part 4 re training ex racehorses scott Brodie

 

This is the first step in teaching the horse to move into the outside reign and hence forward into contact. Stand at the horses shoulder facing his rear legs, holding your lead rope close to the halter. Slightly flex the horse to the inside, toward you, Tap the horse on the outside of the rear cannon bone closest to you. your goal is to have the horse step away from you with his hind quarters putting his inside hind leg forward and under his body. At this point you may find that the horse responds too dramatically this is not unusual, persist, don’t tap too hard, in some horses just a touch will be more than sufficient to achieve the result. Some horses will not respond at all and will need a more firm tap to get them to move that inside leg. It is imperative that the horse respond calmly and obediently to the touch of the whip, this will be important in later sections and is an integral part of the systematic training. Eventually a point of the whip will suffice but be certain that the horse responds well to the touch.

A solution to “Windsucking” ??? A miserable obsessive compulsive habit

image

Windsucking is a debilitating obsessive compulsive condition exhibited by horses of all breeds, it is particularly prevalent in horses who have spent extended periods locked in small stables or yards with no mental stimulation. The horse places his top front teeth on a hard surface and sucks air into his stomach in an obsessive manner similarly to obsessive habits in humans, chain smoking obsessive cleaning irrational phobias.

Over  the years I have seen many miserable examples of horses wind sucking, the anxiety it causes me personally never ceases to catch me by surprise, it really does make me feel physically ill.
It’s not the action of the horse wind sucking, it’s the thought that humans have put young horses in situations where they are so mentally stressed that they resort to this disturbing behaviour.
From my experience Young horses so mentally effected rarely recover to any great extent.
Owners try all sorts of draconian methods to stop the incessant unconscious habit of Sucking air into the horses stomach. A surgery has now been used with some success in stopping the action but the surgery and collars and electric surfaces don’t deal with issues which have caused the condition.
Often with riding I see people working feverishly on symptoms rather that eliminating the causes. People spend so much time for instance trying to stop a horse falling to the right whilst on a circle, the symptom is falling to the right, the problem is not going forward straight on the ridden line, fix the problem and there is no symptom.

Recently in our thoroughbred rehabilitation program at St heliers prison in the hunter valley, we had a young horse who was as bad a wind sucker as I have ever seen in my nearly 30 years as a professional horse person. He stood constantly sucking on poles in his 5 acre paddock stopping so rarely to eat that his feed was taken by his paddock mates and his condition dropped to a miserable level. Collars were tried to no avail and he was placed in a paddock by himself which seemed to stress him even more, he still did not eat well and did not graze, preferring to suck poles all day. He was starving to death. The vet and our staff were very concerned and at a loss as to how to solve the problem there was no way we could place this horse, there was no interest in taking on such a bad case of mental scaring.
Consideration was given to euthanising this horse who was basically dieing slowly and miserably.

On one of my visits to the prison to work with the inmates a young cowboy came to watch me work with the inmates and horses in the program. He was a tough looking guy as many of the inmates are, he had the look of a fella that was comfortable in the prison environment. He sat on the top rail of of the round yard as I worked the horses, he did ask if it was ok but no doubt it was a challenge to see if I could cope with the distraction to the horses,” no worries” I said.
He watched for an hour or so as I instructed one of the newer inmates as to how I wanted the horses worked and what his objectives were.
After I had concluded the cowboy came to me, “I like what your doing” he said “I learnt a bit there” not an easy admission for a guy who had found his place in the works as the “tough cowboy guy” who new his stuff.
“I’m working with a young horse, will you have a look at him ?” “Sure” I said “go and grab him”.
He came back with a chunky young bay thoroughbred saddled in a stock saddle. “He goes alright but he’s got a few issues, I’m helping the old bloke over there with him.” a thin face older inmate stood intently in his prison greens at the side of the round yard his eyes wide, he was struggling to listen to every word of the conversation. Let’s call him Con. “Old con wants to ride him” said the cowboy. “Good stuff, lets have a look at him”. “Can I have a feel of him before you start.” “Sure” said the cowboy.
I worked the horse in hand, he was a lump of a thing with a good temperament, fairly relaxed about what I was asking him to do considering he hadn’t done anything like that before, it’s interesting how real horse people know what they need achieve to get the best out of their horse it’s amazing how close different styles of riding, done well, really are .
After I worked the horse the cowboy jumped up on his back, he cantered the horse off rolled back on the fence, slid to a fairly, mouth opened halt, and reigned back. Not my idea of a warmup but it’s not my roll to lecture people on how to ride their horses. I gave hIm my thoughts on preparing the horse for Con. ” what’s the horses back ground ? ” I asked “this is the wind sucker they were going to put down”. I was in shock I had seen this horse standing in a yard for over two hours and hadn’t seen him wind suck once, I couldn’t believe it was the same horse, I was beaming ” how did you get him to this point ? ” the old blokes done all the work” replied the cowboy.

It turns out that on  the day a decision was to be made on the fate of the wind sucker Con put up his hand to take the horse on and give him one more try. Though all and sundry thought there was no hope for the improvement of this horse no body wanted to see a young otherwise healthy horse put down.
Con was an elderly man, an ex Vietnam vet. He was in jail for a particularly violent and harrowing crime of passion. Con had suffered terribly from post traumatic stress syndrome as a result of situations he had found himself in whilst in the armed services.
At the time of his conviction he had not been diagnosed with PTSD though he was being treated for depression.
Other inmates had spoken of how, even now he screamed at night in his sleep haunted by his past no doubt compounded by the remorse and memory of his crime.
With my recent involvement with ex service personnel retuning from conflict with PTSD and Equine assisted experiential therapy, I had run a number of week long courses and was daily involved with people in Cons situation. I understood where Con was, 50 years on still suffering and untreated.
Con though not a trainer but was part of the thoroughbred retraining program he had a love for horses and liked to be around them they helped him hold some of his demons at bay.
Con had had a fairly solid Involvement with horses as a younger man, he recognised the mental anguish of the young wind sucking horse and convinced the vet and staff to allow him to work with him.
Con had no strategy, he would spend time with the horse, hand feed it sit with it while he read the paper, talk to him, groom him, walk him like a dog, con lived with him as often as he could, he had no shortage of time or empathy.

I have never seen a horse truly stop wind sucking. But in the two hours I was with this horse he did not wind suck once that I observed. As I new him previously he wouldn’t have lasted two minutes without attaching himself to a pole. The horse had gone from a bag of bones with serious mental issues to a solid healthy relaxed useful animal and Con had gone a long way to dealing with some of his painful baggage , he had a purpose and a mate.
The old man had produced an amazing result, his goal on release from gaol is the ride this horse from Sydney to Melbourne to raise funds for thoroughbred rehabilitation and ex serviceman suffering from PTSD. I personally will support him, he is currently considering an appeal to reduce his sentence and charge on the grounds of PTSD.

Wind sucking is a miserable symbol of how we sometimes disregard the welfare of horses, I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to fix but now I can say I’ve seen it done.

End of an era

 

image image image image image imageWith a great deal of sadness I picked up the last two horses from our spelling facility at Glenourie this morning. The Pascoe family most notably Francesca have been awesome supporters of the TRT for three years or so now, giving us a home during the autumn carnival when we had to move out of our facility to make space for the quarantine centre, allowing us to short term spell our horses in work in a safe healthy environment. Francesca a very good horse women, has fed, watered, vetted and kept an eye on our precious charges as though they were her own. All at no cost to the TRT
The facility will be sorely missed as will Francesca and her family .
We shared some lovely cups of tea with her mum and on occasion too many glasses of wine with Fran and her brother Richard. Particularly when they tended to me after I had the end of my finger chopped off in a riding accident, they ferried me to and from the hospital and helped me through my pain with plenty of red.
Thanks so much to the Pascoe’s particularly Fran, one of the most active and involved volunteers of the TRT.

Scott Brodie Horses from courses clinic Canberra equestrian centre’

imageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Thanks to all of the participants at the clinic yesterday. It was great to meet all of you and I trust you went away with some new knowledge to assist in the retraining of your off the track horses ( and lovely little stock horse) . Don’t neglect the ground work I outlined at the outset of the clinic, it is the basis for everything. It was interesting how the horses that had been through the thoroughbred rehabilitation trust and had significant ground work generally came to hand, riding wise, easier than those that had not. This was really no surprise, the horses that had not come through the program still showed great promise and have very special owners who should be congratulated for their efforts. All in all a good day with good people.

Don’t miss “horses from courses” Scott Brodie clinic Canberra equestrian centre 15 Nov 2015

Horses from courses
With Scott Brodie manager NSW thoroughbred rehab trust. Author of “Horses from Courses”.Re training ex racehorses Canberra Equestrian Centre 15th November 2015

image

imageimageimageimage

Photos Eddie furlong

Scott Brodie author of” Horses from courses “is Manager of the Racing NSW Thoroughbred Retraining Program. A NSW Mounted Police horse trainer and classically trained rider, Scott has a has a generously empathetic philosophy to handling horses and a unique spin on the retraining of retired racehorses. Utilising a surprisingly smooth synergy of natural horsemanship and the practical application of classical dressage, Scott’s systematic approach to this often difficult and dangerous endeavour ensures the smoothest and fairest transition for the horse from racing machine to a pleasurable riding partner.
9am clinic and fence sitting for the day $25 per head pay on the day.
45 minute private training sessions $100 includes fence sitting and clinic, bookings essential.
Scott.brodie@optusnet.com.au

The grass is always greener.

image image

People often lament the oversupply of horses in the racing industry. In actual fact, over recent years the number of thoroughbred foals born has reduced steadily . Personally I would like to see trainers and owners put more time into developing horses rather than simply playing the numbers game.

I once had a conversation with The Great Olympic hall of fame equestrian Bill Roycroft, Bill described to me how he used to find the best horses for his competitive needs, they tried as many as they could get their hands on, mostly horses off the track, they tried them out, with minimal training, anything that showed real promise they went on with, hundreds of horses tried to find a few potential champions. European riders from the same era talk of how they took singular horses and trained them to become champions. We have always had a glut of horses.

There are race trainers who trial hundreds of yearlings a year to find a handful that they wish to go on with, most of the rest are sold to other trainers, the bush or Asia.
There is no doubt in my mind that many horses seen as unviable racing prospects could be turned around with a more technical and patient approach to the way they are trained. Unfortunately time/money are the limitations of most owners and trainers not to mention lack of knowledge and tunnel vision.

I have always admired trainers in any discipline that can take a horse and train it to be useful for a particular purpose. As a rugby coach I have seen many late maturing boys who always have to work harder on detail, rise to become very good players just as I have seen boys with loads of natural potential or early development fall by the wayside because they didn’t need to get such a thorough education in the basics as youngsters in order to keep up with the pack.

I would like to put forward a slightly different perspective. A major and often unrecognised concern in relation to the demise of the thoroughbred as a competition mount in many disciplines is the grass is always greener attitude of many horse people.

So many breeds of horses have been added to the Australian equestrian landscape in the last 20 or so years, much to the detriment of the readily available thoroughbred.
Multiple breeds of warm bloods, niche breeds of Spanish horses, more quarter horses and draft derivatives. The Australian stock horse has expanded and then shut its books on the thoroughbred blood on which it is founded. The new and increased numbers of foreign breeds have filled the roles that were once largely the domain of the thoroughbred horse most of which came from the racing industry.

The average weekend warrior out at open competitions, pony club, adult riding club etc could well do the job they want on a thoroughbred if they rode well enough and had the ambition to make riders of themselves rather than take the perceived easier option of purchasing their riding prowess or reputation/ego with a theoretically purpose bred animal. Here’s a not so well advertised fact, recently a study showed that more warm bloods in Germany were used by the pet food industry than thoroughbreds in Australia, here’s another, as a professional rider no type of horse had dumped me more than warmbloods.

When I first joined the NSW mounted police, some 25 years ago, warm bloods were becoming the flavour of the month. At that time the police purchased 7 warm bloods of a particular breed. These horses were unbroken but had been flagged as the next best thing “the English are using them so they must be good” until this point most of the horses at the mounted police were donated ex racehorses. These warmbloods proved to be very difficult to break in and get going they had a tendency for bucking, being lazy and they weren’t particularly sound. Of the seven that started only one really made a decent police horse and in his training process he sent more people to hospital than any other horse I was involve with at the Mounties. A couple of years later I went to England with the police, I spent a lot of time with the mounted police horse trainers, when I asked them about the breed we had trailed they laughed and told me how poorly they had eventually turned
out, they had abandoned them as police horses. Unfortunately the Mounties have continued with the decrees of thoroughbreds in their ranks. A microcosm of the equestrian world. The grass wasn’t greener in this case.

The skill in retraining the OTTB is being lost with the introduction of all these new breeds.The thoroughbred horse is an exceptional animal, a supreme athlete with considerable
intelligence, agility, strength, endurance and beauty.
I would personally describe the thoroughbred as a moderately sensitive breed of horse.
Sensitivity, in my opinion, equates to intelligence so far as training is concerned.
A sensitive horse Will respond to minimal aids which makes it relatively simple to
influence, this sensitivity also lends itself to confusion when faced with an inaccurate clumsy or inconsistent handler, less sensitive breeds tend to put up with more clumsy lines of communication.

Wouldn’t it be great if horse people recognised and acknowledge their weaknesses and put the
Same effort into Improving their riding as into finding new allegedly better breeds of horses. We have plenty of quality horses in Australia, ready and willing to do the job, the thoroughbred can fill the gap for most competitive and pleasure riders in most disciplines.
Sure the racing industry could do better, but for a lot less money and a little more effort so could the equestrian industry.

What separates we as humans from our horses ?

Photo by eddy furlong.
Photo by eddy furlong.

Our little planet spins on its axis at 900 miles an hour and orbits the sun at about 20 miles a second. Our sun, us, and every star we see in the sky is moving at about 1 million miles per day or about 40,000 miles an hour. There are 100 billion stars in our universe, each with planets like ours orbiting it. There are apparently infinite numbers of universes.
All this makes us as one life form seem fairly insignificant, wouldn’t you say?
It is estimated that there are currently 8.7 million different life forms on the Earth. Some, like the horseshoe crab, have been here for 450 mllion years. Dinosaurs ruled the earth for 105 million years—they must have thought they were pretty special, but the crabs have well and truly outdone them.

Humans have been around for a mere 10 million years. Horses for 50 million. What makes us, as a species, more significant than the majestic horseshoe crab? I think we tend to get a little over awed with our own importance.
Our ancestors have done a magnificent job through religion and the like of convincing us that during our incredibly short time in existence we have become the most important of beings. Fairly arrogant and self absorbed, wouldn’t you agree? It is believed that there are billions of planets equivalent to Earth out there, each possibly supporting beings all of equivalent importance in the big picture.

It has been discovered that everything that exists is made up of a mixture of the same elements; that is, the moon, a rock, a tree, a fish, you, me and the horse, are all just individual mixes of certain base elements that have come together to resemble something. In fact, all of the above listed things are made up of mostly nothing; we are all a collection of atoms, and atoms are hundreds of millions of parts nothing to one part something. If we took all of the nothingness out of a person, the remaining solids would be microscopic. The incredible gravity of a black hole could reduce the entire Earth and everything on it to the size of, perhaps, a marble. Black holes are doing this everyday to entire universes.

So in the big scheme, what makes us more important than our horses?
We are here with our horses and everything else around us for an incredibly short time. What makes our short lives fulfilling is the relationships we have with the people and things around us, so we should do everything we can to savour every moment. The closeness we can establish between ourselves and our horses is a wonderful thing—two different beings communicating and relating on an intimate and unique level, but why not? We are made of exactly the same stuff.

Part 3 re training the ex racehorse

part 3 re training ex race horses scott brodie

flexion and bend are terms sometimes misunderstood basically flexion happens at the poll, there can be lateral flexion side to side and vertical flexion, up and down. When speaking of bend we are usually referring to the bend longitudinally through the horses spine. In the early stages of this training program flexion will always be used in conjunction with bend, the refinement as the horses education progresses will allow flexion on its own merits to become a very influential aspect of control.

Most horses will flex and bend better to the left than to the right, for a horse to perform we must try to assist the horse to develop the subtleness to be able to flex and bend equally in both directions. Further to this and importantly, to set himself to buck a horse must be able to straighten his spine. If the act of flexing and bending
become conditioned reflex to the aid, the rider places himself in
a strong position to avoid being dismounted by a fractious mount. Many race horses will
resist when being asked to carry out unfamiliar manoeuvres so the ability to prevent
bucking is an important skill when training ex race horses or any horse for that matter.

LIMITED SPACES STILLL AVAILABE. Horses from courses, Scott Brodie clinic Canberra equestrian centre 15 Nov 2015

“LIMITED SPACES STILL AVAILABE ”

Horses from courses
With Scott Brodie manager NSW thoroughbred rehab trust. Author of “Horses from Courses”.Re training ex racehorses Canberra Equestrian Centre 15th November 2015

image

imageimageimageimage

Photos Eddie furlong

Scott Brodie author of” Horses from courses “is Manager of the Racing NSW Thoroughbred Retraining Program. A NSW Mounted Police horse trainer and classically trained rider, Scott has a has a generously empathetic philosophy to handling horses and a unique spin on the retraining of retired racehorses. Utilising a surprisingly smooth synergy of natural horsemanship and the practical application of classical dressage, Scott’s systematic approach to this often difficult and dangerous endeavour ensures the smoothest and fairest transition for the horse from racing machine to a pleasurable riding partner.
9am clinic and fence sitting for the day $25 per head pay on the day.
45 minute private training sessions $100 includes fence sitting and clinic, bookings essential.
Scott.brodie@optusnet.com.au