Friday, August 11, 2017

The Hard Part

So I was asked this week “What is the hardest part of retraining a racehorse?”  I will put this question out to everyone who reads this, I will be very curious to see what answers come back.  There are so many things they need to learn, it was difficult for me to answer the question.  I came up with the following issue list:

  • Learning to give to bit pressure instead of leaning into it.
  • Understanding that leg cues are a thing.  Many ex-racers have never had a leg cue in their lives.
  • Learning relaxed transitions between gaits.  Plunging into a gallop is not what we want anymore.
  • Learning that the day's routine has changed from jog a little bit, then gallop, then done.

Once these things are learned, progress is very rapid into having a nice riding or show horse.  The snag comes in when you try to teach these things to a superbly fit, athletic horse.  Another part of the problem is that all of these things are pretty important so right away you have this long list of things you want to accomplish.

Good ground work can help with the bit pressure issue.  They can learn to give to the bit with ground work.  Also, the change in the day's routine can be taught from the ground.  The day will consist of lunging and other ground work from the get go.  Relaxed transitions can be learned while lunging as well.

Once the horse has learned these things on the ground, then it is time to see how much of that may carry over to work in the saddle.  Getting on can be another issue.  Some racehorses have never had a ground mount, they have always had a rider legged up into the saddle.  Often, when you bring a horse home from the track, you will have no idea if you will be able to do a ground mount or not.

Once in the saddle, determining how much of your ground work is still with the horse is the next order of business.  Some horses realize they are doing something new and go with the new skills they have learned.  Others are pretty sure that when you get on their back they are supposed to run.

Silk was pretty sure that with five years of life on the track behind him that riding means running.  He is just now getting the idea that we will do a lot of trot and walk work.  He is beginning to relax more during his rides and settle into a nice rhythm.  He has been sure to let me know that if I were to ask him to gallop, he would happily deliver on that request.  However, he is starting to be happy about doing the slower paced work I want to do.

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