25 The yoke or neckstrap, as it’s called in other disciplines, is a strap that goes around the neck in front of the saddle with another strap between the legs attaching to the girth. In racing, the yoke is sometimes used to clip rings to.
Rings are similar to a running martingale.
They have a rectangular piece of leather or nylon with a clip to attach it to the yoke.
There are two rings on the other two corners for the reins go through.
The main reason for a yoke is for safety.
The yoke is the exercise rider’s best friend.
Most riders at the track will have a finger or two in it at all times.
This habit prevents harsh hand movements which happen when the horse makes a sudden move and the rider is caught unprepared.
This habit will save the rider’s life on a horse that rears as it keeps the rider from pulling back on the horse’s mouth, sometimes resulting in pulling the horse over in the process. 26 How they are ridden at the track Race riding is basically based on Classical Horsemanship, mostly because this is the most efficient way to communicate with a horse.
There is nothing more natural to a Thoroughbred than to run.
More than that, Classical horsemanship is based on the cause and effect of the aids.
For instance, any horse will pick up his lead if you place more weight in the inside stirrup and use your leg when the inside hind leg is coming forward.
You don’t teach them that, they come that way.
Unlike most riding disciplines, the racehorse’s job is not to carry the rider.
It’s the job of the rider to signal the horse and then stay out of his way so he can do his job.
Carrying the rider is a foreign concept.
The trainer who bullies the horse into submission sacrifices the spirit of the horse in the process.
By fostering this spirit, the horse can produce his true potential.
There are many different riding styles at the track.
The goal is to accomplish the trainer’s instructions, not to look a certain way.
Every horse has a different way of going.
As in any riding discipline, there are good and bad riders.
Balance is the foundation to correct exercise riding.
Transference of the rider’s body weight is the main means of communication.
Pulling on the reins is an accelerator.
Tough horses pull harder when the rider pulls harder.
Racehorses are on the forehand because they are faster when they move that way, not because the riders do not know how to get a horse to use his rear end.
Forward, as in forward going, is very important to the exercise rider.
The lack of forwardness in any gait is a signal that something unpleasant is about to happen. ◊ CENTERED RIDING – One of the fundamentals to good exercise riding is being in the center of the motion of the horse.
The rider’s weight is in the center of the horse’s motion.
The rider’s weight is over his feet.
I explain it this way when teaching someone to gallop: Imagine your body weighs 100 pounds. 80 pounds of that weight is in your butt.
Staying in the center is how exercise riders and jockeys stay on.
There is no amount of brute strength that will keep you on a horse. ◊ RIDING AHEAD OF CENTER – Being in front of the motion of a racehorse is not a good place to be.
If the horse stumbles or takes a bad step, the rider risks a dirt bath.
There is one time when a rider might be a little ahead of the motion, and that is coming out of the starting gate.
It does have its cost at times.
In an attempt to free up the horse to get out of the gate, the rider is forward over the horse’s shoulders, ahead of the motion to facilitate a quick departure.
During that moment if the ground breaks away or the horse stumbles the jockey pays the price, many times, by coming off. 27 Many really tough horses can be “held” to a slow gallop by keeping the rider’s hands down and shifting the weight behind the vertical for the entire ride.
The rider must remain completely still during this time, demanding great body – core and leg strength.
In the picture left, the rider in front is holding her horse and the other rider is allowing her horse to run.
Perhaps the trainer instructed them to stay together and the horse behind is not keeping up, so the horse on the lead must be held. ◊ STAYING OUT OF THE WAY Doing the least to impede the horse’s motion is a major goal of the exercise rider.
By doing so the horse is able to jog and gallop with ease.
Unlike most riding disciplines, the racehorse’s job is not to carry the rider.
It’s the job of the rider to signal the horse and then stay out of his way so he can do his job.
Carrying the rider is a foreign concept.
The trainer who bullies the horse into submission sacrifices the spirit of the horse in the process.
By fostering this spirit, the horse can produce his true potential.
Racehorses are allowed to “take hold” of the bit.
The horse takes a hold of the rider, not the rider taking a hold of the horse.
The object is to interfere with the horse as little as possible.
The rider places his hands down on the horse’s neck by the withers, relaxes his joints so they work like shock absorbers, creating the space for the horse to 28 to find his balance.
In a normal gallop, the horse is prepared a ¼ mile or more before he is to pull up.
When watching a race, notice the horses pull up and head home at minimum a half mile after passing the finish line. ◊ GALLOPING SPEEDS – There are different gears within the gallop gait employed during training.
The main difference between galloping and running is determined by the length and amount of strides the horse takes.
To increase the speed in the gallop means the horse must extend his stride.
Running has the horse taking more steps to increase the speed.
These extra steps during running tires the horse quickly.
The term Hobby horse is the slowest version of the gallop.
It is just as it sounds, almost a rocking slow motion canter; a regular trot is much faster.
This speed is usually comfortable for the fit racehorse, but hard on the rider because most horses really pull when held this slow.
The medium or regular gallop is the normal galloping speed of most horses.
A strong gallop is the normal galloping speed of a few horses.
Many trainers have days when they want a strong gallop, this is a forward, comfortable gait and the rider usually doesn’t have to work very hard to maintain this speed, except on the horses that like to pull or of course, lazy horses.
The next speed is the two minute lick, which means one mile is galloped in two minutes.
It is the “gear” just below a breeze.
This speed and breezing are used to put air into the horse, not necessarily to build muscle.
They are scheduled carefully in relation to race days once the horse is racing fit.
These usually cause the horse to “sharpen” or to “get on his toes”.
Breezing is the fastest galloping speed, most often it’s a bit slower than racing speed. “Trackers” really do not consider it a gallop at all.
It is the point where the rider ceases to feel the hoof beats any longer.
The sensation is smoothness.
I liken it to the space movies where the spaceship enters warp speed.
The sensation is smooth and effortless on a good horse.
You usually do not hear anything but the horse’s breath and your own.
It is a timed workout; used to prep horses for races or for getting them fit.
A breeze can be easy or strong.
To get a young horse fit, he can be breezed at 5 to 7 day intervals.
To prepare a horse for a race he is typically breezed 2 to 3 days prior to a race.
Each trainer has his own training style and each horse is an individual. 29 ◊ CENTER OF GRAVITY AT 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 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 but 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 into 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 helps most horses to relax.
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 at the same time. ◊ 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.
They step into the stirrup of the lead they want.
If you think about it, it’s the only way jockeys could ask for a lead anyway since they ride so short.
In addition the horse changes leads as a reaction to this aid which is a more efficient way to ask for the change.
The changes must be smooth and 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 many times doesn’t have to ask the horse to change at all once it becomes a habit.
You really do not need to teach the ottb to change leads since he regularly does it at the track.
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.
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—which you should do anyway. 30 ◊ 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 which causes 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 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. 31 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 major difference is at the track the horse 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 learning to gallop 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. 32 — 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 positionwhere 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, that you will be his leader. 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. 72 About Longeing Why longe a horse? There are some very good reasons do it 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 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 reinforce 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 later in this discussion.
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. 73 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 with 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, 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. 74 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. 75 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 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 quality of 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 76 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.
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 a horse at no more than 5 minutes on each side, less is better.
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.
If the horse has a tendency to jack knife, I will put a very loose side rein on the outside only.
This will help prevent this.
Under normal circumstances, when the horse is comfortable longeing both ways, I put on both 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. — Some general advice about riding your retired racehorse Bear in mind that much of what your ex-racer knows will be useful and good for his new life with you, he knows a lot of good things.
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 on each side before riding him.
It warms up the new muscles being developed before the rider gets on.
I believe in each and 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. 78 Thoroughbreds are more sensitive than many other breeds.
This means that subtle aids are usually what work best.
If you are used to riding Quarter Horses or Warmbloods, you need to “turn the volume down” on all of your communications with the average Thoroughbred.
If you are a tactful rider this is a blessing.
You have to make much less effort to elicit the response you want from the Thoroughbred.
If you are a sloppy rider, you won’t enjoy the Thoroughbred ride at all.
Most Thoroughbreds are very generous, waiting for your nest request.
Keep in mind that he probably 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 when he does the right thing.
Having been a professional exercise rider for years, I usually get on them the first or second day they are at Leighton Farm.
This helps me determine a game plan.
Please understand that I know how to ride racehorses 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 transition to riding horse.
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 a new approach.
Do not keep doing applying the same aid you already know doesn’t work.
If you’ve tried it three times without success, why would it work the fourth time? 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 uneven ground.
Understand that the track is harrowed each morning during at least once during training hours, this is called a harrow break.
It’s harrowed and watered between every race.
A recently retired racehorse may also tire easily when going up hills, so do not do too much hill work too soon or he will become sore and sour.
Racehorses have a difficult time establishing rhythm in their gaits 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.
In general, 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.
I will inject that one exception is when I ask for the canter, I start with the lead he likes the least—usually the right.
My reason for this is that I have learned that they usually offer the left lead readily and if I do it first, they resist picking up the right lead. 79 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.
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.
Practice makes perfect – well it makes it easier anyway. Power Walking One of the methods I use to lay down a solid training foundation is power walking.
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.
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 your back must be very relaxed allowing his back to relax.
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.
If your back is immobile, it will prevent him from extending his 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 and go easy too many times.
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 80 time I am developing the back and rear end muscles that are necessary to carry me in the trot and canter.
It’s not unusual for me to spend a month power walking alternating in the arena and cross country.
If I have to 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.
Power walking may seem boring and unglamorous, but that is what many good training methods are.
They lack excitement, but build confidence and good results that build a solid foundation for all future work. Turning In general, racehorses steer, but we rarely turn them.
When working on turning, focus on keeping their body straight from poll to tail.
Confined turning in arenas and small areas is new and very hard for the racehorse.
He will tend to over flex, over bend and jack knife.
Try turning with more weight in the inside stirrup and seat bone, the outside rein engaged and opening 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 direction you want.
He’ll follow his shoulder, not his head.
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 jack knifed 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 aid.
Use your leg pressure 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.
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 an accelerator in racing.
When you pull 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.
Generally, in show and pleasure, we use the reins to ask the horse to do 81 something and then we soften when he does it.
That is his “reward” for doing as asked.
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 that means security to him.
This is not a death grip, in most cases, it is solid, but supple.
To stop the horse, sit up, close your legs and hands, riding his hind end to the front. Canter Work Racehorses gallop, they usually don’t canter.
Many people think they are the same gaits but they are not.
The gallop is momentum based and on the forehand.
The canter is generated from the hind end and based on self carriage.
Racehorses expect to gallop when they see a racetrack, not a riding arena.
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.
The first thing you need to know is at the track we normally do not ask the horse to pick up a lead.
This is a foreign concept to him.
We do ask them to change leads, but not to pick up a particular lead.
We usually go out to the track and start jogging and at a certain point the horse and rider relax together into the gallop.
When we come to a place he is supposed to change, we ask at that time by stepping into the stirrup of the lead we want.
When you first start asking the horse to canter, to the horse you are doing exactly that—asking for the canter, not a particular lead.
He is going to pick up whichever lead he picked up when he started cantering/galloping at the track.
It will take him some time to realize you not only want him to canter, but you want him to pick up a particular lead.
I start with whatever lead they are resistant to picking up, usually the right.
I always start on a circle, in this case to the right.
I post the trot and put my weight into the right stirrup without leaning.
I basically step into it, but not abruptly.
Once my weight is where I want it, I sit the trot and allow my right seat bone to move forward – my right hip leading.
With my weight in the right stirrup, the right seat bone is already heavier than the left.
When done correctly, your right leg will be ahead of your left or in other words, you outside leg will be back.
Be careful not to put your outside leg too far back because this will cause you to put your weight in your outside stirrup.
Opening your outside hip moves your leg back causing your weight to go into the inside stirrup.
Most of the time this causes the horse to pick up the correct lead.
If he does not, I quietly ask for the trot, and continue to circle until he regains his balance and composure and I ask again. — About Training In The Arena Retired racehorses are not fit for doing flatwork in an arena.
I have a 70×200 sand arena on my farm for training.
I like to point that the length, 200’ is not as wide as most racetracks.
Imagine how small that seem to the horse.
It’s tiny, consequently he/she may feel very confined.
Even if that is not the case, the ex-racehorse does not have the physical development to do a lot of work in an arena.
If you’ve done 30 days of cross country, he will likely have the development for 30 minutes at the start if you intersperse walk work.
The walk work I do accomplishes a lot.
The horse must be kept in a ground covering, forward walk.
Lots of circles, while keeping the same rhythm as on the straight lines will develop the turning skills of the horse.
Doing it at the walk allows the horse to develop in a less challenging way than at the trot.
If a forward walk is maintained, you will find the horse develops quite a bit of fitness too.
If you put your lower leg further back on the horse’s barrel, you will get a better walk.
Legs further back = communicating with the hind end.
This is cause and effect, not a “trick”.
Kicking and pounding on the horse is likely to make the horse uptight and therefore shorten and quicken his strides which is not what we want. 88 Suppling Exercises There are many suppling exercises which can be done to help “unlock” your retired racehorse or any horse for that matter.
Circles themselves are suppling exercises.
Racehorses never bend their bodies.
They are laterally straight because that is the most efficient way to gallop.
Since they are broken and conditioned to gallop and race, they are never suppled either laterally or longitudinally.
Dressage riders will understand this, but all disciplines other than racing require some degree of both types of suppleness.
Lateral is side to side and longitudinal is front to rear, meaning his head has come down because his back is up because he is stepping under behind.
Racehorse are on their forehand and their head is down because they are travelling down hill.
Lateral suppling is something I do as soon as the horse is comfortable with his new situation.
I may do the basic suppling exercise before I even begin work in the arena.
It’s not uncommon for me to do it the first day, but I decide this by his level of comfort with me.
Most ex-racers are “locked” at the pole.
Asking them to move their head from side to side is very difficult.
Unlocking them is key to communication with the rider and self carriage.
It makes a better connection with the bit immediately.
You may find it necessary to do this exercise more than once in your first sessions.
With my dressage and jumpers, I do it each day at the beginning of our sessions even though I’ve had them for years.
Neck suppling exercises are not designed to make the horse more comfortable, although that aspect will be felt by the horse down the line, but as a tool to break down the horse’s defensiveness.
This will in turn, enable the rider to gain control of the horse without having to hold him with the reins.
It’s one of the steps that I use to “force” the horse to relax, that is, to become responsive to rider in a positive way.
When the horse’s back is retracted, my experience is that his brain is tense.
He tends to be very reactive to his environment because his posture is that of “flight.” The horse, after all is primarily a physical animal and needs to be dealt with as such. (And even people, the “reasoning” animal can rarely be talked out of tension without some strategically physical activity.) When the horse’s muscles are tight, he is in a defensive mode and is alert to any “danger,” imagined or otherwise.
It therefore becomes paramount to breakdown this defensiveness.
By suppling the neck, the rider is working toward getting the horse to drop his neck, to “let go,” both physically and mentally. ( A horse cannot drop his head without giving himself to some extent to the rider unless some external device is being used.) When the horse drops his head, he has to stretch his back to some extent, and once the back begins to stretch, the horse will begin to relax and direct his attention to the rider. 89 When suppling the neck, the rider is taking away the horse’s ability to block the effect of the rider’s legs so the rider then is able to get the horse to step more under and is able to bring the back more and more up.
To keep the head down, the rider needs to take care not to pull on the reins as pulling on the reins triggers defensiveness in the horse and will cause him to pull back.
Once the horse’s head is down, the rider should only “catch” the head when it tries to swing up to keep it from escaping the bit.
It is important to ride young horses or horses just beginning the training on a loose rein.
Usually it is best to keep your arms long but the reins short so you have the effect of a loose rein while maintaining the ability to react quickly to something untoward.
If I am riding a horse that just won’t let go of the bit as I try to supple him, I will take his head back and forth very quickly to try to break down his resistance.
Or, I will put my hand under my knee (to block any rearing) and hold it there until the horse quits fighting and will stand quietly without pulling on the bit.
I use this same technique to walk forward if I cannot get the horse to step forward without using his head and neck.
Quick changes of direction especially when coupled with transitions into and out of the gait are time honored ways of getting the horse supple.
I just have found that I can get there more quickly when I incorporate the neck suppling–even if I only do the initial neck suppling to try to soften the horse’s neck muscles before getting to the other suppling exercises.
Until the rider can access the horse’s haunches, he is limited the extent to which he can control the horse: he must have access to the haunches up to bring the back up and until the back is up the horse will not be entirely receptive to the rider. 90 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 the committed racehorse types.
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 obvious ways around it.
You are asking him to take the hardest possible route.
Many people just casually pop them over logs and natural obstacles while trail riding.
It’s good to have another more experienced horse leading the way.
This is a relaxing way 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 91 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 lots of 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, keeping him straight.
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 in.
Longeing may help if you’ve trained him to do it ahead of time.
If the doesn’t know how to longe, 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 the place.
There is no clear conclusion to this book because I intend to keep adding to it! 92 Thank you for reading my manual.
I hope it helps you understand these wonderful horses better.
I will add to it 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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