Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Well done on getting 2 OTTBs and giving them another chance at life!
My horse is an OTTB- I got him a year ago- he had a bowed tendon, and cuts and scrapes everywhere from being run through a fence. I just first gave him the time he needed to recover (tendon is great now), and then took things slow.
If I'd known what I know now I would have taken things very differently, that's for sure.
For starters, you're not really 'retraining' a TB, you're just training it, as you would a green horse. Yes, you will need to get the 'omg run run run!' thing out of their heads, but apart from that you are virtually dealing with a blank slate.
Most are confused by the concept of leg, simply having 2 legs hanging down by their side, instead of a rider perched up in the saddle can be very frightening, but that ride you had on your boy sounds like he's had a bit of 'regular' riding. (I was lucky, during my boys race training he was regularly taken to the beach for exercise, in a stock saddle, to work at all paces).
Pressure on reins CAN = go faster. I took my boy for a gallop on the beach a couple of weeks ago, and the more I hung on his mouth for balance (as the jockeys do) the faster he went! (I almost crapped myself to be honest! lol). Best thing for this is side reins! If you don't know how to use them please get someone experienced to show you as they can do more damage than harm in the wrong hands. Use side reins when he's a little more comfortable on the lunge, and this will help him accept rein contact, as well as develop some topline! That way he's not just exercising his legs ;)
Your aids- again, it seems like your first ride went pretty well, but i'll throw this in there anyway. Use vocal aids when you lunge- ie ask for the walk, trot, canter etc with your body AND your voice (and the whip if need be). Say 'whoa' or whatever feels appropriate for you to decrease speed. Most TBs are pretty **** smart and will pick this up quickly, and it won't be long til he's concentrating on you pretty **** hard while you give him lots to think about! (When I lunge I like to keep my intervals between my paces short, ie half a ring of trot, few strides of canter, down to trot then walk, back to canter etc).
Once you can do this on the lunge confidently, incorporate it into your riding. My horse sometimes still needs the vocal 'canter!' aid to pick up canter in the arena at times. Even being vocal helps him jump, with a 'hup!' at his take off point to stop and hesitation!
I'm not sure about the left rein/right rein thing- what direction around the track do your horses race? Over here it's to the left anyway, so left was always Chief's stronger side, and it took him AGES to pick up the right canter rein under saddle. (Even took a long time on the lunge). So flexion will definitely be a hurdle, and you're doing a great job by leg yielding- it's about the simplest, safest and easiest way of working their muscles properly! Just try to spend a little more time on their stiff side than the easier side, to ensure the muscles build up at the same rate.
Just throwing all that in there, but it sounds like you're doing a great job so far, so keep up the good work and keep us posted!