Are You Veruca Salt?

Today’s society where everything and anything is designed for immediate satisfaction, with little to none sweat equity, ask yourself if you have what it takes to develop a young prospect. I’m inclined to believe sweat equity is of bygone days. I’ve noticed in particular over the past 10 years of self-proclaimed experts and Generation X’ers who buy an inexpensive Thoroughbred and then rush through it’s training and completely ruin their chance of becoming a decent riding horse. Then there are those who lack drive, ambition and just plain ol’ horsemanship skills to train a green horse because of their overwhelming need to avoid any physical labor what-so-ever.

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In the real world its impossible to set a deadline to a horse’s training. How high it should jump, when it can do correct lengthenings or balanced flying changes depends entirely upon each individual horse and rider’s horsemanship. I always start with small goals over a reasonable period of time, and gradually increase the challenges when the horse accomplishes the lessons. I don’t skip steps and over challenge my horses in the early stages of training.

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For example, mounting off a block while the horse stands immobile, or learning to rein back, walking quietly on the buckle are important lessons I always start with first. They’re small goals that are ingredients for the BIG picture of each horse’s successful future.

Training involves developing the horse’s confidence and relaxed mental state. Some horses are naturally relaxed while others will have a more energetic personality. Some horses are described as ‘kick-rides’ , while others are ‘forward rides’. One horse isn’t  better than the other, and there are personal preferences for every rider looking for their next partner.

Developing and reconditioning an ex-racehorse doesn’t happen over night. Take into account that on average by 1.5 years of age, a Thoroughbred is being broke and goes into race training every day and on the same schedule over and over. They’re sponges and learn through repetition and routine. It comes to no surprise that they learn what to expect when the saddle is on and the girth tightened. . . . it means its time to go to the track and R-U-N.

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Once home, the prospect stays active with a lesson of some sort each day. If I tack up, sometimes that’s all I do. I’ll put the saddle on and walk out to the arena and set fences while holding the lead. After fences are set, I may hand graze for a few minutes and then casually go back to the stall and untack. What this does is teach the horse to relax and to do nothing. I’m reconditioning them mentally, and it works.

Track horses have an incredible amount of experience that includes loading and traveling to different tracks, racing in daylight or racing at night, loud crowds, mechanical equipment such as hot walkers/ starting gates/ tractors/ golf carts and more. I take that foundation they’ve experienced from the track and build upon those lessons. I never attempt to erase their track experience, but rather build upon them and it makes what I do easier.

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Beecher’s Brook schooling the ditch at home

Sweat equity isn’t for everyone and purchasing a made show horse has it’s advantages. But if you aspire to be a good horseman and devote yourself into training a prospect, it takes a year of steady consistent work when an ex-racehorse begins to understand and show improvement in it’s lessons. They also begin to understand not to associate sounds, loud PA speakers, cantering horses in the warm up, billowing flags on flag poles and electric vibes from other horses with something to react towards.

It comes to no surprise to witness so many Veruca Salts walking around in designer breeches. Personally I prefer anyone who resembles Charlie Bucket, who worked hard on his paper route to support his family.

GO Thoroughbred . . . GO the Charlie Buckets of the world!

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