Monday, June 23, 2008

Transitioning the OTTB-Day 3

I find that every horse has a preferred training schedule. Some school better in the morning, others in the afternoon or evening. 
I have never been a proponent of the often standard five or six day a week arena schooling sessions when at home that many commercial stables endorse. The only times our horses are ridden for five consecutive days would be when they are ready to start showing at rated competitions.  They make the transition easily.
Meanwhile, at home, some horses may be ridden two days on, then have a day off, and the work the next two days. 
Other horses have made the quickest progress with  only three rides per week and a hack down the road. 
It is up to the trainer to quickly determine what schedule keeps each horse happy, thereby maximizing the horses' willingness to learn, retain, and apply new skills consistently. 
So, presuming the horse has had a day off after day 2, day 3 will begin with the same lessons as in day 2. If all goes as well, or better, than day 2, I'll introduce two variants:
First, changing directions across the diagonal, with, depending on the horses'  best inclination, either a downward transition from the trot to the walk at the center, or a downward transition from the walk to the halt. 
Secondly, if I'm getting a  nicely balanced trot through the 20 meter circle, I'll utilize the point at which I touch back to the rail to ask for the upward transition to the canter, and circle once or twice at the canter before continuing the downward transitions through to the trot, walk and halt.
Throughout every ride I am asking the OTTB to do somethings that they are often unfamiliar with: To keep thinking and listening  every stride while being willing to 
improve their suppleness and quality of movement throughout. 
Some OTTBs' have left the track as quite ratable rides, others not so much. 
Prior to introducing a hack down the road, it's essential to have a horse that is listening to the rider in the arena. 



Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Race horse retraining programs in the UK

In fall of 2007 I vacationed for two weeks in both France and England, my first trip back there in almost ten years. I've traveled to Europe many times before (my father was  British, and a quintessential horseperson) and throughout the flight I always feel incredibly excited about returning to another part of what "home" means to me: Re-visiting the expansive and pervasive British horse culture ( I enjoy Chantilly in France and the Lippizans in Vienna too...But London has the Queens' Royal Mews !). The Changing of the Guard would be unimaginable without horses. Tourists are well-warned to stand back as "horses may kick or bite" :-) :-):-)!!! 
It was a bit hard to come back to the U.S. this time. Admittedly, I am becoming increasingly bi-continental and I suspect there is no cure. While the UK is geographically smallish, it's almost impossible to not find something equine related going on daily, weather notwithstanding. 
Many 501C-3 organizations throughout the U.S. are working individually and , sometimes, collectively to these ends as well. 
But, I do wonder what a more centralized system of Racing Authority support could mean for American Thoroughbreds.