One of the biggest challenges I run across in marketing the CANTER horses or any of my other Tb’s is that buyers tend to pass them over in fear that they are crazy or simply to difficult to retrain. If you are reading this blog you might not fall into that line of thinking but unfortunately many people do. I have grown up riding all sorts of horses since the age of 2yrs old. My family has been heavily involved in the TB racing industry so most of my experience is with the off the track horse but we have also had our fair share of warmbloods, quarterhorses and everything in between. There are hot/difficult horses across all the breeds so I never judge a horse by their breed. Tb’s will always be my favorite because of their athletic ability and desire to please. There is nothing like galloping cross country on a Tb that loves to run and jump. I can’t help but smiling just thinking of the upcoming event season and how much fun I will have with my greenies.
I personally see many advantages to retraining a horse that has come from the racetrack. They have seen all sorts of things at the track and been exposed to chaos. At the track, they have to go out alone and in groups, through traffic, in front of crows and much more. They typically have good manners from getting handled and groomed daily. They develop a good work ethic and a nice forward button. Maybe some people don’t like the forward button as much as I do but I would rather have a forward horse than one I am constantly urging to keep going. Even the young horses that fail as racehorses seem to have a very grown up attitude. You can have your downsides to racing such as wear and tear on the legs. In a way having a horse that has had some wear and tear gives me an idea of how they might hold up to a sport horse career. If they have come of the track sound without any blemishes then they typically do hold up.
I got thinking about the whole Tb’s are crazy the other day when I was out riding Dixie and Indy during the high winds and spitting rain. I am the type of rider that will ride in all weather. I simply love to ride and since we don’t have an indoor the horses get ridden in less than ideal conditions all the time. There are some horses I might think twice about taking out on a windy day where the skies are black and the whole woods are blowing. I am human and although I am brave I am not stupid
Dixie was alert but listening. We made it down the path of doom with minor backing up issues (the manure spreader had been moved so it wasn’t so scary anymore). He got a bit rattled when one of the crazy geese flew up over his head (seriously, the geese are on a mission to get me dumped off). I am not a huge believer in making a horse walk if you can feel they just want to go because it often leads to a bigger blow up. When I allowed him to just go ahead and trot he swung his head and neck around but I just laughed and on we went. Some horses will actually want to pop into the canter and I let them. I know there are some people out there thinking that this perhaps is the wrong way to go about it but when you feel like you are on a ticking time bomb it helps to let them get the energy out before asking them to focus on work. It has kept me from getting launched many times and I do think it requires a degree of braveness to let the horse that feels so spunky go ahead and take a couple of laps around the ring. Now if they are really rank with some bucks or rears then maybe a lunge line is best in those situations but typically I am able to get them around without to much airs about grounds. Dixie was on edge which I could not at all blame him for. I was on edge too and the whole sky looked creepy.
I do my best to keep their minds very busy with work when you know they are thinking of all the scary things around them. He wanted to look at all the jumps and do a bit of spooking. I don’t let horses look at what they are scared of because I believe they get more scared (not all instances do I not let them look but depends on the situation) and then act more silly. Instead we did a bit of over-bending to the inside when we would go past the scary stuff or little leg yields and then back to straight. I keep them so busy thinking with transitions and changes of direction they forget to be silly. This takes relaxation on my part because I have to give them the confidence with my riding to let them know everything is okay. Leg on with a soft hand asking them to stay forward and work into the contact. If they get real spooky I will either ignore it or give them a kick and tell them to knock it off (depends on the horse and always err on the side of caution first ) We had one of our best rides yet. He was light in front and really tracking up from behind. His canter felt more uphill and balanced. I am still only riding him for 15-20 min right now because he lacks muscle to do anymore. On the weekends, he will go out for some longer walk/trot trail rides to build up.
I also rode Indy (he doesn’t have a blog but I can mention him right?). He’s a very cute guy 15.2 h 5 yr tb that ran two races and then got to hang out and be a horse for a year. He’s been in training for a few months and from day one he’s been quiet, brave and fun to ride. He is a forward mover at the trot and Allie nicknamed him sirtrotalot. He can cruise around but we seem to have that under control now that he is listening to half halts and has more of a mouth installed. He went to his first hunter show with under a month of training and actually warmed up on the track and then went in the indoor like he had been doing it forever…darn these Tb’s are crazy! Indy is not as lazy as he used to be now that he is fit and has the muscle to carry himself but he wouldn’t do anything to scare you. His canter is actually very slow and once he finds his balance at the trot it will all come together. I am looking forward to taking him cross country because he has the right mind for it and loves to jump. Indy has quite the story and he was a horse that was almost put down. Now he is enjoying his second chance at life and there is nothing cuter that his face over the stall door in the morning. He loves to work and I hope to find him a home with somebody that enjoys him as much as I do.
Many people think that the CANTER owned horses have something wrong with them and that is why they were donated. I would urge everyone to learn more about these horses. So far I have been blessed to retrain and rehome several of the CANTER owned horses. Flint Hills, was the quietest horses I have sat on in a long time. He was so reliable that I convinced my mom she must buy him even though he cribbed. They have been clean at every event and she trail rides him out with her friends and has regained her confidence. I sold General Forrest to a lovely teenager who is now showing him in the hunters. General did not start out as confident as Flint. He was quite the opposite and was scared of everything yet so talented. I spent a lot of time building up his confidence with baby jumps until he realized he was a star. His teenager is so in love with him and we get updates frequently. Then I had Klondike (he has a blog) and he was also quiet and brave. I was so bummed that he had a minor strain with his tendon because I was having a blast with him. Finally, I had Yellow Tavern. If you doubted there were nice horses that came through CANTER he would sure change your mind. The horse was simply stunning and I am still depressed I broke my wrist and didn’t get to do much retraining with him. He went to a very special adult who will be eventing him. I suspect we will hear more about him in the near future. These are just the horses I have been blessed to work with but I have met others that are simply amazing.
Thinking back about some of these horses if I had seen simply a picture I might not have been at all interested. Heck, I don’t think Dixie looked to attractive in his picture on the CANTER site. Looking at that picture I would have never guessed he could be so nice. I remember Allie had emailed me a picture of Yellow Tavern and let me know he would be the next horse I was training. I was not really excited about him and thought he looked kinda ugly (well no horse is really ugly but he wasn’t my dream horse). Would you say pictures can be deceiving?