Do you have an OTTB or ex-racehorse that has just made the transition from the racetrack? Or maybe your thoroughbred has been with you for a while, but you’re just struggling to make progress and move forwards in your training together…
Ex-racehorses or thoroughbreds are wonderful horses. They are so versatile, intelligent and sensitive. They can literally turn their hooves to almost anything equestrian related.
However, often those same qualities that make them such great horses to work with can, sometimes, work against them. Riders find themselves becoming ‘stuck’ in the training.
I’m on a bit of a mission to help riders of OTTBs change all of this. Get out of the weeds and back on track. Begin enjoying their horse again…
The Adjustment Period
Many riders assume that this must mean standing in a field for months on end. There is this feeling that he must ‘learn to be a horse again’. While this can benefit some horses, I have found that not all horses ‘need’ a complete ‘time-out’.
The adjustment I am talking about is due to your horse doing certain things a certain way for a long time up to this point. Now you are asking him to do things differently. It will take time for him to adjust.
Your expectations of your horse now are different to what others have had of him in the past. He needs to learn how to respond to these new expectations.
A New Language
Your job is to explain to your horse that; “Things are different. There will be a learning curve. I will explain to you how I want you to show up with me. I will do this by being consistent in how I show up with you…”
How your horse has been ridden up to this point is very different to how you will ride him. He must learn a new language.
Your aids are different. How you expect him to respond to each aid is different. Even how he must behave on the ground is different. His behaviour in ‘social situations’ is different.
Even the language on the ground is different. A great example of this is mounting up. Have you ever been to watch racehorses work on a regular Tuesday morning? It is all business at the yard and schooling track. There is no dilly dallying going on.
There is also no waiting patiently by the mounting block while their rider fuffs and faffs with stirrups and reins…
Fitness Versus Development & Strength
When your horse comes off the track, he will probably have a certain level of fitness already built up. However, how he has physically developed, due to how he was trained, is not really ideal for what you want in a ‘riding horse’.
I’m going to make a big assumption that you did not get your ex-racehorse to race on? Therefore, his body needs to learn how to become strong doing ‘other’ things…
How your horse develops in order to be successful at dressage or jumping or trail riding is different from how he previously was. Meaning that he won’t be ‘great’ at these new things straight out of the box.
Expecting ‘engagement’ and ‘self carriage’ straight from the track is a recipe for disaster… From an emotional, mental and physical point of view.
Get Clear on What You Want to Communicate
In order to successfully ‘re-develop’ your horse, you need to have a clear intention regarding what you are trying to achieve. In my experience, one of the biggest mistakes riders make with their ex-racehorse is trying to do too much, too soon. The ‘throw everything against the wall and see what sticks’ approach. It is a cluttered approach.
The issue shows up in the gaps in the horses training. The bits that didn’t stick! And, unfortunately, these often only really become evident further down the road when bigger questions are asked of the horse.
In order to successfully re-train or re-school your ex-racehorse, you need a clear idea of where you are. And where you want to go. You need clearly defined ‘steps’ that will take you to the end goal.
Becoming intentional about your long term goals will allow you to also become clearer about what is needed right now. It helps you plan out your rides, week by week.
Working with Your Horses Intelligence
You may find that because your horse is so intelligent, he can become bored quite easily. If you continue to hammer on and on about something, his attention will probably begin to drift. Which is when things begin going wrong.
This is especially true when you are continuously trying to achieve something that requires one of the ‘missing pieces’. Your horse simply can’t do or can’t understand what is required.
Having a clear intention for each ride is essential. And that intention must be part of a clear step by step program that you are going to use to get your results.
Stick with Your Plan
Suppleness is key to riding. In this regard, you need to be supple in your approach. Horses have a great way of making a mockery of our lovingly created plans for them and their training!
You job is make the necessary adjustments and shifts, that keep you both working forward and back on plan.
All horses are different. You can have two horses with the same breeding, coming from the same yard. And yet they will be completely different horses. Different personalities, temperament, likes and dislikes.
Begin able to take a basic plan and then make those subtle changes to suit each individual horse is essential to moving things forward. This means that both horse and rider are happy and seeing the results they want from their rides.
Before You Begin…
Before you begin any plan with your horse, I strongly suggest having a few things seen to first. Horse housekeeping! This will help you to also avoid a lot of roadblocks along the way.
I have created a free checklist & healthcare journal for you to use with your ex-racehorse. You can download it, for free, HERE .
If you can remain focused on a goal and create a plan to get you there, retraining your ex-racehorse becomes really enjoyable. It is a learning journey and you the rider will get just as much out of it as your horse will.
Some other helpful resources for you on this topic:-
- FREE OTTB Checklist & Healthcare Journal
- Starting Off on the Right Hoof with Your OTTB
- Setting Up Your OTTB for Success Off the Track
- Socialising Your Horse to Riding in a Group
- Working on Relaxation with Your OTTB – www.LornaLeeson.com
- Making Progress with Your OTTB – www.LornaLeeson.com
- Join the free Facebook group HERE
- The Daily Strides Podcast on iTunes
- Daily Strides Podcast on Google Play
- The Daily Strides Podcast on Stitcher Radio
- Join Daily Strides Premium