Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Racing
www.GoodHorse.org

Cloud's Honor Riding

Cloud's Honor Riding
www.LeightonFarm.com

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Training Guide Additions

I wrote a book about how racehorses live at the track and how to transition them to other disciplines. Click here to see it.

It's a work in progress since people regularly contact me and ask questions about their retired/retiring racehorse. When I answer them I also get a new addition for the book. I learn something new from the horses themselves, practically every day so that contributes even more topics for the book. I decided to start posting the new additions here. We create revised editions of the book at least once a year and we make dvd's to distribute at events where Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue appears.

One of my latest entries is about teaching the racehorse to jump. I haven't added it yet as I'm still tweaking it. It follows:

When you bring your horse home to your farm remember that he is still a racehorse. He may be a racehorse that’s on the farm resting, but he has been bred, raised and trained up to this point to do one thing and that is to race. You now must show him that he is going to become something different. If you plan to jump your horse here are a few things to consider.

There are trainers who take horses directly from the track and begin jump training immediately. I was in a Jimmy Wofford gymnastics clinic a few years ago where there was a rider who had gotten a horse from the track only the week before. He was a steeplechase trainer/rider and planned to run the horse in steeplechase races. This works well because steeplechase and hurdle horses are racehorses that run over fences.

If you want to event, do jumpers, hunt or just recreational jump, that approach is going to give you less than desirable results. You must first teach your new horse to be a riding horse and when he understands that, introduce jumping. This is not to say that some horses come off the track that never really were racehorses. It can be because of inadequate training but most of the time they just never embraced racing. You still must give them the basics.

Each horse is ready to learn to jump at a different time. Many times I introduce walking and then trotting over poles very soon after they come to the farm. If the poles elicit any excitement for the horse, I know that we’ll be walking over poles for a while before I show them a jump. One clue that the horse is not ready is if the he becomes excited when you start to jump him. If this happens you need to back track. Also be careful that you aren’t making a “big deal” out of it. If you are tense or excited, he will sense that and mirror it. Calm, easy going introductions work best. Many people just casually pop them over logs and natural obstacles while trail riding. I often wonder if horses take to this so much easier because most of the time the riders are more relaxed too. This is a good way to start.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Old Hilltop

Vet Imaging was in town this past week and they invited me to come and speak to a room full of veterinarians on both Friday morning for breakfast and then again on Monday night at dinner. They also raised donations for TPR and I am very thankful for their kindness and support.

This event was held at Pimlico Racecourse. Pimlico was the first place I galloped racehorses and I still remember the magical feeling I had the first day I walked onto the backstretch. There's a lot of history there. When you walk onto any backstretch there is an energy there that can't be experienced anywhere else. It comes from not only the people who work with the horses, but from the horses themselves.

I galloped horses around that oval for nearly twenty-five years. I knew the people there. Many of the backstretch workers there were generational. Their father's had worked there as had their fathers before them.

If you went there in the afternoon the horsemen could all be found in certain places. Even after I moved to southern Maryland, if I went back there for the races, those guys were standing leaning against a wall as you walked out onto the apron near the entrance to the paddock. Bernie Bond's ashes were spread at the wire. I guess Bernie is the only one who is still there.

I haven't been back to Pimlico since they closed it for training until last Friday morning. It was appropriate that I arrived during what would have been training hours. It was a ghost town. It was clean and quiet. There were a few security guards around, but not the ones who I had known for years. They were nice, but they weren't my people. As I walked into the grandstand past the paddock and up the stairs, I felt an emptiness. Something was missing - no everything was missing. Pimlico had been living in my mind as it had been, alive and full of energy. With horses, people and excitement. Trainers were on the apron watching their horses gallop. I had never thought about what it was like after they closed it.

I got up to the dining room and walked to the front windows that overlook the racetrack. I galloped around that track thousands of times. It was sealed and the grandstand was empty, even the benches were gone. Most of the monitors were gone from the dining room. There were electrical hookups hanging where they had once been.

I was glad to be home, but home was gone and that made me sad. I wondered if Pimlico would ever live again, but I already knew the answer. I had been one of the last to experience the majesty and presence of Old Hilltop. From now on it would only be a shadow of it's former self. Shining for one day a year on Preakness day and making those of us who knew her long for what had been.