Put yourself in their shoes

One of the biggest mistakes that I see people make with ottb’s is asking for too much to soon and rushing their horses. I have gotten so many really nice comments lately (BTW I love reading all your comments and appreciate the support/feedback/suggestions) about the progression that I take to get the horses to where they are. I find that you can have success with even the toughest horse if you take your time.

I have been thinking about this a lot especially lately as I myself am starting a new gym routine. I am in shape in terms of being able to ride multiple horses a day, shovel a lot of poop, throw up hay and all that good stuff but I knew I needed a real program. I chose a program with coaches who very much believe in teaching the fundamentals. I have been learning how to properly squat, lunge, push up, sit up, pull up and so much more. He coaches me how to do all the lifting moves- power squats, push press and all these things I don’t even recall at the moment. Today, I did these jumps up and down onto a box, burpees  where you do a push up, stand up, jumping jack and then kick out back into the push up position (wow, hate them!) and this exercise where you squat down, throw a ball up on the wall and squat down while catching it.

He is showing me how to use my body and teaching me the fundamentals. I am sore but not so sore that I can’t move or am discouraged. I find the same thing is important when introducing the horses to the program. They do not have the muscles to support the work so my job is to teach them the fundamentals of what I want them to do but to keep it short and sweet.

That is where the lunging with side reins comes into play but I often start out with less than 10 min of lunging and I do that on one side at first. Keep it simple and then reward. Then you introduce lunging to the right which is always harder for the horses. My rides are the maximum of 20 min and often shorter the first few rides.

I got a bit of a laugh last night when I tacked up and rode two horses in the time that my boarder rode her one horse but I do believe in keeping it short and sweet. I have a plan on what the horse needs to work on and what I will teach them. If they come out and go right to work and everything feels great our session might be 10 min to start out. I slowly expand on the work being asked and the time that we ride.

I am also a believer in getting the horses out of the ring!!!!!!!! The benefits of riding out of the ring simply can not be replaced by anything else. I try to get mine out at least two days a week. When we start out we just do very short walk/trot up and back for about 20 min. Just letting them see the sights and take it all in. It’s a 5 min trailer ride home and then we do it again a few days later. Even those that start out a bit silly soon start to enjoy it. There is absolutely nothing better for gaining muscle and condition that trotting out on the trails. It also is a mental break from the hard work in the ring and then when you go back to the ring they are a refreshed.

I do ask the horses to work a little bit out on the trails but they don’t necessarily need to be working on the bit just not looking like giraffe’s. Some horses do need a bit of contact just to keep them focused but almost all of them start to relax once you get going. I don’t believe in letting them stargaze because you are trying to build muscle and I want them to remember that even when we are in new places they still have to be on the aids.

I also think the trails are the absolute best place to teach them to canter. We all just assume racehorses know how to canter but so many of them really have no clue. Some come with super canter’s like Diamond H but others act like they have never cantered in their life. I like to get up into the 2pt and start out at whatever pace works for them and then slowly I might settle into a 3pt position and ask them to collect it a little bit and then back to the 2pt in a more forward canter. You have to slowly build that hind end and teach them to use their hind end at the canter. It’s hard on them and they can get sore at first so I am careful not to drill it. I often don’t even canter much that first month of training and if I do canter it’s on the trails in straight lines. You have to make it fun for them and not too stressful.

I remember when Shoes first arrived and all he did was buck in the canter but he now has a lovely canter. The canter was always super balanced he just didn’t have the muscle to hold it. Canter/buck/canter can be the normal routine for some of them for the first few months. Just have faith that it all works itself out with time.

Speaking of Shine my Shoes,  he did give himself a pretty darn good hurtie when he whacked his splint bone. We have x-rayed and ultrasounded the suspensory. All looks good so now it’s just a matter of rest. He is on stall rest getting the whole bute, ice and now surpass wraps. He is a good patient and will be good to go with some rest. It looks like Jill has decided to take him so we are going to let him hang out for another month and then he will ship out to her. Due to his injuries, we are going to do a bit of a trial to make sure he is okay but we all think he will be just fine. She fell in love with him when she flew out to see him and I immediately knew he had found his person. Now if he would just stop hurting himself so he can actually get his forever home….damn horses 🙂 He has the absolute best personality and he makes me laugh every day. My stalls have doors that open up near the corner so they can stick their heads out. He likes to put his head out and then just stand there and shake his head up and down. He will pull anything that is in reach into his stall to play with. He loves people and is just a really fun horse. I hope that it all works out in the end. He can NOT stay with me forever 🙂

Kurt and I thought that perhaps we might be cursed? Seems like once we finally get a bit of break on stall rest horse then another one has to go on stall rest. Stall rest sucks for the horses and humans! I have been slowly rehabbing a client’s horse who tweaked a suspensory and he has been challenging. The world’s quietest Tb before the injury but he has forced me to try to figure out a good drug plan. We are now using sedivet which is a drug you use to tranquillize horses but like Ace you can ride on it in smaller doses. I had not been having much success with Ace but the Sedivet is amazing. You give just a tiny amount and the horse is awake so you can ride them forward but you don’t have any explosions. I can’t afford to get hurt so I am thrilled that a vet friend of mine suggested that I try this. Always learning something new!

Mort and Diamond are going to be hitting the trails today. When we get a bunch of rain and the ring is really wet we go on the sand trails.


5 responses to “Put yourself in their shoes

  1. Jess, your program is proof that “less is more” with these horses. To see how quickly they learn to stretch and develop a top line is great. A little bit of correct work does so much more than lots of bad work.
    Maybe I should send some more bubble wrap for Shoes!

  2. This post was really reassuring to me, as I have a 4 yr. that I just adopted, and he is such a monster! He’s been “on vacation” for a year now, and we’ve been doing groundwork for a few weeks, but I haven’t been on him yet. He had almost no manners when I first got him, and he’s much improved on that. I am self-employed, so I can’t afford to get hurt, and I have a few reservations about actually riding him. He is very sweet, and a regular routine has helped his attitude tremendously. He is quite a mover, and I’m really looking forward to starting him. Your advice about keeping it short and sweet for the first rides is great, and also about not rushing it. I am not a patient person by nature, I always want it now! 🙂 But I have resolved to really take it slow with him, and we will progress as we progress. Thanks for the reality check, Jess!

  3. I hate burpees, but I love reading about your retraining adventures! All in all, these OTTB’s seem to turn out to be great horses. Also, congratulations on your promotion, well deserved I am sure (commenting on your next post with this comment)!

  4. I love the less is more, tonight with Gale I rode about 20 -25 min and Dan was done, both mentally and physically, He tries so hard and is always thinking, would rather have 20 min of good work then and 1hr that has 40 min of frustating work 🙂 Can hardly wait for you to see him!

  5. I asked my mom to PLEASE keep nagging me if I start to spend too much time working with a young horse when I have one. I bought my older (8 year old) horse so I could ride every day and incorporate building both of our fitness into our program, as a rerider who had been back in the saddle about 6 months at that point. I liked the idea of being able to ride daily (he gets one day a week off, much to his chagrin, as he’d rather work every day!), and want to get a young horse while he’s going well and strong, because I want to be able to ride often while still taking it easy physically and mentally on a baby. A horse who hadn’t been in anything but race training counts as a baby to me regardless of age, too. 🙂

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