It’s going to be that time soon when Zeb hits the road in search of future show horses. Keep a look out for future announcements.
I guess it’s safe to say that you’ve been with horses for most of your life. When did you first start riding? The first time I sat and rode a horse was when my sister thought it was a good idea to put me up on her Quarter Horse when I was 2 years old. We rode double and she had me up front in the saddle and I held onto the horn. We loped around in a big pasture and while my mother hung out of an upstairs’ window at the main house. She was screaming and waving her arms around trying to get my sister to stop. We didn’t, naturally.
You’re at the track a lot. Is this how you find your horses for Eventing? Sometimes I can spot a horse I like while I’m breaking it for the track. If it is intelligent and sensible prior to being sent off to race, then I always ask to have first offer if it goes up for sale. While I’m at the racetrack, I’m always looking for horses who are physically sound, but just too slow to be a racehorse in the Winner’s Circle. Getting horses that I already have a history with, gives me a head start in their training and first hand knowledge of their soundness both physically and mentally. My horses are way ahead of the competition.
What makes a Thoroughbred a good Eventer? Before the traditional 3-Day format was terminated, I would have told you that the Thoroughbred was the perfect horse to have because of their endurance. They’re built for speed and distance and they were awesome competition during the Roads and Tracks, Steeplechase and Cross Country phases. There is always something left in the tank to do the Show Jumping on the last day, and you’d always see many Thoroughbreds in the top placings. Since the change in the format, there is a lot of pressure to get solid scores in the Dressage and I see a lot more warmblood types than I do Thoroughbreds with scores in the 20’s. Thoroughbred lovers are working harder to get those competitive Dressage scores and the Thoroughbreds are becoming more talented on the flat. No matter what, you’re always going to see the scores with a few Thoroughbreds in the top ten final scores. That’s because they’re brave and have heart jumping, and are always going to run faster and make time than a heavy warmblood type.
When you have an ex-racehorse in training for Eventing, how long does it take before you are able to compete in trials? It depends upon the horse, the time devoted into training and a well laid out schedule designed per horse. Typically I have the horses in training immediately when off the track. I never give them time off because they don’t need it. They stay busy traveling to schooling locations, schooling shows, lessons, clinics, and eventually a Horse Trial. If things are going well, they can be in a trial within 6-8 months from leaving the track. As it turns out, it’s not the actual competition phase that causes problem for young Thoroughbreds, but rather it is that warm up areas prior to being judged. Unfortunately those warm-up areas can be very congested, many riders are inexperienced themselves and don’t know show ring etiquette. But with time and the chance for a youngster to experience different settings, they will adjust and become familiar with their surroundings.
Do you have anything specific or special that you do with your training of your Thoroughbreds? I don’t think I do anything ‘special’. I don’t handle them with kid gloves, but rather do as much stuff with them to have them adjusted to different circumstances. They’re already way ahead of the game compared to other horses just because of their experience at the tracks. I get a really good idea of the type of horse they are when I work with them over simple things such as mud puddles, dips and ditches in the terrain and of course the blue tarp. I also ride many hours off the farm on trails and hacking different terrains. It keeps things fun and interesting and its a great way of conditioning muscle and learning to balance themselves.
Do you have any advice to a person looking to buy a Thoroughbred? I think the easiest thing I could say is to be realistic about their level of riding and not let their ego get in the way. If you’re a green rider, you’ll want a horse with mileage. If you’re a seasoned rider, then there will be more options to choose from. It can be very frustrating when I’m approached by someone who thinks they’re an educated rider. The minute I have to tell someone to “put their heels down”, then I know they’re not the right match. There’s no hiding it – horses will make the truth come out. Young Thoroughbreds aren’t any different than any other breed of youngsters who can show their green sides. That’s where an experienced trainer comes into play and can develop and create a show horse.