Tips on retraining ex-racehorses
By Charlotte Pordage
Wednesday 08 August 2012
Horsemart reader and blogger Charlotte Pordage gives us her tips on how to retrain an ex-racehorse.
Retraining an ex-racehorse can be very rewarding but requires an experienced and understanding rider. Ex-racehorses have no concept of the aids given to normal riding horses and are used to their riders being out of the saddle rather than actually sitting on their backs.
Retraining is usually a long process, sometimes longer than backing a youngster, as you have to undo everything that the horse has already learnt and teach them something completely new. Remember all an ex-racehorse knows is galloping!
When I first started riding my ex-racehorse, Luke, he had virtually no topline and weak hindquarters. He was used to going in a hollow outline, with his head in the air and hind legs trailing out behind him, the typical posture of an ex-racehorse. He was also very stiff on his left rein, even attempting to flex right on bends, so I needed to do more on that rein to even him up. Browse equipment for sale or place an ad on Horsemart now.
He was prone to rushing and throwing his head up, particularly after cantering, and I soon realised that this was his way of trying to evade doing work. The best thing to do in this situation was to relax and simply ride him through it; if I tensed up and tightened my grip on the reins he would just go faster, as racehorses are taught to lean into the pressure of the jockey's hands.
Over a period of nearly a year, I used a combination of schooling and lunging to encourage Luke to lower his head and work in a rounder outline. Circles, serpentines, transitions and lateral work were all incorporated into our schooling sessions to improve his suppleness and engage his hindquarters. During schooling, frequent breaks were essential to ensure he wasn't tempted to act up, as he wasn't physically strong enough to carry himself for long periods.
When lunging, I used either side reins or a chambon to guide Luke’s head downwards and stretch the muscles along the top of his neck and along his back. It is important that side reins and other training aids are not too tight so that the horse’s head is not pulled or forced into position.
The improvement in Luke has been huge and he is working nicely on the bit now, although there’s still a lot of work to be done. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experience and that it helps you with your own ex-racehorse!
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