, more often than not they have a very responsive mouth.
Often the same hold is maintained throughout the training session.
This means the reins are not shortened or lengthened during the ride.
Especially tough horses, the hold never changes.
As always there are exceptions.
In races if the jockey changes his hold, it is usually in the stretch to make the horse run faster.
Keep this in mind. 31 ◊ SLOWING AND STOPPING THE RACEHORSE – Understanding how riders stop and slow racehorses is helpful in retraining them.
Many racehorses will slow and even stop by pulling on the yoke.
This is not intentionally taught to them, but is a result of being ridden with one.
Standing up in the stirrups drops the rider’s weight into the center of the horse.
This is the equivalent to applying the brakes for the horse.
Jumping riders, show and race, employ a similar technique to slow and stop their horses.
Shifting of the rider’s weight behind the vertical is the exercise rider’s use of the “seat” due to the fact so much of their riding is done in extreme two point.
An example of this is when the rider is pulling up after a gallop.
The beginning of the slow down is well in advance of the desired place stop.
The rider’s hold is softened and the weight is shifted behind the vertical.
His feet are shifted forward putting his body weight behind the motion of the horse.
The rhythm of the rider’s body slows encouraging the horse to slow the rhythm of his gallop.
Both hands are kept down on the withers, although with some horses the reins may be lifted and lowered several times.
Not pulled back, lifted and lowered. ◊ STIRRUP LENGTH – Stirrup length varies according to the needs of the rider and his individual riding style.
Some exercise riders ride long and others short.
Still others and probably the best, adjust the length of the stirrup for the particular horse and the instructions of the day.
This is the same as in any other discipline.
Most people ride the shortest when they are breezing.
Two exceptions are when teaching babies to breeze and when riding them the first few times on the rail.
The tougher the horse, the shorter the stirrup length, unless the horse is known to be a bad actor.
In this case, the rider must ride longer to stay on.
The longer you ride, the longer you ride, is the old timer’s adage.
This is true and most of the experienced riders do ride longer than the outsider would expect. 32 Jockeys do not have the same concerns exercise riders do.
The jockey’s job is not to school the horse, it’s to let him run and bother him as little as possible.
They have a lead pony to escort their horse to the starting gate.
The better riders are not supporting their weight on the horse’s mouth, no matter what the length of their stirrups.
It is easier to ride longer and avoid supporting oneself on the horse’s mouth, remaining balanced and in the center of motion. ◊ ASKING FOR WHAT YOU WANT – Thoroughbred racehorses are accustomed to being asked, not forced to do things.
The rider asks and then holds his position, leaving the horse free to do as asked.
For example, the horse is given an aid and the rider’s hands stay down and the body relaxes with the motion.
Most exercise riders and jockeys are very good at leaving the horse alone.
One difference worth mentioning is the way an exercise rider or jockey rewards the horse for responding to a request.
In show and pleasure horses it is customary to soften when the horse obeys.
This is the way the horse is rewarded.
In racing the reward is more that the rider stays the same.
I am not going to say we do not soften or that we keep asking the horse to do something.
This is a difficult thing to explain, but basically if we ask the horse to pick the pace up, we do it by relaxing our hold and our body, The horse then picks up the bit as he picks up the pace and we stay the same, giving him a stable place to take hold.
Many times when the horse enters training for another discipline, aids are overemphasized and he becomes annoyed or upset at what he perceives as nagging.
In racing, a little aid goes a very long way.
Most exercise riders have an evolved degree of subtlety which is a necessity on a high performance horse.
This subtlety allows a jockey to ride the horse with his irons so short, because it takes so little to get him to respond.
Some of the perceived “craziness” of off track Thoroughbreds comes from the fact that their new riders do not realize how little they have to do to get a response from these wonderful athletes.
In time the horse learns to accept the stronger aids or better yet the rider learns to be more accurate and subtle with his aids.
The more fit the horse, the more responsive and touchy he is.
This is one reason you may want to let the horse down before your retraining begins. 33 ◊ THE STARTING GATE – Thoroughbred horses begin the race from the starting gate.
In order to learn to do this, they must be educated on how to break from the gate.
Each track employs a group of men and women who help handle the horses at the gate.
The person who starts each race is the Starter, all other handlers are Assistant Starters.
They are present at the gate during the race.
They load and stay on the head of each horse until the starter presses the button opening the front doors of the starting gate.
The object is to have a clean and fair start to the race.
The goal of each assistant starter is to have each horse standing squarely and focused on breaking as the gate opens.
These people are committed to the safety of the jockeys in the afternoon and the exercise riders in the morning. A horse must have a gate card in order to race.
The Starter must okay a horse for breaking from the gate in order to get this card.
When an exercise rider approaches the gate in the morning, he is met by a group of experienced individuals whose purpose is to facilitate the education of the horse at the gate.
Schooling in the gate occurs at different points of the horse’s training depending on the trainer’s judgment.
Many riders prefer that it begin before the horse is too fit.
The starting gate can be a very intimidating place. — 37 racing.
This is one reason some trainers and owners lose their patience with people from other disciplines where it is common to have a vet check.
Most of the time they are not hiding anything, they do not understand why you cannot go over the horse yourself and see if he is suitable for your purposes, especially, if the horse is being sold for a small amount of money.
It’s also normal to buy a horse off of his racing form, sight unseen.
Many trainers do not ride, so not riding the horse before purchase is a normal occurrence.
Purchase at auction is another popular way to get a racehorse or prospect.
There are several basic types of auctions.
Prospective buyers are not allowed to ride the horses before purchase.
Most common are weanling and yearling auctions.
Weanlings are commonly turned out to grow after being purchased and the yearlings usually begin the training process.
These auctions are usually held in the fall when yearlings are ready to begin work.
Horses are usually vetted.
The two years old in training sales may be the most common way to buy a prospect.
These sales have several days to a week when the potential buyers can watch horses train and breeze short distances.
The actual auction is held at the end of this time.
Horses are vetted during these sales.
Most of the time radiographs are available in a repository.
Claiming races are another very common way to get a racehorse.
This way a horse is purchased that is already racing.
The trainer or owner places the correct amount of money in his account and then drops a claim slip some 15 minutes before post time of the race.
When the starting gate doors open, he is the owner of the horse unless more than one slip is dropped.
In that case the actual owner is decided by lottery.
The horse is not vetted, most of the time the prospective trainer and/or owner watch him in the paddock before making the claim.
Sometimes they may watch the horse for several preceding races over a number of weeks before deciding to claim.
The decision to purchase a horse in this manner is primarily made on his racing form/history.
A trainer or owner may hear about a horse that’s for sale through the grapevine, or he may have a call from a trainer whom he has bought from in the past.
There is a hierarchy to racing.
Individual tracks have their own level of competitive difficulty.
Consequently, a trainer at a tougher track will have little trouble selling his non-performers to trainers located at tracks where the competition is less.
Usually these trainers do not vet.
They will show up the day of the call with cash to pick up the horse.
There are times when owners or trainers buy a prospect privately with a ppe.
The price is often the determining factor in deciding if a ppe is done. 38 ◊WHY AND WHEN IT IS TIME TO RETIRE – Here are some of the reasons why trainers and owners retire a horse from racing. (1) Lack of talent or being too slow is probably the number one reason.
These horses make some of the best show prospects.
The horse may actually have talent, though he lacks the competitive nature necessary in a racehorse.
Slow at the track is still very fast for most people outside racing; he will likely be fast enough for your purposes. (2) Each trainer has a limited number of stalls assigned at the track.
He is expected to make a certain number of starts per stall each month.
The trainer or owner may elect to sell an untalented horse, and bring one in that hopefully has more promise. (3) When a horse needs time off and the owner is not willing to wait, the horse may be sold or placed.
This could be due to an injury that will heal completely or simply because the horse needs a break. (4) A horse can be ineligible to race.
Horses must be eligible to race.
Each racing jurisdiction has a set of rules and qualifications for the horses to be allowed to race at the tracks under their governing.
There is a cut off age for maidens.
As stated before, maidens are horses who have never won a race.
In Maryland, if by the age of 6 years old the horse has not won a race, he is not eligible to be entered in a race.
If a horse has run for a claiming price that is less than the bottom claiming price in a particular jurisdiction, he can not be entered or stabled in that jurisdiction.
In Maryland, the bottom is $4,000, so if the horse is run in a $2,500 claiming race in another state, he can no longer race in Maryland until he later finishes 1, 2, or 3 for $4000.
There are other ways to become ineligible, but these are the most common. (5) Horses can be placed on the vet’s list.
There are veterinarians who are employed by the state to watch over horses who are racing.
They check each horse on race day for soundness before the race.
A state vet is behind the starting gate and watches the horses warm up in the post parade. (S)he has the power to prevent a horse from racing that day if it is seen to be lame.
They also watch the horses pull up after the race.
If a horse is found to be lame it is placed on the Vet’s List; this is found in the Secretary’s office.
The horse must be observed by the State Vet during a timed workout and deemed to be sound during and after it in order to get off the Vet’s List.
Sometimes the trainer will decide to get rid of the horse instead of doing this.
Another powerful list is the Starter’s List in the Secretary’s office.
This is for horses that refused to break from the gate.
A horse can be permanently barred from racing for this. 39 What happens to racehorses when they are not competitive? What are the options available to trainers or owners when they decide to sell or place a horse? Racing is not a job as much as a way of life for everyone on the backstretch, including trainers.
There is not much time for socializing outside of the racing world.
When a trainer wants to sell a horse, he knows lots of other trainers to call, and that’s usually all he knows.
So, the easiest way for most trainers to move a horse is to sell him or her to a trainer at a lesser track, or worse send him to auction.
By auction I do not mean the kind where racing prospects are bought and sold.
Normally, a trainer can pick up the phone and have another trainer at a less competitive track come and buy the horse almost immediately.
No vetting and cash sale.
Many times the horse is gone in less than 24 hours.
Some trainers have the horses picked up by a man who takes them to auction.
This is done on demand or on a certain day of the week.
This kind of auction is not a good place.
In our area the horses end up in New Holland, PA or Sugarcreek, OH.
There is a slim, very slim chance the horse will be purchased by someone who wants a riding horse.
The majority of horses are bought by “meat men” who ship them to plants in Mexico and Canada.
They are killed in horrible ways and then slaughtered for their meat.
This is something that should never happen to any horse, but if we want racing to survive, it must stop happening to Thoroughbreds.
The public is not likely to fall in love with an equine athlete who will be tortured, killed and eaten when he fails to be competitive.
This is my opinion and it’s the major reason I am spending this time trying to help potential Thoroughbred owners retrain their horses for new careers.
I know that the bigger the market for sport ottb’s, the more horses avoid slaughter.
I am proud to say that the tracks in Maryland and all tracks owned by Magna Entertainment have a zero tolerance slaughter policy.
The following is their wording of the policy. “Magna Entertainment Corp.
Has formally adopted a company-wide policy promoting the humane treatment of racehorses, the company announced October 10, 2009.
Under the policy, any trainer or owner stabling at an MEC facility who directly or indirectly participates in the transport of a horse from a MEC facility to either a slaughterhouse or an auction house engaged in selling horses for a slaughter will be prohibited from having stalls at any MEC facility.
The policy also applies to any actions related to the transport of a horse from a MEC facility where the ultimate intended result is a horse’s slaughter.” Now for my favorite way for a Thoroughbred to retire from racing.
Transitioning to a new career is the best option for everyone involved.
When I say career, it could be companion, eventer, jumper, dressage horse, broodmare, trail horse, faithful sidekick you name it.
Thoroughbreds are smart and athletic, they can do anything given good 40 guidance and a chance.
I am biased, I’ll admit I am a to the core Thoroughbred person.
I am not the only professional that recognizes the ability and talent of the Thoroughbred.
How do you get one off the track or a retiree already let down? One of the main goals of this book is to show you how.
There are many rescue groups who assist in this goal.
I hate that word rescue, because most racehorses do not need rescue, they need a new career.
There are lots of horsemen who send them home to their own farms and place them at that point.
You can also buy one right off the backside with a little know how. 41 You’re Ready to Start Looking You’re ready to start looking ◊ THINGS TO KNOW – when you go to the racetrack Be prepared when you go to the track to find a horse.
Take identification, as you will be asked for it by security.
Take a digital camera, pen and paper for notes about the horses you see.
Record the name of the horse and trainer, barn number where they are located, contact info, the vet they use.
Note any observations before moving on to the next horse, where possible.
Keep in mind that most tracks do not allow dogs.
When in the barn, stay on the inside, the left, side of the horses as they walk around the shedrow.
Never stand on the “outside” or right side of a racehorse.
Remember this rule applies to horses who are being hosed, groomed or otherwise worked on, as well.
Horses have the right of way at all times.
This means, do not walk in front of them and never run unless you are about to be injured and there’s no other way.
Do not use flashes when taking pictures.
Plastic bags or other noisy things are not welcome.
While watching horses on the track, do not stand close to the rail, for this can frighten young horses.
It is advisable to stand in the open so the horses can easily identify that you are a human, not something stalking them preparing to pounce.
Many times a rider will sound rude when telling you to get out of his way.
Loud and mean is more likely to get an immediate response.
He is not mad at you, later you will find the same rider will be polite and friendly.
This is a result of the high potential for disaster when things go wrong on the track. ◊ WHERE TO START There are different ways to get on the track when looking for a horse.
If you’re the outgoing type, go to the Secretary’s office on race days.
The people who work there may be able to put you in contact with someone who’ll get you on the backstretch.
They may even know who has horses to sell.
Also, there are always trainers hanging out in the Secretary’s Office during races.
Another way is to show up at the entrance gate to the backstretch, early in the morning.
Ask the guards to announce you’re there looking to buy.
This can be an uncertain, though many times effective way to get connected.
Most tracks require a trainer or owner sign and be responsible for an unlicensed person for the day.
Check horse journal classifieds and the internet to find someone that represents trainers on the backstretch.
This is a good way for the first time ottb buyer to get an introduction to the track.
My advice in finding the right horse is to trust your first impression of each horse.
If you’re walking away trying to convince yourself he’s the right one, he most likely is not.
It should be similar to love at first sight.
Also, be objective about the good and 43 the bad in every horse.
It’s too easy to fall in love with a horse and miss the things that may be an issue later on.
Or miss great potential when you only look for the imperfection.
Remember, there is no perfect horse. ◊ GOOD DEALS Some horses can be a great deal because they are not “suitable” to many buyers.
Colts are the most “undesirable” sex of horse for most people, with geldings the most popular.
If willing to consider a colt, you will have less competition for some very nice horses.
It’s neither hard nor expensive to turn a colt into a gelding.
Many times you can negotiate a deal where the colt is gelded before you bring him to your farm.
Most horses need a let down time anyway and by the time your new horse is ready to enter training, the “colt” will be out of him.
Two year olds are another overlooked group.
They will grow and develop into the very horse you are looking for.
It’s not unusual to take a year or more to get them show ready anyway.
During this time you can form a solid relationship with the horse.
They have been lightly raced and are generally easier to transition. ◊ TEMPERAMENT Assessing the temperament of horses you’re considering is not so easy if you are not used to horses in race training.
A seemingly high strung individual could in fact be a teddy bear once let down on a farm.
Keep in mind that training style and physical issues can effect temperament.
If the horse is sore he may be more wound up, sour or depressed.
Veterinary treatments may also be an issue.
When watching the horse train, ask if the horse was off the day before – Sunday is the common day off.
If off the day before, the horse is likely to be much higher than normal.
Where possible come and see the horse train the next day and note how much he calms down.
This would be indicative of how he will let down when you get him home.
Sprinters are horses that run short distances.
Four, five and six furlong races (a furlong being one eighth mile), are common distances for them.
Sprinters are trained to go, go go.
Many times this results in these horses being more wound up or sharp.
Keep this in mind when assessing temperament.
Stayers are horses that run long distances.
Seven furlongs can be run as a long sprint or a distance race. 8 furlongs and beyond are considered distance races.
The horses generally do not like to be rushed in the beginning, saving their “run” for the end.
These horses tend to be more settled. (I mean this in the racehorse sense.) ◊ MOVEMENT Assessing movement is not a simple thing either.
Ask to watch the horse train on the track – arrange this when making the appointment to see the horse.
If the horse is no longer in training, the likely reason is resources.
Nowadays, if the horse is not going to race any longer, the trainer will not want to pay a rider to gallop him.
The track is 44 — Tips for Retraining and Riding Your New Thoroughbred Tips for Retraining and Riding Your New Thoroughbred Every horse is an individual, so I cannot give you a “cookie cutter” answer to how to retrain your off track Thoroughbred.
Whether you got him directly off the track or from a farm, each horse has his own training requirements.
These are based on many variables including, physical strengths, confirmation and temperament.
Add to that, previous injuries and different race training styles and it’s clear you will have to use your own judgment when working with your new horse.
I work with countless horses coming off the track and I would like to share just some of the things I have learned from them.
The following covers some of the techniques I employ when a horse comes to me.
Including how I answer some of the basic questions the horse has about his retraining.
When a racehorse first arrives at the farm after retirement from racing life, he doesn’t realize he’s no longer a racehorse.
It’s not only a job to him, it’s his identity.
The absolute first thing we do with each horse is to employ behavior modification training.
The method we use has been developed by Elizabeth Madlener.
She assisted me in outlining it for this book.
The term sounds complicated, but it is actually a very easy to implement.
It is a method that will start you and your new horse off on the right hoof, so to speak.
Use a lead shank with a chain like those all racehorses are accustomed to.
Put it over the horse’s nose.
You will also need a longe whip or dressage whip.
This work is done in an indoor or along a fence.
You want to walk the horse along a fence or the indoor wall to keep the horse straight.
You must require his focus to be on you at all times.
He must look straight ahead, not at you or any other thing.
This seems easy, but you will find that most of the time when we lead horses they are paying attention to everything but us and this work is the first step in gaining the horse’s confidence.
Position yourself at his shoulder and halt along the fence or wall. [Keep a loose hold on the shank.
Don’t try to hold him with the shank–he must learn to walk in your tempo, not his.
If he leans into you, use your elbow or a tap of the whip to keep him out of your space.
Use the same voice command each time.
First use the horse’s name, wait a beat, and say “ho” in a low but commanding tone.
Say “ho” slowly but firmly.
Remember, you are not requesting him to stop.
You are commanding him to stop.
Be sure to stay by his shoulder and not give him any clues like pulling on the shank as you say “ho” and / or stopping before he does. 66 If he backs up, stay with him, right by his shoulder and repeat the command, perhaps touching him with the whip if he continues to back.
You do want to use the word “ho” rather than “whoa” because “whoa” is not so sharp and clear.
Say the word.
Give the horse a chance to respond and then shank the horse for the halt.
If you do not understand how to shank a horse I will explain here.
At the track when we require the horse to focus on us we use a sharp downward motion on the shank.
This is a quick pull and release.
Another method of encouraging the horse to halt is to bump the end of his nose with the butt of the whip.
I want to emphasize you are not to whip the horse in the face, but to bump the end of his nose with the handle of the whip.
In all work you must be fair.
You must tell the horse to “Ho” and then give him a chance to halt and then and only then either shank or bump the horse to get the halt.
You will be surprised at how quickly the horse learns to halt on your voice command.
To walk, stand by the horse’s shoulder and use the voice command “walk.” Give the horse a chance to respond and if he doesn’t, reach behind yourself and tap him with the whip.
If he juts or lunges ahead shank or bump his nose and say “ho”.
NO! Stay alert during this moment of rebellion as he may run into you as he rushes forward.
If you are quick and alert, he won’t try that again.
He will quickly learn to respond to these basic voice commands, but more than that, this is a lesson on focusing and interacting with the human in a polite way.
At all times require the horse to look forward.
He is not to look around and be distracted by anything that is going on.
This is the time of day that he is to completely focus on you and the work you are doing together.
This exercise sets the tone or builds the foundation of everything else you do with the horse.
After all, if the horse doesn’t know and immediately respond to the simple instructions of stop and go, he is not really broke.
This lesson also makes the horse’s job much easier, instilling confidence in him.
He quickly learns to understand that his only job is to listen to you and you will take care of him.
This allows the horse to let go of his instinct of flight.
Hence the term “flighty”.
Much of the anxiety horses display is a direct result of being put in a position 67 where they are responsible for their own welfare.
In the herd, someone has to be the leader and all others follow.
You want your horse to understand that he doesn’t have to be responsible for his own welfare.
When your horse drops his head in a relaxed position, he has accepted you as being the one in charge, and he now knows that he doesn’t have to be concerned about his environment–you will take care of him.
This acceptance soon turns into trust and then into confidence.
This is the beginning of teamwork.
Be sure to do this work from the right side as well as from the left side.
The right side initially can pose problems as most horses are not used to being led from the right, and you may get the feeling that you are working with a brand new horse, but he will quickly come around.
Having been a professional exercise rider for years, I usually get on them the first or second day they are here.
This helps me determine a game plan.
Please understand that I know how to ride them correctly at the track so it’s easier for me to retrain their aids, because I can start out where they are, not where I want them to be.
I ride them as an exercise rider and we gradually work our way to riding horse. 68 About Longeing Why longe a horse? There are some very good reasons to longe a horse and you must not lose site of them when you begin this exercise.
Never longe a horse to punish him or to tire him out so you can ride him.
This will sour him to the real benefits you can derive from working with a horse on the longe.
Understand that horses learn what you teach them, so be careful not to teach him to run away from you.
Too often I see people teaching a horse to longe by chasing them around with a whip.
If you do this do not be surprised if the horse runs away from you or later you cannot catch him when it’s time to come in from the field.
It is very important when you longe a horse that you remain in one place as much as possible.
This keeps the horse relaxed because he knows where you are at all times.
It also requires him to do a circle which makes him work his inside hind leg effectively.
If the horse is stuck and stops, attempt to encourage him to go on with the whip, using your voice commands to ask him to walk on.
If you have to get after him, step toward him and use the whip, but as soon as he moves off, go back to the same spot you were longeing him from.
You will find the horse will begin to relax and listen to your voice commands when you do this consistently.
Racehorses do steer, but rarely turn.
At first, this is hard for most of them to do.
It’s easier for them to learn turning without the weight of a rider.
By longeing, you will be developing new muscle the racehorse doesn’t yet have.
This is the muscle he will need to lift his back and carry you in a balanced manner.
We longe the ottb to teach him to work in a small area, which is something he is not used to.
He must find his balance and learn to carry himself without the aid of momentum.
It’s also helpful in establishing the new training routine.
Another goal is to get him to relax.
Longeing should be used as a training aid.
To teach the horse to find his balance on a small circle.
It is also a great way to teach him the voice commands you will use, such as walk, trot, canter and the all important “Ho”.
This is also the time to define your relationship with him or her.
By this I mean the horse should understand he is to do what you ask, not what he wants to do.
I’ll elaborate on this point further on in our discussion about longeing.
You have to use judgment with each horse, because longeing for too long or too frequently in the beginning will sour and even make the horse sore.
Once the horse understands the basics of longeing, try transitions.
Such as having the horse walk, trot, walk, halt, walk, canter, trot, canter, etc.
You will be teaching the horse to be attentive and obedient.
He will learn about engagement.
You will be rewarded with an improved ride and better gait transitions when you are mounted.
Longeing will give you an opportunity to build a relationship with your new horse before riding him. 69 There is the possibility your new horse already knows how to longe.
Lots of racehorses are longed during the breaking process.
I do not have any definite numbers, but I know lots of people who break racehorses, employ longeing as a part of their breaking regime.
There are tools you will need to longe your horse properly.
A 45 ft.
Longe line without a chain on the end, is what I prefer.
A longeing caveson or bridle without reins.
You can tie the reins up in the throat latch to get them out of the way.
A longe whip to be used as an aid, not to hurt the horse.
A contained area to start the horse with good footing.
It’s a good idea to use protective boots or polo bandages to guard the legs against injury.
Remember safety comes first.
If you’ve never longed a horse before, it’s better to learn with a horse that already knows how to do it.
It takes time to correctly coordinate the longe line, longe whip and horse, simultaneously.
Add to that a horse that doesn’t understand what to do, and you have a potential safety issue.
If at all possible I suggest finding a friend who has a horse that knows how to longe and ask them if you can learn with their horse.
It’s usually not that difficult to find someone who’ll let you longe their horse.
Longeing doesn’t have the reputation as being the most enjoyable activity you can do with your horse.
However, done correctly, it can be one of the most productive.
Wear gloves, a safety vest and a helmet whenever you longe a horse.
Never longe your horse on too small of a circle.
It puts too much stress on his joints and he could be injured.
A round pen is the best place to begin a horse off the track on the longe.
An indoor or small paddock is also a workable option.
Fold the longe line back and forward over itself in your hand, never wrap it around your hand.
Make sure it’s not twisted and is comfortable in your hand. 70 Racehorses have been trained to go from a stand still to racing speed.
It’s not uncommon for them to cut and run when they become frustrated with the circle.
It can be so fast that you do not have time to let go of the longe line, causing rope burns and possibly dropping you to the ground.
Never, ever, allow the longe line to become wrapped around any part of your body, including your fingers, hand(s), waist, neck or feet.
People have been injured and even killed this way.
When you’re reversing the horse’s direction, do not let the longe line drag on the ground because it could get caught in between his legs or wrapped around your legs.
Never longe a lame horse, except to assess that lameness under the supervision of a vet.
If your horse is moving in an unusual way due to a lameness, he could be further injured.
Never longe your horse in only one direction.
Longeing is quite stressful to his joints, and doing it in only one direction is a sure-fire way to make your horse sore.
There are different procedures for longeing a horse.
What follows are my thoughts on how to do it.
Put the bridle on your horse with a simple snaffle bit.
Remove the reins or tie them so the horse won’t step through them and hurt himself.
Thread the line through the side of the bit (the D ring for instance) then up over the poll, behind his ears, and then back through the bit on the other side.
Snap the lead on to the opposite side from where you are standing so that if you are working the horse in a clockwise circle, the snap is on the left, and the line is threaded through and comes out the right side of the bit.
When you work with the horse, this equalizes tension on the bit and better approximates the feel of the rider’s hand on the reins.
It also helps to balance the horse, and gives him less opportunity to lean on one side or the other.
Later when the horse has learned to longe, we put the longe line through the bit and over the nose instead of over the pole.
Sometimes this is necessary with very strong horses in the beginning. 71 Position yourself in the center of the ring.
If you’re longeing to the left, hold the longe line in your left hand and your whip in your right hand.
Form an imaginary triangle, with the horse’s body, the longe line and the whip.
Face the middle of the horse.
Send the horse out on the circle by asking for walk or “move out” and letting the longe line slip though your fingers.
Do not allow him to run out, make him walk.
In the beginning the horse will not do a perfect circle.
He will cut in, do not make a big deal of this, just keep the longe line out of his way, by shortening and letting it back out.
Remember, you want a big circle, not a small one.
Point the whip slightly behind the horse to ask him to go and put it behind you when not giving a signal.
Be relaxed and calm Start out at the walk.
If the horse is excited and starts to canter or trot, I allow that in the first week, but I never let him run out to the end at the very beginning.
I do use calming words to try to get him to settle and walk, but I do not insist until the horse begins to understand how to longe.
The goal in the beginning is to get the horse to accept going in such a tight circle and to relax.
Assign specific words for walk, trot, canter and stop.
Use them consistently so the horse understands what you want.
This will come in handy when you start riding him.
Control the horse’s speed and pace with voice aids or clicking your tongue.commands such as “walk on”, “trot on”, “canter” and “whoa” are universally employed.
Use intonation to help with upward and downward transitions.
Let your voice go higher for upward walk from the halt and lower for downward walk from the trot.
Ask for more forward action by using a voice command, followed by showing him the whip.
To slow the horse, say “Ho” with downward intonation in your voice. (lower your voice as you say “Ho”), let the whip point down and away.
To stop the horse, say “Hooooooo and lower your voice, if he doesn’t stop, say it again more firmly.
When teaching the horse to stop you can head him into the wall or fence as you say “Ho”.
Be ready if the horse reacts, and wait for the horse to relax and listen to you again.
Keep the horse from turning in or falling in on the circle by pointing the whip at the horse’s shoulder.
Be sure to teach the horse all three gaits on the longe.
Do not overlook the walk and require him to walk on.
When he is stopped, walk towards him, taking in the longe rein as you go.
Walk out to the horse, do not reel him in to you.
That is in effect, teaching him to “run over” you.
Make sure you fold the rein rather than roll it, to lessen the danger of the rein tightening around your hand if the horse takes off.
To longe the horse in the other direction (called “changing the rein”), first halt the horse.
Change the longe line to the opposite side of the bit, walk with the horse back 72 to the center of the circle and then encourage him to walk out on to the circle in the new direction.
Keep the whip in hand while you work on the horse.
People have been injured or killed by bending down to pick up the whip off the ground.
Try not to make the experience a big deal if the horse gets excited or upset.
Just let him figure it out.
Remember you’re asking a lot of him.
At this point the horse is struggling for balance, which until now he’s achieved through momentum and traction.
Most of the time, we pull their shoes and then make them travel in an area much smaller than they are used to.
It must feel like they have been thrown out on ice.
It may be frightening at first until they find their new balance.
So be patient.
It’s best to start horse at no more than 5 minutes on each side.
This is hard work for the racehorse and we do not want him to learn to hate it.
You can slowly increase the time as he becomes more comfortable with it.
Normally the right side is tougher for the horse than the left, but not always.
Many people say it’s because the racehorse only goes to the left, but I do not believe that’s true.
They jog the wrong way of the racetrack and that’s to the right.
I have broken quite a few unraced horses for disciplines other than racing.
Some of them had more trouble with the right side too.
When the horse is comfortable longeing both ways, I put on side reins, very loosely at first.
These introduce the horse to the new contact we want to develop.
The side reins coupled with the circle are a very effective way to start building both muscle and the skills needed in a riding horse.
If you decide to employ trotting poles, start with one.
When the horse is comfortable with it go to two.
Do not rush this process.
Trotting poles are good because they encourage the horse to reach down and take a look.
This stretches his top line.
It’s also the first step in learning to jump.
Trotting poles make the horse look where he’s putting his feet , which is a fundamental of jump training. About Mounting Before you get on your new horse, I’ll offer some thoughts on mounting him.
A racehorse is used to being pulled out of the stall by the groom and having the rider given a leg up in the shedrow immediately.
As the horse walks down the shedrow, the rider tightens the girth, ties a knot in the reins and then adjusts the stirrups.
All of this takes place before the horse walks out of the barn.
This is what the horse expects.
I have one of those portable plastic mounting blocks.
I put it in the arena or out in the open if I’m going to hack.
I take my time and do not rush this. 73 Most of the time I walk the horse up to it and step onto the mounting block.
I do not get up fast; I slowly swing my leg over him and sit down very lightly Occasionally, I have to get someone to hold the horse, but this is usually not necessary.
Since I’ve already done my behavior modification the horse knows exactly what ho means and responds to it.
I say ho and when he stops I put my foot in the iron and repeat the word ho.
If he begins to move at all I take my foot out and as he walks around the block I repeat ho.
I don’t get mad or upset because I know he’ll get sick of walking around the block.
I use this to my advantage because it’s only a big deal if I get upset and react to the fact that he won’t halt.
I know he will halt sooner or later and tomorrow he will have the same choice again.
They usually figure this out sooner than later.
When he halts, I put my foot in the iron and say ho again.
If he remains standing I step up into the iron, but if he moves I start over again.
I will only get on if he remains standing the entire time.
I don’t care how long this takes because time spent now will make him a great horse to mount forever.
I always pat the horse once I’ve mounted and he’s standing and then I tell him to walk off.
Most horses are easy to mount, but now and then I get one that gives me a hard time.
He probably was a horse that was mounted on the fly at the track.
Meaning the rider got a leg up while the horse was moving.
It’s more difficult for them to understand.
If the horse is nervous or difficult I will begin the mounting process in the stall, doing it much like I have outlined above with a few exceptions.
With the horse tacked up and ready to mount, I walk into the stall with the mounting block and let the horse take a sniff.
I usually do not have anyone hold the horse.
But I do have them stand in the doorway.
What I don’t want is for the horse to go out the door while I’m getting on.
The rule is the same, he must stand quietly until I tell him to walk off.
I repeat the steps in the process as many times as it takes to achieve the desired result.
After a day or two, I put the same mounting block in front of the barn or in the arena and get on there.
I am certain getting on from the ground could be approached in the same manner, but I’m not flexible enough for that these days. Riding your new off track Thoroughbred For new ottb owners, I recommend getting on your new horse when he longes comfortably at all three gaits, walk, trot, canter.
He should be successful in the behavior modification training as well.
Longe the horse for 10 minutes on each side before riding him.
It warms up the new muscles you are developing before the rider gets on.
I believe in every ride you must reward, reward, reward.
This is not to say that he should be spoiled, but the horse must know when he is doing what you want.
You must keep in mind that it’s likely he has no idea what you want.
Too often people are quick to correct a horse when he does the wrong thing, but they forget to reward 74 when he does the right thing.
Do not ask too much, too soon of your new friend.
Remember your new horse doesn’t yet have the muscles to carry you in this new way.
It’s best not to put a timetable on his progress.
Each horse is an individual.
When you hit an obstacle in your progress, try something else.
Do not keep doing the something you already know doesn’t work.
If you’ve tried it three times without success, why would it work the fourth time? Keep in mind footing is going to be an issue in the beginning.
When you first start riding cross country or out of a riding ring, expect your horse to have trouble negotiating uneven footing.
He may stumble or look at the ground.
This will pass quickly for most as they adjust to unlevel ground.
The track is closed for harrowing each morning during training hours, this is called a harrow break.
It’s harrowed and watered between every race.
He may also tire easily when going up hills, so do not do too much hill work too soon or he will become sour.
Racehorses have a difficult time establishing rhythm in the beginning.
They actually have a very nice rhythm at the gallop and jog, but these are momentum based gaits.
When you take the momentum away they have difficulty finding their balance.
Sometimes people mistake this lack of rhythm for lameness because the horse may move unevenly in his search for balance.
When I introduce a new activity, I start on the rein that’s easiest for the horse.
That’s usually, but not always the left rein.
If your ex racehorse stops and is frozen, stop trying to go in the direction you want.
Instead encourage him to go in any direction.
In other words just get him going.
Ride quietly and diplomatically, use voice commands such as “walk” and “good boy”.
Over-riding him in this instance could have very bad results.
People regularly ask me how I get the horses transitioned into the new work so quickly.
The answer is both simple and complex.
I know how to ride racehorses quite well.
I’m very comfortable on them.
I trust them and they know it.
I know for a fact everyone of them can walk, trot, canter, and most importantly halt.
I also work with a lot of them every day.
I galloped for years and now I meet new horses regularly and get on them and retrain them.
Practice makes perfect – well it makes it easier anyway. Power Walking One of the methods I use frequently is power walking.
You will find some of the most effective training methods are the simplest.
There is nothing fancy or intriguing about power walking, but it’s incredibly effective in introducing the new tools a racehorse will need to find balance in the riding arena.
Let’s start by defining what power walking is. 75 Power walking in very forward walking.
The horse’s back is swinging and he is stepping far under himself, propelling himself forward from behind.
In order to do this you must have a very relaxed back that will allow him to relax and move forward.
Most of the time you will have to encourage the horse to walk more and more forward.
He should get a work out doing this.
He should be taking bigger steps than he offers.
I achieve this through use of my leg and the whip.
I do not whip the horse, I tap, tap, tap him in rhythm, making sure my back is loose and my hips are swinging with the walk.
Power walking can be done cross country or in the arena.
It keeps the horse tuned into me and not what is happening around him.
It also teaches him how to carry the rider using his back in a gait that is easiest for him to find balance in.
When a racehorse comes off the track and you take his hind shoes and his momentum away, he is left vulnerable.
He doesn’t know how to balance himself and this can lead to all sorts of trouble, especially for the new to the ottb rider.
Without the momentum to find balance, the horse must learn how to carry both himself and the rider in a new way.
He must learn to navigate small circles and corners and how to halt and slow down using his rear end instead of his neck.
With many horses that come here, I spend the majority of the time the first month at the power walk.
They find confidence in this and I am in a position where I am telling them go not whoa.
In the trot and canter gaits, at this point you find yourself saying whoa, easy too much.
I can introduce circles, corners, straight lines, rhythm of the gait and proper halts all at a pace that is not intimidating.
At the same time I am developing the back and rear end muscles that are necessary to carry me in the trot and canter.
With a horse that I intend to spend time working with, it’s not unusual for me to spend a month power walking both in the arena and cross country.
If I put them on the site right away, I still spend most of the time power walking and only do the walk, trot, canter to produce the video and when I am showing them.
I already know they will pick up their leads, because they knew that before they came here.
I know, this seems boring and unglamorous, but that is what most good training methods are.
They lack excitement, but build confidence and good results that build a solid foundation for all future work. Turning When teaching turning, focus on keeping the body straight from poll to tail.
This confined turning is new and very hard for the racehorse.
He will tend to over flex or over bend.
Try turning with more weight in the inside stirrup and seat bone, the outside rein engaged and just open the inside rein.
Do not pull back on the inside rein.
Once the horse is over bent he is uncomfortable and it becomes impossible for him to go the 76 direction you want.
You must first straighten him and then attempt the turn again.
If the horse is over bent or rubber necking and you pull on the inside rein, he will be further over bent.
He cannot turn while rubber necking because he’s lost all balance and must shift his weight to stay upright.
To restore the balance, you straighten him.
All racehorses steer by weight on the inside stirrup.
We turn the show or riding horse with our inside seat bone and more weight in the inside stirrup.
Don’t lean, think of dropping your hip and weight into the inside stirrup.
The horse is then turning around that inside leg.
It works, just give it a try.
All horses will respond to this, it is not something they learn, it is their reaction to the weight on the inside stirrup.
This is the best way to teach them to turn, accompanied by as little leading rein as possible.
Use legs to keep his body straight. Use of the Reins and Hands This is an ultra-complicated topic that I’ll probably be adding to for the rest of my life.
In general, as in almost every discipline, we want to use the reins the least.
They are really a straightening influence and should not be used to bend the green horse.
Any bend should come from the inside leg.
The reins are used as an accelerator in racing.
When you pull back you are asking the horse to go faster.
Understand that this is not really taught to the horse, it is the horse’s natural reaction to go faster when we pull on the reins.
If you want to use a leading rein to turn the horse, open it, do not pull back.
One significant difference in the application of the reins is the way we “reward” the horse.
In show and pleasure, we use the reins to ask the horse to do something and then we soften when he does it.
That is his “reward” for doing as asked.
Generally in racing, when we ask him to do something and he submits, we “reward” him by staying the same.
That is not to say that we do not soften at times, but the racehorse is looking for a steady connection which means security to him.
This is not a death grip it is solid, but supple.
To stop the horse, sit up tall, stretching your upper body and arch your lower back.
Close your legs and “squeeze” the horse into a fixed rein.
This is better than pulling back on the reins even though eventually most horses figure out that you are telling them to go, but you really mean stop. Canter Work Racehorses have been taught how to gallop, not how to canter.
Many people think they are the same gaits and they are not.
The gallop is momentum based and on the forehand.
The canter is generated from the hind end.
When you ask for the canter, stop posting, drop the weight into the inside stirrup and lead with your inside hip.
Open your outside leg.
Do not put it far back, because this will cause you to 77 have the weight in your outside stirrup.
Whatever stirrup you have the most weight in is the lead you are asking for.
Opening your hip on the outside leg actually causes your weight to go into the inside stirrup.
At the track, we do not use the outside leg to get the lead.
Only the weight in the inside stirrup.
Again, this is a reaction by the horse, it does not have to be taught.
Expect the horse to struggle for balance.
It’s best to canter only a few strides and then ask for the trot before the horse loses his balance.
Gradually extend the amount of time you canter as the horse learns.
As an aside, the horse will usually speed up when he loses his balance, keep this in mind when working in the canter.
He probably is not trying to run off, he’s more likely trying to remain upright.
When it comes time to work on flying changes, your racehorse knows how to do this.
It was an important part of his job.
Changing the your weight to the new stirrup is all it will take.
The next time a race is on television, watch how the jockeys get the new lead.
You will never see them hike their outer leg back to get it.
For the record, I do not recommend working on flying changes for a long time.
I want my horses to have three solid, balanced gaits before I even approach this skill. Etc. Many racehorses know what spurs are.
They have either had a rider use them during the breaking process or during training.
There are exercise riders who use them quite competently.
When a racehorse prances or jumps around, most of the time he is expressing his joy and enthusiasm.
His rider at the track knew this and just sat there, relaxed and going with the motion.
This is not a reason to get uptight and does not mean the horse is getting ready to do something bad.
More often, it means he is looking forward to the day of work.
Many times this situation turns bad because his new rider is afraid and becomes tense.
This can be easily corrected by slowly teaching the horse you want him to walk.
Always try to show him what you want him to do, not what you do not want him to do.
Many track riders do not rise on the correct diagonal at the trot.
This can be a cause of overdevelopment of one side of the horse. About Running Off Let’s take a moment to discuss racehorses and running off.
Many people who consider getting a horse off the track express concern about the horse running off.
What is running off? At a certain point in time during the gallop, the horse takes over and ceases responding to the riders wishes.
Most of the time he increases his speed — First Ride Safety is paramount on your first ride with your new horse.
Always wear gloves, safety vest and helmet when you ride.
Have two people, the rider and a ground person.
Longe, and then put him in the stall.
Belly the horse and have the other 80 person walk you around the stall.
If there is no bad reaction then get off.
Then get a leg up on the horse.
Lower yourself gently on to the horse’s back.
This is a way to get a line on the horse before actually getting on.
It’s also the way most horses are introduced to the rider when being broken.
Racehorses are used to training on a flat, manicured surface.
If you plan to start riding him on regular ground or cross country, remember this.
Even if the surface a flat, grass covered area, there will be variances in the surface of the ground.
The horse is not used to this and should be introduced to training on it carefully.
Walking warm ups on cross country rides or in the ring are all that is needed in most cases.
When you step into a riding ring or indoor, most racehorses do not expect to gallop.
They expect to gallop when they see a racetrack.
Most ex-racers are reluctant to canter when asked to in such a small area.
Many have anxiety when they realize what you are asking.
It’s worth noting here that racehorses do have a slow gallop, which is the speed of a canter; it’s just on the forehand, which in race training is correct.
I have found lessons at the walk are successful.
Teaching the horse to turn is beneficial and one of the first things I want the horse to learn.
Racehorses are accustomed to training with lots of other horses around them.
Most have more trouble training by themselves, than when other horses are present.
Since they have been ridden by professional riders who are at ease most of the time, racehorses are more sensitive to an uptight, tense rider.
They may never have had someone tense on them before.
Exercise riders and jockeys train themselves to relax and be supple at the most exciting and adrenaline producing times.
Consequently, many horses that transition off the track will become nervous if their rider fails to relax.
What I’m saying is don’t get on them until you are certain you will be able to introduce yourself as a relaxed rider.
Wait until you are comfortable.
People ask me many times about the fact that I get on them almost immediately upon arrival at the farm.
We do not tranqualize or overexercise them before we get on them.
We rarely have a problem, but we are relaxed.
Although the horse may not have any idea what he is supposed to do, he knows by my body that things are okay.
It’s just another day in the life of that horse, not an earth shattering breakthrough.
Always remember, horses learn what you teach them.
It’s very helpful if you have an old or very quiet horse to go on hacks with.
This is where using a pony comes in.
A racehorse likes to keep his head at the pony’s shoulder.
This is a position for the uncertain horse.
Hacking teaches the horse to 81 relax and enjoy his ride.
Do not forget the fly spray.
Racehorses generally hate to be uncomfortable and they expect the humans in their lives to remedy any source of discomfort like they always have.
Up hill trot work gets him off the forehand and strengthens his rear.
While riding cross country, begin teaching the horse to steer with the legs and seat.
After a few weeks hacking, start schooling in the ring.
Some horses naturally want to lead and others follow.
If your horse seems strong and trying to get in front of the other horses, he’s likely not trying to run off.
He may relax if you allow him to lead.
Clues can be found in the racing form as to his running style which is his natural tendency. Introducing Jumping There are trainers who take horses directly from the track and begin jump training immediately.
There was a rider in a Jimmy Wofford gymnastics clinic a few years ago who had gotten a horse from the track only the week before.
He was a steeplechase trainer/rider and planned to run the horse in steeplechase races.
This works well because simply put— steeplechase and hurdle horses are racehorses that race over fences.
If you want to event, do jumpers, hunt or just recreational jump, that approach is probably going to give you less than desirable results.
You must first teach your new horse to be a riding horse and when he understands that, introduce jumping.
Some horses come off the track that never really were racehorses.
It can be because of inadequate training but most of the time they just never embraced racing.
You still must give them the basics, they just pick it up faster than then the committed racehorse.
Either way, they are ready to jump when they understand the basics.
Each horse is ready to learn to jump at a different point in his training.
Many times I introduce walking and then trotting over poles very soon after they come to the farm.
If the poles elicit any excitement for the horse, I know that we’ll be walking over them for a while before I show him a jump.
I wait until the horse is relaxed and forward from the leg aids before I start jump training.
When you first ask a horse to jump he only knows you are pointing him at a solid object with two ways around it and then asking him to take the hardest possible route.
Many people just casually pop them over logs and natural obstacles while trail 82 riding.
Preferably with another horse leading the way.
I often wonder if horses take to this so much easier because most of the time the riders are more relaxed too.
This is the best way I know to introduce the concept of jumping to the horse.
The formal introduction to jumping in the ring should be kept low key and relaxed.
Attempt this only when the horse is relaxed and free of anxiety.
It’s sure to over excite him if there’s a lot of activity going on.
One clue that the horse is not ready is if he becomes excited when you start to jump him.
If this happens you need to back track.
Also be careful that you aren’t making a “big deal” out of it.
If you are tense or excited, he will sense that and mirror it.
Calm, easy going introductions work best.
I use a standard jump with two rails and standards.
I do not use ground poles at this stage because I have found that many horses are intimidated by so much on the ground.
I always have a helper to build and break down the jump.
First we put one rail on the ground between two standards.
I walk the horse back and forth over it, on a straight line.
I use my legs to keep him on the line, never my reins.
When he is doing it willingly I then trot back and forth, still focusing on a straight line.
At this point I have the helper put one end of the pole in the jump cup that is set at one foot, making half a cross rail.
I trot back and forth being sure to keep my line straight.
When he’s comfortable with that, the helper puts the other rail up completing the cross rails.
A few more passes without hesitation and I end the session.
I like to keep the introduction to jumping short and low key.
I do not want the horse to think it’s a big deal.
If the horse becomes excited or frightened I back up to the step where he is comfortable and calm.
Once we start the jumping process, I usually do it twice per week.
I start out this same way for a minimum of two weeks.
I have found it goes easier if I start out by building up the jump rather than starting out with the cross rail.
I do gradually work the height up to about 2’ at center, but this is determined by the horse, not myself.
I stay at this height as we progress to multiple jumps and finally lines of jumps. Going to a new place Racehorses are usually good shippers, but some have only ridden in a van so be patient when you introduce them to a horse trailer for the first time.
When you first start taking your horse places remember the last time he traveled it was probably to a race.
It’s a great idea to “school” the horse before actually going to a show or activity.
Ship him to a show you are not entered in.
Go to a park where he can be ridden with his pony or calm companion.
This is a very relaxing and productive way to introduce him to this new purpose for traveling.
If you are entered in a clinic or other planned activity, arrive early and give the horse a chance to settle down.
Longeing may help if you’ve trained him to do it ahead of 83 time.
Racing around on the longe line without direction from you will probably ramp him up and excite him.
Always remember how taxing longeing is physically and mentally for the horse and don’t use it to tire him and then expect to ride in a clinic for two hours.
Some horse do well with a quiet hack around. Thank you for reading my manual.
I will add to this as I continue to learn from every horse I work with.
In addition, you will help me with your questions, concerns and experiences with your horses.
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