Saturday, March 29, 2008
Retraining racehorses, part 2
One of the comments I've received was from someone who had a paint horse and was thinking of adopting an ex-racehorse and it made me think about what all we have gotten into with Bar.
I don't regret it at all, I have learned an enormous amount about horses and about riding, and I am totally enamored with my darling horse.
It is not easy, and it requires a lot of work, dedication, consistency, and time. Sometimes it is incredibly frustrating and difficult, but then again, the rewards have been well worth it.
I don't know that I am the best one to counsel either way, actually. I would hate for someone to get an ex-racehorse without a clear understanding of the challenges it entails. But at the very same time, it has been one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had.
It has been hard to get Bar not to run, or even stay at a consistent gait. I'm glad I started taking lessons because Peter has helped give me some tools that have worked pretty well - like using English reins and using a pulley rein to help correct Bar before he gets too out of hand.
It has also been hard to get him to not be overly aggressive, which would have been an important trait in a racehorse who wins. He wanted to run the show, and sometimes still does, but he has come to accept us most days as the alpha. (Not that we don't have to remind him daily, mind you.)
So. Prepare for a lot of ground work, slow work at the walk and trot until you can get them to pay attention, and trying different things to keep that attention once you get it. Be patient, be loving, be willing to go slow with them, both physically and mentally. If you can do that, the reward is amazing.
Bar is attentive and affectionate, playful and intelligent, and so sensitive to my mood and mind-set that it forces me to focus and has helped improve my riding by sheer default.
He is not easy, and it has not been an easy process to turn him into a horse I can ride and not be afraid of, a horse I can trust and enjoy. But I wouldn't have it any other way.