Different strokes for different folks. Varying strategies for thoroughbred re homing organisations

On my recent trip to the UK, I was astounded to see variations in horse cultures from countries with a common ancestry. I would like to discuss specifically, the variations in relation to the perceptions of the Thoroughbred horse and how those perceptions and history influence the best practices for organisations committed to the welfare of horses at the conclusion of their racing careers.

image

Until  recently 95% of police horses in Australia were thoroughbred

In Australia, the Thoroughbred has always been recognised as a competitive equestrian and pleasure horse, as well as a supreme racing athlete. The Thoroughbred is a relatively new breed of horse, beginning its development only 400 years ago and has been in Australia for the country’s entire equestrian history. It is the foundation of the only recognised Australian breed, the Australian Stock Horse.

image

The all purpose Australian stock horse sports some of the best thoroughbred blood lines in the world

Up until only 20 years ago, Thoroughbreds were double registered as Stock Horses and Thoroughbreds. The Stock Horse foundation has some of the best racing blood in the world. When Australia burst onto the international equestrian scene, they did so on the Thoroughbred. Our second Olympic Games, brought us three equestrian medals; two gold and silver all on the backs of Thoroughbreds. image

The highly successful Australian olypic team from Rome 1960 all ride thoroughbred horses 

From that time forward, the Thoroughbred has been the backbone of Australian equestrianism. Up until recently, the Thoroughbred was trained to the highest level in dressage, show jumping and eventing. The introduction in any serious way of the European Warmblood and other foreign breeds is relatively new, occurring in the last 30 years or so.

A market for the Thoroughbred exists and always has. Some damage to the market has been done by the introduction of the foreign breeds, but largely, Australia appreciates and utilises the abilities of the Thoroughbred. The focus for the rehoming of Thoroughbreds in Australia needs to be education of riders, particularly those who have been influenced by the current fashion of the foreign breeds. Professional retraining of Thoroughbred horses, in numbers that can supply the hungry market and to a lesser extent, the renewed promotion of the Thoroughbred as a competition and leisure horse.

The UK has an historic and rich horse culture that goes way back before the advent of the Thoroughbred. In fact, in the 10,000 years of history of the UK, the Thoroughbred is a very new addition. Breeds have, over the millennia in the UK, been developed for specific purposes, such as, war horses, Draft breeds, riding breeds, carrying and carriage breeds.

image image image

Purpose bred horses in the equestrian environment of the UK. Top left the Irish sport horse, top right Spanish breeds found there way into the UK with the Romans. Bottom right the ancient Cleveland bay developed as a load carrying horse.

The original English-bred horses were combined with an infusion of Arabian blood only recently, to develop the speed and stamina of the modern Thoroughbred. The Thoroughbred has not been needed for any specific purpose, other than racing.

image

Only in recent times were these three foundation stallions added to the equestrian landscape in order to develop the modern thoroughbred.

So in the UK, the Thoroughbred is a racehorse, the Irish sport horse is great for jumping, hunting and eventing, the European Warmbloods and Spanish breeds suit dressage, with various breeds of ponies and mixtures of the aforementioned breeds having served as pleasure horses. There has been no need to bring the Thoroughbred into the equation.

Now with large numbers of Thoroughbreds leaving the racing industry and with greater expectation of the population in relation to horse welfare, Thoroughbred rehoming organisations in the UK need to promote the use of the Thoroughbred in the various equestrian fields. Money is being spent promoting competitions featuring Thoroughbred classes and awards are given for Thoroughbreds excelling in open competition. This needs to be the main focus of this rehoming market, but it needs to happen in tandem with an educational focus giving potential Thoroughbred owners the tools and support needed to make the rehoming of these ex-racehorses an enjoyable experience.

So two surprisingly different market places. Australia with an existing market, requiring a focus on education and supply to the market and the UK still in the process of developing an accepted and viable market, but also with a requirement for education and support for that market.
I have been retraining Thoroughbreds for nearly 30 years and it wasn’t until I visited the UK recently with a focus on Thoroughbred rehoming, that I became aware of the acute differences in the horse cultures and the varying requirements in the field of Thoroughbred rehoming throughout the world.

Each market must be assessed and focused on the most relevant issues in its unique environment. There is no doubt that each market in each country with a thoroughbred industry will face its own challenges and must develop strategies to siut their particular needs.

image image image image

Education, training and support are esential elements of any thoroughbred re homing program . 

Largely, I think a three-pronged approach of establishing a market, producing a product and then developing an industry around the development of the product, is the way forward for the Thoroughbred racehorse. Rehoming industry, these three elements will be required in all environments but each in varying portions determined by the individual market places.

Personally, I am happy to be involved in such a worthy cause in a positive way, it’s disappointing to see some of the passionate anti-racing organisations wasting their energies in a negative way, rather than working positively to produce a better outcome for horses at the end of their racing careers.

 

Irish/Arabian hospitality

Today I present for the Irish horse welfare trust in swords just out of Dublin. The hospitality of the Irish has been fenominal. I have visited numerous studs trainers and horse facilities. The horse culture is rich, historical and varied. It’s a whole different ball game to down under. I will do everything I can to promote the fact that thoroughbreds can make it any field, traditionally they have not been the choice of most Irish riders largely because of the variety of purpose bred horses over here.

image

I have to thank the Godolphin/Darley organisation for what they have done for me while I have been away they are the pinical of professionalism in thoroughbred training and breeding, if everyone followed their lead in training and management the world would be a better place for horses. Of course it’s nice to have sheik Mahammad funding things but the reality is racing is a rich mans sport if you can’t afford to manage and treat horses correctly you shouldn’t be in the game.image

            Be. Our diggs at Godolphins Kildangan stud in Ireland 

image

godolphin Darley head and shoulders above the rest in breeding training and caring for thoroughbred horses 

re training the ex racehorse part 10

 

Once the work in hand and lunging are established it is time to start the horse under
saddle. All of the systematic work previously carried out has led us to this point.
If the horse is working with the four essentials, forward contact on the outside reign,inside flexion, tempo and Rhythm you can be pretty certain that there will be a smooth transition to the ridden work.
By this time, any idiosyncrasies the horse may have should have been exposed, if at any time you are uncertain about mounting the horse seek experienced assistance.
Every workout at this point should move through work in hand into a minimum of 20
minutes lunging or however long it takes to have the horse traveling as you would like him to whilst ridden.

.

“Prince Thorbro” blue print for the life of a racehorse.

My old man was a punter and a pretty serious one at one stage. As I got more and more involved in horses Dad and one of our mates, Thorny, decided they would breed a racehorse. Dad decided he wanted to enjoy the journey, a good idea considering most horses bred to race don’t even make it to the track.

Dad got into it, researching bloodlines and decided what he wanted to breed. It so happened that a girl I was working with was looking to lease her thoroughbred mare as a broodmare for a season so Dad looked at the breeding and it suited the stallion he wanted to use. Now truth be known, all thoroughbreds trace back to four stallions and it wouldn’t matter which bloodline you follow, it will lead you to some champion who did something impressive within a generation or two.

So we picked up the mare, she was small, not 15 hands but she was solid. We put her on the float and drove her to the stallion up in the Hunter Valley. This was all an adventure for Dad who hadn’t had much hands-on experience with horses. We met the stallion, a big solid fella of 16 hands. County was his name and as Dad constantly reminded us, he was the son of Vain and he was by the great Wilkes. Didn’t mean much to me but it had Dad psyched.

You should have seen the excitement when we got news of a positive pregnancy test, champaign all round! We picked the mare up and bought her back from the Hunter. She spent the rest of her pregnancy in a paddock full of massive shire horses at a friend’s property in Kangaroo Valley. Dad visited her every couple of weeks and gave us in-depth reports of how the pregnancy was going. As the big day approached, Dad moved down to the farm and stayed on his own with the mare, he wanted to be there for the birth “in case there were any issues” not that he would have known what to do in any case. He got there 10 days before the birth because “they do sometimes come early”. 10 days after the due date, Dad was still waiting. Finally, it looked like this would be the day, the mare was waxed up and things were looking imminent. Dad sat with her in the heat all day long. The foal didn’t arrive so he sat there all night; still no foal, he was starting to worry. At 6.00 am he went to bed exhausted, at
7.00 am the caretaker woke him up to say “Congratulations you have a new foal.”

The excitement cancelled out the disappointment of missing the birth. “Prince Thorbro” had arrived. There was much conjecture over the name but it had to have the word Prince in it, one of our friend’s big draft mares had died in foal a couple of days earlier, her name was Princess and Dad had nursed her through her final hours.

I was with Prince as early as I could be on the day he was born. I wanted to implement some imprinting principles. Ideally you want to be there at the birth, but you can only do your best. I sat with Prince and his mum all day, by the end of the day I could handle him all over, I could restrain him, move him around with finger pressure and touch him all over. He had had the clippers on him a halter and was leading gently, he was happy to be with me and his mum was fine with it.

image

In the first week I put him on and off the float, bagged him down and put a girth on him. After a week, I left him alone with mum to do as he pleased. My friend wanted to separate him from the herd so he wouldn’t get hurt, but I wanted him to have the opportunity to live as naturally as possible. No one educates horses as well as other horses. Prince spent the next six months with mum at Kangaroo Valley in the herd of giant Shires playing with foals his age that were as big as his mum.

At around six months, we brought him to Sydney with mum, we had a paddock in Coogee believe it or not. In the middle of the eastern suburbs of Sydney, backing onto a Defence Force property, I had about five horses there, a round yard, a massive dam and a full cross country course which I had built to train on.

Prince was an independent little fella who didn’t hang around with his mum, but spent time with the other horses. He ate with mum and this worked well because she was a great eater, he learnt that if he didn’t eat up, he missed out. Being a good eater is imperative for a good racehorse, you can’t run without fuel.

Prince spent less and less time with his mum. At the same time, I had a half draft mare in the paddock, she was to have foaled but it had turned out she had a phantom pregnancy. She went through the whole process and nothing happened, she did however produce plenty of milk, which Prince discovered. I’m not sure who adopted who, but Prince was soon feeding happily from the big girl, he was happy with his wet nurse, she was happy with her surrogate foal and mum got rid of that pesky foal who was eating all of her tucker and ruining her boobs. Shortly after, we returned Prince’s mum to her owner. Mum didn’t fret, Prince didn’t fret and it was the easiest weaning you could ever ask for. Dad spent more and more time with Prince, he hand fed him and spent day on end just hanging around with him, it was good for both of them.

I did loads of groundwork with him over the next year or so and I think he saw me as his big brother, the imprinting done at birth was worth every minute, he trusted me implicitly, farriers, vets, dentists none could believe how easy he was to deal with. On one occasion, when someone left the gate open, Prince, my leopard Appaloosa, our son’s miniature pony Tuppence and Archie the shire horse; and at that time the biggest horse in the southern hemisphere, decided to go exploring. I was working at the Mounted Police at the time and we got a call to say that there were horses running loose on Anzac Parade. The location was about halfway between my paddock and Randwick Racecourse. I had my fingers crossed that the runaways were horses from the track. No such luck; the motley crew had galloped for about three kilometres down the medium strip on Anzac Parade in peak hour traffic. Anyone who knows Sydney, knows how busy that road is in the morning. Luckily no one was hurt and Prince made the papers before he even started racing. I rode the big draft horse home with the motley crew following behind.

 

It was about this time that tragedy befell my family. My younger brother, aged only 27, died of cancer. It was devastating. We all have to deal with this stuff in our lives, but things like this really do change who we are, sometimes for a while, sometimes forever. My Mum and Dad did it tough, you’re not supposed to outlive your kids. Prince became a bit of a crutch for Dad and he spent every minute he could at the paddock, sometimes just sitting and quietly watching and sometimes hand feeding or fixing fences. Prince was a great distraction – something to focus on. I just made myself busy. Prince was a part of that, I just kept busy as it stopped me thinking; I don’t think I’ve ever stopped being busy since.

image

As a result of our constant hands-on contact with Prince, he was like part of the family. He was the centre of every conversation – he was something positive we could all share. By the time Prince had reached the age to be broken in, he was so well handled it was just a matter of getting on and riding him. I worked and educated him as I would one of my eventers, or a Police horse. He worked around the streets of the eastern suburbs calmly in the traffic, he built a nice dressage foundation and popped over a few fences. To get him used to working confidently amongst other horses, we did troop drill with the Mounted Police. We worked in a section of four and even did a practice for the Police Musical Ride with the Police Band. We did light half-pace gallop work around a local Australian Rules football field. His dressage was going so nicely I decided to enter him into a competition. He performed admirably at a local show and came home with a first place ribbon. He competed up to elementary level.

image

Occasionally I rode him to Maroubra beach before light and did laps at the canter in the soft sand, before coaching a rowing crew at the same beach and then going to work at the Mounted Police followed by working my competition horses in the afternoon. As I said, I kept busy. We did the same thing at Brighton beach. When we lost our paddock at Coogee, we kept Prince at an abandoned lawn bowling club at St George in Sydney’s south; a few warm up laps on the green, a 10 minute trot through parks and along grass verges to the beach. When the tide was out we could gallop half pace on the firm sand or in ankle deep water for 15 minutes without having to stop, it was a bit hairy in the dark but what a wonderful experience on a warm summer’s morning. We went swimming in Botany Bay once a week, right next to the runway at Sydney airport, he didn’t even sweat jumbo jets taking off and landing beside him.

Finally it was time for Prince to become a racehorse. One of my friends, Karen from the Mounted Police, was married to a vet who had decided to take up training racehorses. Karen was a great rider and horsewoman, short-listed for the Sydney Olympics. She was to ride Prince in his trackwork, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Prince floated from the trainer’s place where he lived, to Rosehill racecourse for work each day, with Dad turning up regularly to watch him work and keep us up to speed on his progress. Prince lived in a paddock, no stressed-out stable life for him, he was very happy. His training came along nicely and when he spelled he came back to me and when possible we snuck in another dressage day, even race-fit he was obedient and relaxed.

The day came when Prince was ready to race. He was to start at Cessnock, a country track in the
Hunter Valley. Myself, Dad and our mate Thorny, the Thor in “Prince Thorbro” traveled three hours in the car, it was a stinking hot day in the high thirties. Prince arrived and was more fired up than I had ever seen, pawing and anxious in the tie up stalls. Karen got him out of the stall and walked him around the parade ring and we went to checked him out; he was in awesome condition. However, as he was not stabled, his coat was bleached out and he had gone from a dark bay to a wishy-washy light brown colour – almost buckskin. Two experts stood beside us as we watched him parade, “Now you can tell this one hasn’t got a hope, look at his coat you can tell he isn’t healthy, probably shouldn’t be here, looks wormy.”

image

 

They went to the barriers, one horse played up for a long time, refusing to go in. Prince stood sensibly until the troublemaker was scratched. The tension was terrible it was like your first kid’s first day at school, all excitement and pride and still concern for how he will cope.

They were off. Prince jumped well and went to the front immediately, he had led in a race. We heard his name over the loud speaker! “Prince Thorbro leads by a length and a half.” We looked at each other with a satisfied smile; the journey had finally come to the racetrack. Prince was battling on, Dad and Thorny, as seasoned punters, were concerned, could he hold on? I was choked up with the emotion of my baby running in a race. They hit the straight, Prince still had the lead, the finish line was looming and it looked like he was gonna win! Was he gonna win? He is gonna win!! He is gonna win!!! Woooohoooooo!! He Won!!! He Won!!!! He Won!!!!!

image

Now to say we were excited was a serious understatement, I lost all control of my emotions; I was like another person, I was almost speaking in tongues. My gosh, we had won a maiden at Cessnock, there was no doubt in my mind that the serious, hands-on approach of breeding, raising, breaking and pretraining Prince made the experience all the more emotional but what must it feel like to win the Melbourne Cup? I don’t think I have another level of emotion to go to, I fear I would just spontaneously combust into a pile of ash on the ground.

I can’t imagine owners who have just paid the bills and seen a few track work sessions could possibly feel the way Dad and I had felt that day, what a sense of achievement. Prince pulled up well and we celebrated well into the night. Prince went on to win a couple of races and at one stage someone offered us four times what we thought he was worth but we were never going to take it. What a joy it was to be involved to such an extent.

Prince retired as a four year old and went on to do a few more dressage comps. Almost from the day he stopped racing, I used him to give lessons, such was his education and the trust I had in him. I gave my kids and others lessons on him and he would lunge beautifully with constant rhythm and tempo allowing total novices to develop their seat or pop over jumps kindly and calmly, coping with clumsy hands or lack of balance.

One of my students, who particularly loved Prince and had many lessons on him, was moving to the country. She was a vet student and had spent a year with me learning horsemanship and riding skills. Prince went with her, as I knew he would be well looked after.

Prince is now in his 20s and is fat, happy and gets ridden occasionally and life is good.

This is how the life of a racehorse should read. I learnt a lot from Prince and he helped our family through a tough time, we couldn’t have done it better.

“Prince Thorbro” blue print for the life of a racehorse.

My old man was a punter and a pretty serious one at one stage. As I got more and more involved in horses Dad and one of our mates, Thorny, decided they would breed a racehorse. Dad decided he wanted to enjoy the journey, a good idea considering most horses bred to race don’t even make it to the track.

Dad got into it, researching bloodlines and decided what he wanted to breed. It so happened that a girl I was working with was looking to lease her thoroughbred mare as a broodmare for a season so Dad looked at the breeding and it suited the stallion he wanted to use. Now truth be known, all thoroughbreds trace back to four stallions and it wouldn’t matter which bloodline you follow, it will lead you to some champion who did something impressive within a generation or two.

So we picked up the mare, she was small, not 15 hands but she was solid. We put her on the float and drove her to the stallion up in the Hunter Valley. This was all an adventure for Dad who hadn’t had much hands-on experience with horses. We met the stallion, a big solid fella of 16 hands. County was his name and as Dad constantly reminded us, he was the son of Vain and he was by the great Wilkes. Didn’t mean much to me but it had Dad psyched.

You should have seen the excitement when we got news of a positive pregnancy test, champaign all round! We picked the mare up and bought her back from the Hunter. She spent the rest of her pregnancy in a paddock full of massive shire horses at a friend’s property in Kangaroo Valley. Dad visited her every couple of weeks and gave us in-depth reports of how the pregnancy was going. As the big day approached, Dad moved down to the farm and stayed on his own with the mare, he wanted to be there for the birth “in case there were any issues” not that he would have known what to do in any case. He got there 10 days before the birth because “they do sometimes come early”. 10 days after the due date, Dad was still waiting. Finally, it looked like this would be the day, the mare was waxed up and things were looking imminent. Dad sat with her in the heat all day long. The foal didn’t arrive so he sat there all night; still no foal, he was starting to worry. At 6.00 am he went to bed exhausted, at
7.00 am the caretaker woke him up to say “Congratulations you have a new foal.”

The excitement cancelled out the disappointment of missing the birth. “Prince Thorbro” had arrived. There was much conjecture over the name but it had to have the word Prince in it, one of our friend’s big draft mares had died in foal a couple of days earlier, her name was Princess and Dad had nursed her through her final hours.

I was with Prince as early as I could be on the day he was born. I wanted to implement some imprinting principles. Ideally you want to be there at the birth, but you can only do your best. I sat with Prince and his mum all day, by the end of the day I could handle him all over, I could restrain him, move him around with finger pressure and touch him all over. He had had the clippers on him a halter and was leading gently, he was happy to be with me and his mum was fine with it.

image

In the first week I put him on and off the float, bagged him down and put a girth on him. After a week, I left him alone with mum to do as he pleased. My friend wanted to separate him from the herd so he wouldn’t get hurt, but I wanted him to have the opportunity to live as naturally as possible. No one educates horses as well as other horses. Prince spent the next six months with mum at Kangaroo Valley in the herd of giant Shires playing with foals his age that were as big as his mum.

At around six months, we brought him to Sydney with mum, we had a paddock in Coogee believe it or not. In the middle of the eastern suburbs of Sydney, backing onto a Defence Force property, I had about five horses there, a round yard, a massive dam and a full cross country course which I had built to train on.

Prince was an independent little fella who didn’t hang around with his mum, but spent time with the other horses. He ate with mum and this worked well because she was a great eater, he learnt that if he didn’t eat up, he missed out. Being a good eater is imperative for a good racehorse, you can’t run without fuel.

Prince spent less and less time with his mum. At the same time, I had a half draft mare in the paddock, she was to have foaled but it had turned out she had a phantom pregnancy. She went through the whole process and nothing happened, she did however produce plenty of milk, which Prince discovered. I’m not sure who adopted who, but Prince was soon feeding happily from the big girl, he was happy with his wet nurse, she was happy with her surrogate foal and mum got rid of that pesky foal who was eating all of her tucker and ruining her boobs. Shortly after, we returned Prince’s mum to her owner. Mum didn’t fret, Prince didn’t fret and it was the easiest weaning you could ever ask for. Dad spent more and more time with Prince, he hand fed him and spent day on end just hanging around with him, it was good for both of them.

I did loads of groundwork with him over the next year or so and I think he saw me as his big brother, the imprinting done at birth was worth every minute, he trusted me implicitly, farriers, vets, dentists none could believe how easy he was to deal with. On one occasion, when someone left the gate open, Prince, my leopard Appaloosa, our son’s miniature pony Tuppence and Archie the shire horse; and at that time the biggest horse in the southern hemisphere, decided to go exploring. I was working at the Mounted Police at the time and we got a call to say that there were horses running loose on Anzac Parade. The location was about halfway between my paddock and Randwick Racecourse. I had my fingers crossed that the runaways were horses from the track. No such luck; the motley crew had galloped for about three kilometres down the medium strip on Anzac Parade in peak hour traffic. Anyone who knows Sydney, knows how busy that road is in the morning. Luckily no one was hurt and Prince made the papers before he even started racing. I rode the big draft horse home with the motley crew following behind.

 

It was about this time that tragedy befell my family. My younger brother, aged only 27, died of cancer. It was devastating. We all have to deal with this stuff in our lives, but things like this really do change who we are, sometimes for a while, sometimes forever. My Mum and Dad did it tough, you’re not supposed to outlive your kids. Prince became a bit of a crutch for Dad and he spent every minute he could at the paddock, sometimes just sitting and quietly watching and sometimes hand feeding or fixing fences. Prince was a great distraction – something to focus on. I just made myself busy. Prince was a part of that, I just kept busy as it stopped me thinking; I don’t think I’ve ever stopped being busy since.

image

As a result of our constant hands-on contact with Prince, he was like part of the family. He was the centre of every conversation – he was something positive we could all share. By the time Prince had reached the age to be broken in, he was so well handled it was just a matter of getting on and riding him. I worked and educated him as I would one of my eventers, or a Police horse. He worked around the streets of the eastern suburbs calmly in the traffic, he built a nice dressage foundation and popped over a few fences. To get him used to working confidently amongst other horses, we did troop drill with the Mounted Police. We worked in a section of four and even did a practice for the Police Musical Ride with the Police Band. We did light half-pace gallop work around a local Australian Rules football field. His dressage was going so nicely I decided to enter him into a competition. He performed admirably at a local show and came home with a first place ribbon. He competed up to elementary level.

image

Occasionally I rode him to Maroubra beach before light and did laps at the canter in the soft sand, before coaching a rowing crew at the same beach and then going to work at the Mounted Police followed by working my competition horses in the afternoon. As I said, I kept busy. We did the same thing at Brighton beach. When we lost our paddock at Coogee, we kept Prince at an abandoned lawn bowling club at St George in Sydney’s south; a few warm up laps on the green, a 10 minute trot through parks and along grass verges to the beach. When the tide was out we could gallop half pace on the firm sand or in ankle deep water for 15 minutes without having to stop, it was a bit hairy in the dark but what a wonderful experience on a warm summer’s morning. We went swimming in Botany Bay once a week, right next to the runway at Sydney airport, he didn’t even sweat jumbo jets taking off and landing beside him.

Finally it was time for Prince to become a racehorse. One of my friends, Karen from the Mounted Police, was married to a vet who had decided to take up training racehorses. Karen was a great rider and horsewoman, short-listed for the Sydney Olympics. She was to ride Prince in his trackwork, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Prince floated from the trainer’s place where he lived, to Rosehill racecourse for work each day, with Dad turning up regularly to watch him work and keep us up to speed on his progress. Prince lived in a paddock, no stressed-out stable life for him, he was very happy. His training came along nicely and when he spelled he came back to me and when possible we snuck in another dressage day, even race-fit he was obedient and relaxed.

The day came when Prince was ready to race. He was to start at Cessnock, a country track in the
Hunter Valley. Myself, Dad and our mate Thorny, the Thor in “Prince Thorbro” traveled three hours in the car, it was a stinking hot day in the high thirties. Prince arrived and was more fired up than I had ever seen, pawing and anxious in the tie up stalls. Karen got him out of the stall and walked him around the parade ring and we went to checked him out; he was in awesome condition. However, as he was not stabled, his coat was bleached out and he had gone from a dark bay to a wishy-washy light brown colour – almost buckskin. Two experts stood beside us as we watched him parade, “Now you can tell this one hasn’t got a hope, look at his coat you can tell he isn’t healthy, probably shouldn’t be here, looks wormy.”

image

 

They went to the barriers, one horse played up for a long time, refusing to go in. Prince stood sensibly until the troublemaker was scratched. The tension was terrible it was like your first kid’s first day at school, all excitement and pride and still concern for how he will cope.

They were off. Prince jumped well and went to the front immediately, he had led in a race. We heard his name over the loud speaker! “Prince Thorbro leads by a length and a half.” We looked at each other with a satisfied smile; the journey had finally come to the racetrack. Prince was battling on, Dad and Thorny, as seasoned punters, were concerned, could he hold on? I was choked up with the emotion of my baby running in a race. They hit the straight, Prince still had the lead, the finish line was looming and it looked like he was gonna win! Was he gonna win? He is gonna win!! He is gonna win!!! Woooohoooooo!! He Won!!! He Won!!!! He Won!!!!!

image

Now to say we were excited was a serious understatement, I lost all control of my emotions; I was like another person, I was almost speaking in tongues. My gosh, we had won a maiden at Cessnock, there was no doubt in my mind that the serious, hands-on approach of breeding, raising, breaking and pretraining Prince made the experience all the more emotional but what must it feel like to win the Melbourne Cup? I don’t think I have another level of emotion to go to, I fear I would just spontaneously combust into a pile of ash on the ground.

I can’t imagine owners who have just paid the bills and seen a few track work sessions could possibly feel the way Dad and I had felt that day, what a sense of achievement. Prince pulled up well and we celebrated well into the night. Prince went on to win a couple of races and at one stage someone offered us four times what we thought he was worth but we were never going to take it. What a joy it was to be involved to such an extent.

Prince retired as a four year old and went on to do a few more dressage comps. Almost from the day he stopped racing, I used him to give lessons, such was his education and the trust I had in him. I gave my kids and others lessons on him and he would lunge beautifully with constant rhythm and tempo allowing total novices to develop their seat or pop over jumps kindly and calmly, coping with clumsy hands or lack of balance.

One of my students, who particularly loved Prince and had many lessons on him, was moving to the country. She was a vet student and had spent a year with me learning horsemanship and riding skills. Prince went with her, as I knew he would be well looked after.

Prince is now in his 20s and is fat, happy and gets ridden occasionally and life is good.

This is how the life of a racehorse should read. I learnt a lot from Prince and he helped our family through a tough time, we couldn’t have done it better.

“Prince Thorbro” blue print for the life of a racehorse.

My old man was a punter and a pretty serious one at one stage. As I got more and more involved in horses Dad and one of our mates, Thorny, decided they would breed a racehorse. Dad decided he wanted to enjoy the journey, a good idea considering most horses bred to race don’t even make it to the track.

Dad got into it, researching bloodlines and decided what he wanted to breed. It so happened that a girl I was working with was looking to lease her thoroughbred mare as a broodmare for a season so Dad looked at the breeding and it suited the stallion he wanted to use. Now truth be known, all thoroughbreds trace back to four stallions and it wouldn’t matter which bloodline you follow, it will lead you to some champion who did something impressive within a generation or two.

So we picked up the mare, she was small, not 15 hands but she was solid. We put her on the float and drove her to the stallion up in the Hunter Valley. This was all an adventure for Dad who hadn’t had much hands-on experience with horses. We met the stallion, a big solid fella of 16 hands. County was his name and as Dad constantly reminded us, he was the son of Vain and he was by the great Wilkes. Didn’t mean much to me but it had Dad psyched.

You should have seen the excitement when we got news of a positive pregnancy test, champaign all round! We picked the mare up and bought her back from the Hunter. She spent the rest of her pregnancy in a paddock full of massive shire horses at a friend’s property in Kangaroo Valley. Dad visited her every couple of weeks and gave us in-depth reports of how the pregnancy was going. As the big day approached, Dad moved down to the farm and stayed on his own with the mare, he wanted to be there for the birth “in case there were any issues” not that he would have known what to do in any case. He got there 10 days before the birth because “they do sometimes come early”. 10 days after the due date, Dad was still waiting. Finally, it looked like this would be the day, the mare was waxed up and things were looking imminent. Dad sat with her in the heat all day long. The foal didn’t arrive so he sat there all night; still no foal, he was starting to worry. At 6.00 am he went to bed exhausted, at
7.00 am the caretaker woke him up to say “Congratulations you have a new foal.”

The excitement cancelled out the disappointment of missing the birth. “Prince Thorbro” had arrived. There was much conjecture over the name but it had to have the word Prince in it, one of our friend’s big draft mares had died in foal a couple of days earlier, her name was Princess and Dad had nursed her through her final hours.

I was with Prince as early as I could be on the day he was born. I wanted to implement some imprinting principles. Ideally you want to be there at the birth, but you can only do your best. I sat with Prince and his mum all day, by the end of the day I could handle him all over, I could restrain him, move him around with finger pressure and touch him all over. He had had the clippers on him a halter and was leading gently, he was happy to be with me and his mum was fine with it.

image

In the first week I put him on and off the float, bagged him down and put a girth on him. After a week, I left him alone with mum to do as he pleased. My friend wanted to separate him from the herd so he wouldn’t get hurt, but I wanted him to have the opportunity to live as naturally as possible. No one educates horses as well as other horses. Prince spent the next six months with mum at Kangaroo Valley in the herd of giant Shires playing with foals his age that were as big as his mum.

At around six months, we brought him to Sydney with mum, we had a paddock in Coogee believe it or not. In the middle of the eastern suburbs of Sydney, backing onto a Defence Force property, I had about five horses there, a round yard, a massive dam and a full cross country course which I had built to train on.

Prince was an independent little fella who didn’t hang around with his mum, but spent time with the other horses. He ate with mum and this worked well because she was a great eater, he learnt that if he didn’t eat up, he missed out. Being a good eater is imperative for a good racehorse, you can’t run without fuel.

Prince spent less and less time with his mum. At the same time, I had a half draft mare in the paddock, she was to have foaled but it had turned out she had a phantom pregnancy. She went through the whole process and nothing happened, she did however produce plenty of milk, which Prince discovered. I’m not sure who adopted who, but Prince was soon feeding happily from the big girl, he was happy with his wet nurse, she was happy with her surrogate foal and mum got rid of that pesky foal who was eating all of her tucker and ruining her boobs. Shortly after, we returned Prince’s mum to her owner. Mum didn’t fret, Prince didn’t fret and it was the easiest weaning you could ever ask for. Dad spent more and more time with Prince, he hand fed him and spent day on end just hanging around with him, it was good for both of them.

I did loads of groundwork with him over the next year or so and I think he saw me as his big brother, the imprinting done at birth was worth every minute, he trusted me implicitly, farriers, vets, dentists none could believe how easy he was to deal with. On one occasion, when someone left the gate open, Prince, my leopard Appaloosa, our son’s miniature pony Tuppence and Archie the shire horse; and at that time the biggest horse in the southern hemisphere, decided to go exploring. I was working at the Mounted Police at the time and we got a call to say that there were horses running loose on Anzac Parade. The location was about halfway between my paddock and Randwick Racecourse. I had my fingers crossed that the runaways were horses from the track. No such luck; the motley crew had galloped for about three kilometres down the medium strip on Anzac Parade in peak hour traffic. Anyone who knows Sydney, knows how busy that road is in the morning. Luckily no one was hurt and Prince made the papers before he even started racing. I rode the big draft horse home with the motley crew following behind.

 

It was about this time that tragedy befell my family. My younger brother, aged only 27, died of cancer. It was devastating. We all have to deal with this stuff in our lives, but things like this really do change who we are, sometimes for a while, sometimes forever. My Mum and Dad did it tough, you’re not supposed to outlive your kids. Prince became a bit of a crutch for Dad and he spent every minute he could at the paddock, sometimes just sitting and quietly watching and sometimes hand feeding or fixing fences. Prince was a great distraction – something to focus on. I just made myself busy. Prince was a part of that, I just kept busy as it stopped me thinking; I don’t think I’ve ever stopped being busy since.

image

As a result of our constant hands-on contact with Prince, he was like part of the family. He was the centre of every conversation – he was something positive we could all share. By the time Prince had reached the age to be broken in, he was so well handled it was just a matter of getting on and riding him. I worked and educated him as I would one of my eventers, or a Police horse. He worked around the streets of the eastern suburbs calmly in the traffic, he built a nice dressage foundation and popped over a few fences. To get him used to working confidently amongst other horses, we did troop drill with the Mounted Police. We worked in a section of four and even did a practice for the Police Musical Ride with the Police Band. We did light half-pace gallop work around a local Australian Rules football field. His dressage was going so nicely I decided to enter him into a competition. He performed admirably at a local show and came home with a first place ribbon. He competed up to elementary level.

image

Occasionally I rode him to Maroubra beach before light and did laps at the canter in the soft sand, before coaching a rowing crew at the same beach and then going to work at the Mounted Police followed by working my competition horses in the afternoon. As I said, I kept busy. We did the same thing at Brighton beach. When we lost our paddock at Coogee, we kept Prince at an abandoned lawn bowling club at St George in Sydney’s south; a few warm up laps on the green, a 10 minute trot through parks and along grass verges to the beach. When the tide was out we could gallop half pace on the firm sand or in ankle deep water for 15 minutes without having to stop, it was a bit hairy in the dark but what a wonderful experience on a warm summer’s morning. We went swimming in Botany Bay once a week, right next to the runway at Sydney airport, he didn’t even sweat jumbo jets taking off and landing beside him.

Finally it was time for Prince to become a racehorse. One of my friends, Karen from the Mounted Police, was married to a vet who had decided to take up training racehorses. Karen was a great rider and horsewoman, short-listed for the Sydney Olympics. She was to ride Prince in his trackwork, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Prince floated from the trainer’s place where he lived, to Rosehill racecourse for work each day, with Dad turning up regularly to watch him work and keep us up to speed on his progress. Prince lived in a paddock, no stressed-out stable life for him, he was very happy. His training came along nicely and when he spelled he came back to me and when possible we snuck in another dressage day, even race-fit he was obedient and relaxed.

The day came when Prince was ready to race. He was to start at Cessnock, a country track in the
Hunter Valley. Myself, Dad and our mate Thorny, the Thor in “Prince Thorbro” traveled three hours in the car, it was a stinking hot day in the high thirties. Prince arrived and was more fired up than I had ever seen, pawing and anxious in the tie up stalls. Karen got him out of the stall and walked him around the parade ring and we went to checked him out; he was in awesome condition. However, as he was not stabled, his coat was bleached out and he had gone from a dark bay to a wishy-washy light brown colour – almost buckskin. Two experts stood beside us as we watched him parade, “Now you can tell this one hasn’t got a hope, look at his coat you can tell he isn’t healthy, probably shouldn’t be here, looks wormy.”

image

 

They went to the barriers, one horse played up for a long time, refusing to go in. Prince stood sensibly until the troublemaker was scratched. The tension was terrible it was like your first kid’s first day at school, all excitement and pride and still concern for how he will cope.

They were off. Prince jumped well and went to the front immediately, he had led in a race. We heard his name over the loud speaker! “Prince Thorbro leads by a length and a half.” We looked at each other with a satisfied smile; the journey had finally come to the racetrack. Prince was battling on, Dad and Thorny, as seasoned punters, were concerned, could he hold on? I was choked up with the emotion of my baby running in a race. They hit the straight, Prince still had the lead, the finish line was looming and it looked like he was gonna win! Was he gonna win? He is gonna win!! He is gonna win!!! Woooohoooooo!! He Won!!! He Won!!!! He Won!!!!!

image

Now to say we were excited was a serious understatement, I lost all control of my emotions; I was like another person, I was almost speaking in tongues. My gosh, we had won a maiden at Cessnock, there was no doubt in my mind that the serious, hands-on approach of breeding, raising, breaking and pretraining Prince made the experience all the more emotional but what must it feel like to win the Melbourne Cup? I don’t think I have another level of emotion to go to, I fear I would just spontaneously combust into a pile of ash on the ground.

I can’t imagine owners who have just paid the bills and seen a few track work sessions could possibly feel the way Dad and I had felt that day, what a sense of achievement. Prince pulled up well and we celebrated well into the night. Prince went on to win a couple of races and at one stage someone offered us four times what we thought he was worth but we were never going to take it. What a joy it was to be involved to such an extent.

Prince retired as a four year old and went on to do a few more dressage comps. Almost from the day he stopped racing, I used him to give lessons, such was his education and the trust I had in him. I gave my kids and others lessons on him and he would lunge beautifully with constant rhythm and tempo allowing total novices to develop their seat or pop over jumps kindly and calmly, coping with clumsy hands or lack of balance.

One of my students, who particularly loved Prince and had many lessons on him, was moving to the country. She was a vet student and had spent a year with me learning horsemanship and riding skills. Prince went with her, as I knew he would be well looked after.

Prince is now in his 20s and is fat, happy and gets ridden occasionally and life is good.

This is how the life of a racehorse should read. I learnt a lot from Prince and he helped our family through a tough time, we couldn’t have done it better.

“Bazaconi” part 12, a new direction

When I got bazaconi Home we went back to work.
It was like he hadn’t left. I was considering prepairing him for a dressage competition, I had decided that if I couldn’t tie down a future for him immediately, I would start to compete him. It would be good for the the TRT, it would bring further credibility to the program and improve Baz’s chances of finding another home.
I continued to consolidate his work, the period of light work with the failed new home had been good for him, his back had relaxed, it would be in better physical condition to move on with his education. I started to work on more accurate two track movements, I began to encourage some extension in his trot. He still needed to be ridden proactively at the canter but as long as he felt he was being ridden forward he was pretty good. Eventually his back got strong enough to cope with some longer periods of sitting trot.

At about this time I was due to hold a week long course for ex service personnel suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, it was to be held at the glorious “Cedars at kangaroo valley” I run these courses from time to time it’s considered experiential therapy and helps these guys and girls dramatically, it is quite inspirational. Horses are great teachers

image.jpg

Bazaconi’s new students, ex service personnel from the “the Cedars equine experience ” kangaroo valley. With facilitators Scott Brodie and Barry digger on the beautiful shire horse, bred at the stud on the property. The equine assisted therapy sessions at the cedars are creating new hope for service personnel suffering the depilitating effects of PTSD. 

How can horses help soldier with PTSD ?
The horse is a social animal existing in extended family groups with complex friendships and relationships. In many ways equine society mimics primitive human society though, unaffected by our modern emotions, 1st world problems and preconceived moral and community boundaries.
Many of our raw natural instincts are still present, bubbling below the surface of the superficial day to day issues of modern life.
Instinct never ceases to exist unless there is a reason for it to do so.
For instance body language which we still use extensively, sometimes subconsciously, is still exhibited and deciphered every day of our lives. Our fight or flight response which is rarely called upon in our daily existence is still strong, under pressure it will rise to the surface.
Horses exhibit and survive by these instincts which for 50 million years have served them well.
There is ample opportunity for humans, when placed in a position where they have to communicate with these majestic, and on the surface completely different beings to get in touch with their primitive, but incredibly similar and influential instinctive responses.
When communicating with horses, humans are forced to get in touch with there ability to read subtle, but once recognised, obvious body language, they need to understand the effects of applying and relieving pressure with a prey animal, who has existed for millennia constantly under the threat of attack by predators, their senses adapted to detect the slightest change in environment or attitude.
The social hierarchy and order in the equine world is complex, for humans to interact successfully we need to slot ourselves into that hierarchy, portray ourselves as leaders and partners rather than threats and danger.
The rules are complex, horses thrive on leadership, contrary to common belief herds are lead by dominant mares they make the decisions and demand the most respect, this respect is often obtained in what we will perceive as extremely violent and aggressive fashion. Strangely this assertive behaviour draws horses to it, earning a strange but powerful reverence.
Working with horses, and recognising the strengths and weaknesses we live with on a day to day basis, helps us to unravel who we are, how we tick and how things that have effected our past lives influence and effect our here and now. Empathy, confidence, communication, assertiveness, respect and friendship are all things taught well by horses with their unaffected way of being, a portal to our long forgotten past which lies just below the surface of our modern un perceptive existence.

I would take a couple of ex racehorses with me to use on the course. The soldiers relate to the issues of the former race horse, both have been trained for a specific purpose only to find at the end of their careers that the training done in the past is negative to their ongoing lives.
I guess you could say Bazaconi suffered from a form of post traumatic stress, certain situation triggered negative reactions which he had no control over,I’m no therapist but I could see the similarities, I knew the soldiers would. Bazaconi would be a great candidate for the course he would be difficult for the soldiers to work with but they need to see some contrast, I decided to take another young horse who was super quite and very easy to handle, this would allow the soldiers to get a win and feel like they had achieved a result. Bazaconi, though difficult, would invoke empathy one of our goals in the course, even if most of them would fail to join up with him they would defiantly recognise and empathise with his issue.

end part 12

“Bazaconi” part 10,If you love them let them go.

 

When I finally let a Bazaconi go. He would go with loads of verbal and written instruction.
I tell you, I live this stuff. If I have given a recommendation as to how a horse should be managed, it isn’t just some throw away line, it is very considered sometimes agonised over, I can assure you, horses keep me awake at night. Bad management, feeding, handling on the ground, training regemes, ruin more horses than poor riding.

I use as much emotional and mental energy on every horse as I do with every one of my trainers. Every horse is like a good friend that needs a hand. In every  training session I carry out or observe, I watch like a hawk, I don’t miss much!

If a new owner gets advice on a horse from me, I have thought it through thoroughly. Taking into account the horses training and temperament, the riders abilities and weaknesses, the riders support structure, age, experience,fitness, mum and dads knowledge, where they will keep the horse, what they will feed the horse what are their ambitions ( not to be confused with capabilities😀 they often are) what kind of float do they have and on and on and on.
This is not like some passing advice you get from a mum at pony club, who is really only interested I her kids horse, or some horse bitch at he stables who takes delight in seeing you struggle, or even some well meaning cowboy who learnt to ride from an 80 year old aboriginal stock man, roping steers in the Northern Territory . I am giving advice on this particular horse in this particular situation, I know the horse intimately, hopefully, I have a pretty good understanding of the new rider, I’m a pretty good judge of a rider and read between the lines very well, remember this has kept me awake at night.

When bazaconi’s time had come I was full of hope for his future, the girl who was taking him was intelligent, mature and had some fairly good riding potential. Most importantly she assured me she had a strong support base, people who were eventing at the highest level would instruct her and Baz, she had full confidence in them, they lived just over the back fence. Though I knew of them ,I didn’t know them personally, if they were competing at the level they were and instructing and training for a living I couldn’t ask for much more on Baz’s behalf.

I would like to introduce the last important piece of the puzzle that I believed would get the combination across the line. I have no doubt this will cause a little controversy amongst the less thoughtful and know all section of the audience, but I think I’ve made my point, I don’t do anything lightly.
The marketharborour is a piece of harness I was introduced to me at the mounted police. For the. Mounties it is compulsory equipment whilst on patrol, it has been in use there for at least 30 years probably much longer, you would like to suppose they would have ironed out any issues with this priece of equipment in 30 years don’t you think. Well I think they had a pretty good idea of how useful the marketharborour could be and I reckon I have put hundreds of hours since leaving the Mounties into what I think of it and it’s pros and cons in relation to helping riders and horses.I could write an entire book on the use of the marketharborour, I personally don’t use it as general rule, either do my staff, we don’t need to, except to ensure the horse can work safely in it but with good knowledge and understanding it is an exceptionally useful tool and piece of safety equipment.

The marketharborour attaches to the horses girth via a strap an inch wide, it travels forward between the horses front legs where it then splits into two thinner straps which pass through the rings on the side of the bit, it then runs along the reins where it attaches to small rings fixed to the reins, say a third of the length of the reins up from the bit. The market harbour can be adjusted to the particular horse so that the horse carries himself in a correct frame. The marketharborour doesn’t come into play unless the rider or horse make a minor infringement in relation to maintaining the correct frame it then makes an instant correction, much more quickly that most riders can, as the horse has been trained to respond to the correction he does so and life goes on safely, the marketharborour releases immediately, it is no longer engaged, this all happens in a split second, most of the time the rider won’t even recognised it has occurred.

Horses should not be put into a marketharborour until they achieved the ability to carry themselves in a good working frame, the market harbourour used in this way is a safety net not a training device.
Now, when a horse goes into a new environment he will be less attentive than he has been in his regular comfortable daily working environment. It might take a month for horses to settle into their new environment, the market harbourour takes the rough edges off nervous riders and helps the horse by guiding him with the established non confusing aids he has learnt in his training to this point.
Put shortly, it is a great bridging tool to help horses and rider get to know each other in less than perfect conditions. It has saved the backside of many a mounted police officer when things go pear shaped, and the you know what hits the fan.

I had introduced the marketharborour to Baz and his new rider in the last weeks of his training and recommended, with loads of other advice, that he should be ridden in it until it was absolutely boring for both horse and rider.

Finally the day came, I loaded Baz up and drove him to his new home. I really did love this big fiery bastard, I hoped things would work out for him. I don’t generally get sad when I let horses go, after all this is my objective, it’s a happy day for me, or so I kept telling myself, I send them off with hope that they will be happy, healthy and loved for the rest of their days. Bazaconi had become one of my i portent equine teachers, you get them in your horse life, I’ve had several but he was right up there. The process we had gone through was not far removed from my normal day to day work but his issues tested my knowledge,skill  and instincts at every turn. I owed him and no doubt he owed me. I can asure you Bazaconi would never be let down by me .

end of part 10

 

Bazaconi just minutes after arriving at his new home.I send them off with hope that they will be happy, healthy and loved for the rest of their days I can sure you Bazaconi would never be let down.

“Bazaconi” part 8 , Racehorse to riding horse, the boringly technical solution.

So canter??  For a Bazaconi this could mean only one thing, we are about to gallop.
Racehorses gallop in a straight line, jockeys just barely steer at that speed, and usually ride until breaks aren’t that hard to apply, fatigue does the job. It’s a bit like getting in your car, getting it up to sp@eed and then not using the break but waiting to run out of petrol, not a massive deal on a straight line but try and drive around the streets like that see how helpless you feel until it ends badly!!!.
This is what you have if you canter a racehorse without giving it some serious re education, too much go and not enough whoa.
I have lots of strategies for moving horses into the canter, it depends on the horse but it all starts with developing quality trot work and an understanding of the aids.

Gallop is what the thoroughbred is bred for. For 400 years they have been systematically bred to gallop faster and faster. They do it well, canter is not far removed from gallop, gallop is a four beat stride with a moment of suspension canter is a three beat stride with a moment of suspension.
Bazaconi could gallop, out of control head in the air like he was being chased by a T Rex, he had great endurance, another purpose bred trait of the thoroughbred. When he went to the barriers he would have been led by a guy on a pony head twisted to the side fighting all the way. He would have gone into the barriers, he is very bold, but from the moment the gates opened he would have been out of control, madness at 65 kph, head in the air no steering, hind quarters under like he had just received an electric shock, flat stick to the finish line then a mad fight with the jockey to get some semblance of control, falling sideways, mouth open the full weight of the jockey hanging off his head which he would toss from side to side in discomfort/pain and confusion, adrenaline pumping like fire hose through his veins he did on occasion need to go another lap before they could pull him up.
So canter?? A controlled strike off and transition immediately the correct aid is applied, “inside leg on the girth, outside leg behind the girth” a clear strike off from the two beat trot calmly into the three beat canter. Maintaining rhythm and tempo correctly flexed in the direction of travel, steady and consistent head carriage and contact on the bit. Waiting for the next sensitive direction from the rider.
These two pictures are a long way apart aren’t they. For most thoroughbreds it is challenging, for Bazaconi it was near impossible, I’m pretty certain that without me it wouldn’t have happened. Very few people would have put the effort in.

The trot work was getting there. Sometimes horses can just fall into the canter one day and never look back, without proactive riding, Baz was liable to break into canter at any moment, “let’s try! let him roll into it”, flat stick in our 25×15 metre indoor arena totally OUT Of CONTROL, head in the air galloping side ways about four strides to cover the length of the arena,  At every crazy zig and zag he came perilously close to falling over it definitely felt like driving a car through the city with no breaks, very poor steering and a Jammed accelerator.  Even with all of the previous foundation work and decent canter on the lunge, OUT OF CONTROL. I should have known better but I had to give it a go and I got pretty much what I expected. At every crazy zig and zag he came perilously close to falling over definitely felt like driving a car through the city with no breaks and very poor steering.

Right!  the most important thing in being ready to introduce the canter is a good consolidated trot with obedience to, and acceptance of the aids, rhythm and tempo, contact on the outside rein with the horse flexed to the inside, most people try to hold the horse bent and on the line by holding the inside rein, holding is never the answer, they must be ridden forward to the contact. This in itself is a difficult concept for most people trying to re train a thoroughbred,  a lot of people rely on the horses natural forward in doing this the only way you can influence the forward is by holding  this is always wrong except in an emergency. You have to get to the point where you feel like you could push at any time, you may not need to push but if you don’t feel like you could if you wanted to you are a passenger not a rider.If you have all of this consolidated the canter will be there. Baz was on the way with this but the reality of it was, that all of this would need consolidation for at least another 12 months. In the meantime if he was to leave me, he would need to be able to be ridden at the canter, that is one of my un movable boundaries.
To get a reasonable, workable and safe canter he needed to learn to balance himself and his rider, the rider can help the horse find his balance by sitting still, keeping his weight in the centre but a horse needs to trust this and find the best way to be balanced. A law of physics is , the load can’t balance the support. In the case of horse and rider the load can assist the support in finding how to balance himself.
all horses are crooked, raceing makes them more so,  along with all of his mental and emotional issues Bazaconi was inclined to carry his hind quarters to the left.

image

With his hind quarters carried naturally to the left Baz would be inclined to fall out through the right shoulder when traveling on a left circle

image

To the right Baz would fall in through the right shoulder, same issue, hind quarter carried to the left power driving through Baz’s incorrectly aligned back and out through the right shoulder.

image

This is how Baz needed to travel with his body aligned with the line on which he was traveling, hind quarters driving toward the fore through the supple correctly aligned spine. This would be the best position for him To be balanced with the rider on his back and would encourage correct muscular development.

For Bazaconi to get past this mechanical issue I would need to be able to push him, he had never been pushed, only held. I was able to push him at the trot that was a start, my plan was to get him more bent to the inside than he needed to be, have him working reasonably well at shoulder fore or better still shoulder in, on the circle, this would ensure he was stepping under himself with his inside hind leg and forward into the outside rein. If I could get this happening he would be in the correct position to canter, he would be balanced, I could control his enthusiasm with the breaking of the alignment of his spine the bend would also allow him to go forward with more speed but not be panicked  by the compression of the driving and restraining aids, he could allow some energy to dissipate out through the outside shoulder if need be and then I could shape the canter into something workable.
Boringly technical isn’t it ?
If you want a more thorough description of how to get to this point get my E book Horses from courses . All the detail is in there.

This method was always going to work it was just a matter of whether or not I had the persistence to stick to the plan, I can assure you I did.  I just had to stay in one piece.

end of part 8″

“Bazaconi “the instructor . Part 5

 

Attention gained, check, Foundation more consolidated, check, rhythm and tempo heading toward establishment,check, time to try riding again.
I mounted Bazaconi, immediately he put his head in the air twisted it and hollowed his back he moved off abruptly, I had to stay calm, he was expecting to get what he had always gotten from his rider, a meaningless pull on the mouth and a confusing fight, I gently took up the inside rein and asked him to move his hindquarter to the outside, initially he didn’t respond but I was not being drawn into the fight, I would sit and wait for him to recognise that what I was doing on his back was exactly what I had done from the ground whilst working in hand, finally he dropped his nose to the inside, he kept walking in a small circle but he had responded in a positive way to the bit, I gently took up the outside rein and started to proactively influence him, he would react to me not me by him.
He shook his head violently and put it up in his usual twisted way. Stay relaxed, keep asking gently, reward him at every opportunity. He Softend again poll relaxed, with little to no outside leg I asked him to step in exaggerated way toward the outside rein with his inside hind leg, softer, voice command, .”and halt” this is the voice command I had used all the way along, “and” being the precautionary aid_”get ready get ready”, long and with a downward inflection “aaannnd halt” . He understood and he stopped, he stood in a correct frame and breathed out in a heaving kind of way. It was as if he said “oh I get it”
I picked up the new inside rein and went through the same process again. Now I applied my outside leg and encouraged him to walk forward out of the circle, he did it but with the straightness came tension in his back, he was inclined to rush forward which at times threw me off balance, it was all I could do not to hit him in the mouth with the bit as I regained my position. Had I clumsily taken up the rein, the head would have gone up and the battle would have re started.
Baz needed lots of walking on small circles but I didn’t want to be on his back until it started to ache, it was a whole new way of going and it would take him some time to get used to it, like a swimmer starting running training. Very fit but in all the wrong places for what we wanted.
He would get his physical exercise on the lunge, at the same time developing strength, rhythm and tempo and I would snake around the arena at the walk on his back being very obvious and consistent with my aids for 10 minutes each ride.

Gradually he developed the understanding of the aids, he spent more time in a correct frame than not, I could feel he was starting to reach for the outside rein after all these years of avoiding it he finally reached for it, he was accepting and maybe even seeking the support.

image
On his good side I eased him into the trot, immediate tempo and fairly good Rhythm, and still moving into that outside rein, the contact had to be obvious but elastic and sympathetic or he would panic, God he was good for my riding, who needs to pay hundreds of dollars  for lessons. This was his good side and he was happy to step under my weight with the inside hind leg. I knew the other side would be harder, for a start it was naturally his week side, it had been made weaker by years of not using it correctly, secondly, it is his racing direction ,there was bound to be conditioned reflex and bad memories, there was, up went the head and the speed and out the window went the understanding. Again I stuck to my guns “let the horse be influenced by you, don’t be influenced by the horse” I kept asking him correctly and calmly. With his hollow back and head in the air he was very unbalanced, he had struggled to carry a rider on the track in a straight line let alone a 20 metre circle but he needed to work on the circle so I could help him find the feeling we needed. Breaking the alignment of his spine by working on the circle takes away his ability to fight and encourages him to relax. I have felt some unbalanced horses in my time but Baz was so bad he was very close to falling over on many occasions, this just spooked him more, voice commands were overruled by fear and confusion I needed to get his attention I moved his hind quarters across dramatically with my leg, backed up by the dressage whip, he felt even more likely to fall, I had to help him find some comfort by discovering his balance, I asked and asked with the inside rein for him to at least look to the inside, this has to be done without holding, if you hold he will hold back and flex more to the outside, I persisted carefully but somewhat demandingly, riding on the incorrect diagonal will cause the horse to step more dramatically underneath himself as he strives to get his balance, this is a very effective technique in stopping a horse from falling in and helping him take up the outside rein contact, I could feel some improvement .
Finally he dropped his head to the inside and stepped under our combined weight with his inside hind leg, now, weather it was because of the aids or because he could see the ground coming up at him or just by accident, it didn’t matter I rewarded him immediately by taking away all pressure “aaannnd walk” and he walked.
I let him enjoy it for a few moments then went back to the same exercise, this time it only took a couple of circles before he dropped his nose to the inside, he was tentative, no, terrified to take the contact on the outside rein at this stage but he had flexed and bent to a down transition. Back to his  good side, no drama, I gave him a few easy wins in relation to attaining his reward, back to the hard side, better than before, Baz had now worked out that he could let the pressure off by relaxing that’s what I needed. He was learning to relax rather than panic when things got difficult. Back to the walk, piece of cake. Lovely changes of direction snaking around forward into the outside rein, the epiphany at the trot had Helped to consolidate the walk no end.
End of part 5