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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun. 20, 2005
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    833

    Default Restarting a Racehorse with a Little Baggage

    I am going to be breaking an off the track standardbred to ride, and could use a little input.

    For some background, one of my family's racehorses was always supposed to be mine when he stopped racing. I sort of figured this to be down the road a little way; he is only not yet 5 and was racing rather well up until last fall. But he's basically decided he's not into it anymore. No real issues, lameness or otherwise; he's just lost interest, for lack of a better explanation. So, he's been turned out since the end of February, waiting for the weather to get a little nicer so I can start his second career.

    We've had this guy his whole life; bred him and all. He is a marvelously mannered little guy, but for one thing: he was a little quirky on the track. He always wore an ear hood. He didn't jog on the main track because he'd get pretty strong. He wore a pretty harsh overcheck bit for leverage. These things alone don't really concern me; a lot of times hotness on the track doesn't really transfer to riding, and I also wouldn't call him hot, exactly; but strong. He was also very quiet and well-behaved on the back-track jogging. More concerning to me is this: when he would break stride (canter/gallop) in a race (not often), he would flat out run off for a while. He'd be running as fast as the rest of the field would be trotting. This is not common; usually horses break strike, fairly calmly are slowed to switch back to a trot (losing significant ground), and continue on. Usually, if he did break stride, he'd gallop the rest of the mile, and pretty strongly at that. He'd switch from "flat-out run" to "controllable run" after I guess 50 strides or so, but it clearly rattled him.
    Obviously I need to make sure this guy has a solid set of brakes on him before I swing a leg over him. I have access to a roundpen and plan to teach him to longe under tack-but not under-rider first and get a verbal "whoa" on him, probably in a set of side reins. Then start riding him in the round pen, again getting whoa and go down-pat. And then, go from there.
    He is very smart and very pleasant and wants to please so I don't think this will be a problem to teach him. But I guess a few questions I'm thinking through:
    What would you start a horse in, bit-wise, for this? Usually I'll just ride the standies in a snaffle, usually a D-ring or loose ring. Was thinking a french-link loose ring might be an ok starting point here; thoughts?
    I am probably getting ahead of myself here, but once he's graduated, so to speak, from longeing to riding in the roundpen, I guess we'd be ready for a larger area (though probably still an arena) but eventually I'd like to trailride him, etc so in this case, with one with a "propensity" to bolt, how will I know he's ready, I guess?
    Finally, is there anything I am missing here? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? I'd rather be safe than sorry, but maybe I am overthinking it a bit. Most of the time these guys are really easy so maybe the fact that I have all the history on him is making me more conservative.
    Thank you in advance for any advice!


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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul. 8, 2007
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    Maryland
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    1,260

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Big_Tag View Post
    Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?
    Yes. The more you stress out about this and get anxious the more that will transmit to him. Teach him how to yield his neck and one rein stop before leaving the ring just in case, in addition to learning downward transitions.

    I wouldn't call this baggage. OTTBs race flat out and transition just fine, too. I'd start him in whichever snaffle fits his mouth conformation best.


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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun. 20, 2005
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    833

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by gypsymare View Post

    I wouldn't call this baggage. OTTBs race flat out and transition just fine, too. I'd start him in whichever snaffle fits his mouth conformation best.
    Well, I would call this baggage. TBs race flat out but do rate. When he runs, it is not controllable for those 50 strides or so as I mentioned. That is the part that concerns me. That is not part and parcel to most racehorses I have dealt with, TB or STB.
    However, I am happy to hear I am overanalyzing; I do tend to do so
    Last edited by Big_Tag; Apr. 9, 2014 at 10:09 PM. Reason: grammar fail


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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2002
    Location
    PA, where the State motto is: "If it makes sense, we don't do it!".
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    Big Tag--I think this horse is too much for you and you nèed to send him to me! Seriously, I am jealous....

    I think you are right to be asking these questions before you start retraining your horse so you have some tools to work with. I think you should install brakes (a whoa) in your horse on the ground with the halter at the walk and trot for a couple of days, then on the ground using the bit and bridle. The french link bit should be fine.

    Do you know how to stop a runaway horse--just in case--there's more than one method. Do you know how to get him to turn if he braces his neck? In one of the recent threads there was a link ti what to do if you have a bolter--move him sideways and forward.

    I would probably start him on a magnesium supplement too before attempting to retrain. It could help him to relax and allow him to listen better to what you ask him to do.

    Don't worry about the canter until your horse brings his head down, starts rounding under you and learns something about collection. He will need to develop his.back muscles.

    New Vocations has a retraining manual for TBs and STBs on their site. I think it costs $30. Robyn Cuffey also has a book for retraining harness horses. If you Google her I think you'll find it.

    Best of luck! I wish I were closer I'd love to help you with your project!
    Last edited by Cherry; Apr. 9, 2014 at 11:04 PM.
    "If you can't be thankful for what you have, you can at least be thankful for what you've avoided." author unknown


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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec. 31, 2000
    Location
    El Paso, TX
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    11,705

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    I'm not wild about loose rings on a horse that "may" bolt. I'd longe him in a full cheek or D ring snaffle or even a French link.
    I'd start my rides in a French link, or if you are leery, a 3 ring bit with 2 reins, since you said he is ok with leverage.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar. 28, 2002
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    East of Dog River
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    I would change mouthpiece style - something he can't grab as well as something that will give him a hint things are not going to be the same old thing and do try to avoid loose ring bits since they can pinch. I also suggest you instill a good whoa from the ground.

    That said, I rode one old guy that would tear your arms out jogging and if you were on his back, he was completely different. I worked cattle with him, rode trails, and loads of other things with no problems at all. He would go from race horse to saddle horse and back without a fuss of any kind. Also had a mare that did the same - she would race on a Friday or Saturday and go gaming on Sundays.

    Used to ride a lot of bad pullers and under saddle they never pulled and very little work was required to get them to good pleasure horse mode.

    re: his overcheck bit. Are you sure he didn't try to choke down? Or maybe flapper trouble?
    Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun. 20, 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cherry View Post
    Big Tag--I think this horse is too much for you and you nèed to send him to me! Seriously, I am jealous....

    I think you are right to be asking these questions before you start retraining your horse so you have some tools to work with. I think you should install brakes (a whoa) in your horse on the ground with the halter at the walk and trot for a couple of days, then on the ground using the bit and bridle. The french link bit should be fine.

    Do you know how to stop a runaway horse--just in case--there's more than one method. Do you know how to get him to turn if he braces his neck? In one of the recent threads there was a link ti what to do if you have a bolter--move him sideways and forward.

    I would probably start him on a magnesium supplement too before attempting to retrain. It could help him to relax and allow him to listen better to what you ask him to do.

    Don't worry about the canter until your horse brings his head down, starts rounding under you and learns something about collection. He will need to develop his.back muscles.

    New Vocations has a retraining manual for TBs and STBs on their site. I think it costs $30. Robyn Cuffey also has a book for retraining harness horses. If you Google her I think you'll find it.

    Best of luck! I wish I were closer I'd love to help you with your project!
    Cherry-where in PA are you? I am also in PA!

    I have Robin Cuffey's book and read through it. It's very informative and written in a very simple manner. Like I said, most of the time I've just gotten on and rode them; the leap to saddle hrose doesn't seem to faze these guys. I did have one mare way back when that I had a cowboy break; he was fantastic, and he's still around, if worse comes to worse.

    I learned pulley-rein back in my invincible (read:teenage) days, when I climbed on a big paint horse who had just bolted with a girl and my trainer nominated me to ride him: "here's what you do if he tries it again." He did not.

    His ground manners are absolutely perfect; he will whoa and go in hand like a champ. I honestly think as long as he knows what is being asked of him, he will comply. I do think if he doesn't know what is being asked of him, he may get frazzled, so just trying to have a solid game plan.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2002
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    PA, where the State motto is: "If it makes sense, we don't do it!".
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    BT, I'm in Lancaster County--where are you?

    I think if you teach him voice commands from the ground (with and without the bit), keep your initial rides simple--you should be good to go! Don't worry about teaching him to "back" yet; some horses will use backing to evade going forward.
    "If you can't be thankful for what you have, you can at least be thankful for what you've avoided." author unknown



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun. 20, 2005
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    Default

    [QUOTE=sk_pacer;7522394

    re: his overcheck bit. Are you sure he didn't try to choke down? Or maybe flapper trouble?[/QUOTE]

    Did not try to choke down and did not have palate issues. Just a little bit of a bull. Actually SK, long ago I asked for opinions on two STB yearlings and he is the one you said you preferred He was a very decent little racehorse for us until he decided he was not. I am hoping he will be like you described-bully on the track, quiet away from it. As I said he was super quiet on the backtrack and jogged w/o an overcheck at all there, so fingers crossed he will be ok.



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