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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
Hi all,

I bought a Standardbred mare that was off to the abattoir and have spent the last month fattening her up. She is 5 years old and 16.2hh.

We don't have any previous history on her but I believe she is at least green broken from the handling I have done with her. Her racing history is blank so never raced.

I've attached the pics of her booty gains since we got her (1 month ago, two weeks ago and today). She is building some momentum. I'd like to start to build some muscle using some in hand exercises. I'd get on her and ride but she seems to be voice activated and will not move off leg cues. Unfortunately, she did not come with a handbook so we have gone back to the drawing board to teach her to move off pressure from the ground up.

In the meantime, anyone have any ideas about how we can build that booty through in hand or round pen exercise?

Feedwise she is getting 110% of her DE needs through lucerne/alfafa hay, hard feed (Hygain brand from Aus), ulcer guard treatment and mycotoxin binder.
 

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She came to you with issues, she was dumped because of issues...
You need to discover what those issues are and overcome them...take your time finding, repairing and replacing problem with excellence...
So...

She first needs to finish filling in her guts, literally her guts need to heal before you can expect her to "muscle-up" in appearances.
She's come a long way in a month or so...but her insides have not healed sufficiently and replenished what had been stolen nutritionally but yet a work in progress.
The horse actually is already showing signs of muscle mass with delineation of her butt...the sculpting is there in small amounts.
Standardbreds, at least ones I've seen that were race-ready racing fit did not have bulging muscle, but sculpted muscling that rippled when they were moving during exercise.
It came over time with good food fed and proper building of stamina and tone by using the muscles properly.
Take the horse for walks over varied terrain.
Up hills and down, through grass, sand, dirt, water and all in moderation, you not overdo or over-extend the animals abilities creating pain or injury....do small, baby steps.
I personally do not like round pen work, or much of it.
The torque placed on a animals body, the joints, muscles, tendons and such to me is not a complimentary factor in exercising.
You also have a very young, yet immature horse who is not done growing or maturing and the stresses of "working" in a round pen on her body...just no.
If you do use the round pen, make sure whatever you do one direction you do the other or your horse is lopsided in strength, agility and muscle mass...and they will look it...

I keep looking at your pictures....
There is something about the hindend stance that bothers me...
She looks to me like she has a dropped hip left side...it has nothing to do with her leg placement either..it is their when she is squared standing too.
Her left buttock and hip do not resemble her right side buttock and hip...
Strikes me as a injury occurred, horse is out of align or something but there should be symmetry and there is not in appearance.
Get it checked out before you go further...
:runninghorse2:...
jmo..
 

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There aren't any side views, but I wonder exactly how much "fattening" is needed. This is a Standardbred, not a Quarter Horse, and her rear end looks within range of normal for the breed, and already has a fair amount of muscle. Show horses tend to be too fat for their own good and to me aren't a model of what we should aim for, for good health - I look to endurance horses in training, and race horses in training, as a better model for that,

And of course she's voice activated - she's a harness horse, so of course leg cues have to be taught to her when saddle re-educating, since there is no application for these when driving a horse.

Here's some comparison Standardbreds.



The one on the right has excessive condition, the other two are about right. (You can click on it to enlarge once it takes you to the source site.)

The asymmetry @horselovingguy refers to could be due to the horse being worked more in one direction than the other in her harness training - this commonly causes asymmetry, when harness trainers aren't careful to train equally in both directions.

Some side views would be helpful.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for your responses.

@SueC any clues as to what the voice cues might be? She is a dream to work with. I'm waiting patiently to find her 'nasty'. Easy to catch, perfect to saddle and such a fast learner. The only thing we haven't mastered is what the words for 'stop' and 'go' are! She pins her ears right back waiting for the magic word.

@horselovingguy I love the walking idea. We have just hit summer in Aus so it'll give me an excuse to get out and get exercising too. You probably remember that I had similar issues with a TB trying to put on weight. After advice from @loosie, we found ulcer management treatment and he bloomed. We have this one on it too.

To put it into context for those not in Australia atm: We are in a long, devastating drought. People are destocking much loved horses and top breeding cattle because there is no feed. There is also a large 'dogging' industry whereby people go to horse sales, outbid rescue organisations and private buyers (if there is any interest) and sell them straight to the abattoirs. These horses are being sold at a horse sale. She wasn't dumped, she was moved on. People cannot afford to keep/buy excellent horses. This girl, Rose, was bid on by a private buyer but the dogger paid more. She was then sent to a transit centre, placed in a dirt paddock and put up for sale for three weeks for 3 x the price he paid for her. I was able to pay him $200 more than the abattoir would the day before she was to be put on the truck, and had her transported across state. She arrived bony and covered in down hair. Am I a bleeding heart? Totally. Will she be a show or endurance mount? No. She is here to mend and eventually become a trail riding buddy for my husband. She will not be bred.
 

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Yep, you certainly don't want more fat on your mare; any more and you'd be pushing her into unhealthy. While fat would "smooth out" her conformation - and this is often done to help camouflage certain aspects of conformation not considered show ideal, in show horses, such as the longish back in your mare, which by the way isn't a problem for riding her - to increase her fat levels to "show condition" would make her more prone to health problems such as laminitis, metabolic syndrome etc.

Of course, your mare's shape will become more athletic still with work - and I second @horselovinguy's call for preferencing actual trail riding through terrain like hilly country or sandy country if you have those, to working the poor things around and around in circles. I think some round pen work is OK but my upper limit was always 15-20 minutes in a session (walk-trot-canter), every alternate day, and more trail or general riding than anything, and not in the arena on a day where they'd already had round pen work / lunging. We didn't build a round pen when we bought our rural property in 2010 because I don't actually find them crucial for saddle training or general training of horses. The best thing about them is being able to do liberty lunging, which is more fun than line lunging.

You're unlikely to find any "nasty" in your mare as most STBs are kind, cooperative horses with a brilliant work ethic, so just enjoy. :) They are very straightforward, and intelligent, and (unless they've had bad experiences) they like hanging out with people, and going on adventures with you. Also they're generally very calm horses (especially off-track STBs compared to off-track thoroughbreds). There's cart horse genes in them going way back, and also their racing is a bit less crazy-making than TB racing as they mostly do running starts from behind mobile barriers, rather than standing starts, and are never cooped up in boxes that release them at the start - that kind of standstill-to-flat-out, from being in a cage, is quite crazy-making for many horses.

I'm assuming your mare was trained for racing? Maybe raced? Harness racing horses that have trained on track are very used to cars and trucks as they are familiar with mobile barriers on track, and lining up behind those, and also with watering trucks making their way around the racetrack when horses are doing preliminaries for trials etc. So this tends to make them less spooky around traffic, as long as they can see it coming and it doesn't get in their personal space.

About voice cues, there isn't a magic word or anything, it depends on how each trainer cues. You don't have to find the same word as her last trainer, you can get her used to your own cues as she gets to know you. Most harness trainers will use "whoa" to help cue the horse to slow down, and tongue-click to get them walking on, going faster etc. Just cue her consistently - when you're leading on the halter, "whoa" if that's what you want to use, starting just before providing resistance on the halter and stopping yourself. Praise when she does it, repeat until she's got your cue. Same with tongue-clicking, walk-on or whatever you're going to use, to start walking from a standstill.

Is this mare saddle trained already, or are you going to do that?

These horses are usually a pleasure to be around and work with, so congratulations on your acquisition - I'm sure Rose will love being a trail horse. :cool:

And this is the horse I ride, whom I saddle trained back in 2009 after he came off-track. He's wonderful. :love:





PS on stopping: This can cause some issues because of confusion when you're first riding an OTSTB, because in their harness careers they were mostly only asked to stop after completing certain predictable intervals, say 400m or 800m sprints, or race distance. ("What do you mean, stop? I must be misunderstanding you. I've not even done any work yet!") And then, the stop cue is often to loosen the reins, which is the opposite of what horse riders do - just as taking up the reins means, "We're going to run now!" on the harness track. So you have to re-cue them for saddle training - many a hapless soul has ended up going at race pace on a keen STB when pulling on the reins in an effort to slow them down. This can be vastly amusing to harness racing insider onlookers, but not so much to a rider not used to going fast and not knowing when the horse is going to stop (if that happens, it's usually quite amenable to slowing down after 2100m, which is standard race distance in Australia). And then you go back to working on communication. (Or you prevent that situation because you know it could happen! ;-))
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks @SueC. All of what you said makes a lot of sense. I’ll keep it all in mind 🙂

I traced her branding and she has a blank racing history (although, she did come from some winners!). She seems to be green broken to saddle. I finally got her moving the other day whilst on her in the round yard and she was fine once she got going. Stopping only occurred when I was able to turn her into the fence.

I’ve been doing liberty lunging and yielding to pressure exercises this week. She picks everything up so quickly. She even has a nice canter - something I’ve heard can allude a Standy. I’ll continue with those and some in hand walking until we get everything sorted for some safe trail riding.

Your boy is absolutely beautiful! You’ve obviously done a wonderful job with him. I have a cheeky ASH and just moved on another rescue TB. Rose is like a big dog - loyal, gentle and super cuddly - just as Standy’s were described to me.

Thanks again - it’s nice to know that I’m on the right track.
 

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So your mare might have done the lead-up training and not made it to races. Can you see if she trialled? Or she might be a horse that wasn't harness trained at all, you occasionally get one like that. You can usually work these things out through the Australian STB database if you know the name of the previous trainer, or owner (which may still come up with the horse's name). You can also do a horse name search for trials.

That canter thing is mostly a myth. Most STBs have fine canters in the paddock, but have been trained out of cantering when working with humans. You know, "Cantering not allowed!" so they can transfer that to ridden work unless they're told it's OK now and reassured. This is what the problem with most OTSTBs and cantering under saddle actually is - it's not a deficit in the horse, it's people not understanding how to train a horse that's been told previously, "This is not OK!" and worn racing hopples when doing fast work that make it impossible to canter - it's painful hitting the straps and the horses learn to canter disunited if they get into trouble and off balance.

If she's already had some riding, she may already know that cantering is OK under saddle. If not, you can teach this to her. If horses are cross-trained from the start, they already act like normal riding horses under saddle (with the added zing of wanting to show you how fast they can trot on a regular basis :cool:).

Looks like you guys are already progressing nicely! :)

Is she doing any free-legged pacing in the paddock, or does she prefer to trot there?

Riding my STB is like riding a giant Golden Retriever who likes to go fast at least once on a "proper" ride (when we're not just strolling around the block being laid-back).
 

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Discussion Starter #10
She is actually unnamed in the database. I suppose that is a good indication that she hasn’t raced or trialled? The dogger thought she was broken to harness but I wouldn’t rely on him for accurate information.

In the paddock she does pace and trot which points to some training there? I really have to push her into a canter at liberty but once at it, she seems quite comfortable.
 

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I think from memory they need to be named to enter proper trials but I think they can do educational trials unnamed - that's mobile barrier training for a lap and then the race distance. So yes, she won't have raced and probably hasn't done official trials. Which is not to say that they didn't train her and try her out at track - sometimes they don't make the speed for them to be taken to trials, or they have some injury or other issue, which may not necessarily affect them as riding horses. If there's an owner name with her record, you could try contacting them if you're interested in her history. Usually you can find them through the local trotting tracks if you know where she came from, you ring the secretary and ask.

About the pacing, most Australian STBs can pace naturally from birth and only wear hopples at training to discourage them from breaking gait at speed. Most of the local STBs are also "ambidextrous" - can trot and pace. The reason your horse trots fast before cantering on is that she's comfortable trotting fast and has the genes and build to do so, but you can eventually cue her to canter on from a medium trot etc. You just don't have that situation with horses who only do "slowcoach" trots. Right now she canters on when it's biomechanically the most efficient gait for the speed and footing, like any horse at liberty, and for gaited horses the threshold is higher.

A few of us talked a bit about the genetics of pacing / gaited horses on a recent thread. I did two posts on STBs, trotting and pacing, the second is in the same thread as the first here: https://www.horseforum.com/horse-breeds/what-breed-why-does-he-do-809419/#post1970791809
 

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Slowly but surely, a little more definition there. We are going out on trails about four times a week as suggested - up and down hills at a walk. I’ve tapered her food off using FeedXL. She has a wonderful shine about her at the moment. Looking forward to more muscle growth. Those hips though!
 

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Once she's ready - trail riding. Look for trails with hills, dry or shallow water creek beds, gullies, wash outs - things to climb. Have her walk slowly and carefully downhill so she tucks that rear down and has to really work it to control the pace (It seems to be a tendency of a horse to want to trot downhill - to go with the momentum as it's easier), and steep enough she has to dig in with her hind-end to go uphill. A place with a good variation in terrain would be great for the booty workout, but also for places to trot and lope. Personally, I can't stress enough how beneficial trail riding is for both horse and rider, for both mind and body of horse and human.


EDIT: I posted before I saw your update, OP. Didn't realize you've already got her going on trails.


Keep up the good work!
 
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