Our training notes often show schooling at the farm but may also
include cross country schoolings and trail rides away from the
farm. Go back through our notes to see how we train our off-the-track
Thoroughbreds and prepare them for new careers as sport horses.
Mamie and Queen's
Rowdy Lad get by with a little help from their
friends, Tammy and Knight
Villain. August 19, 2007
Training Thoroughbreds to Go Through Water
We often get asked questions about how we train our Thoroughbreds
to do things like fox hunting, crossing bridges and going through
water. The secret of training any horse, Thoroughbreds are just
more sensitive and easier to train, is to build their confidence
in YOU as the leader. Never push them too
fast and never, ever let them be scared. Have you heard the song lyrics, "I get by with
a little help from my friends"?
Seven OTTBs from Bits & Bytes Farm went
on a trail ride last Sunday. August 19, 2007
Horses are herd animals
Horses are herd animals and they look for a strong leader to guide
the herd to safety. They trust their lives to the herd leader and
if he/she shows weakness, the herd could die. The leader (the alpha
horse) is always being challenged by the beta horse. The beta,
or second in command, will move up to lead should the leader show
weakness. The survival of the herd is at stake.
We promote the value of natural horsemanship. It teaches the horse
that you are the leader and a leader that can be trusted. When
you have established leadership on the ground the horse will trust
you when mounted. Be sure to be a confident and strong leader or
the beta horse (your horse) will take charge.
Mamie and Queen's Rowdy Lad cross
a creek for the first time. It was Mamie's first trail ride
ever! "Rowdy" has been through ponds while fox hunting. This
was a good pairing - Green rider, seasoned horse.
When we are teaching
a young horse new skills such as riding in a group and
maintaining proper distance from the horse in front, crossing
a bridge or going through a creek, we bring along a more
seasoned horse to give the young or green horse more confidence.
When we have a strong equine leader who is not afraid, the
other horses will quietly follow IF their riders also show
leadership. If you are afraid, this will be telegraphed to
the horse and the horse will refuse to do what scares you
because you are not showing leadership.
We took seven horses out on a trail ride.
We had green riders and green horses but we also had seasoned riders
and experienced horses for support. Some of the horses had trail
riding experience and some of the riders did and some did not.
All of the riders had been working with their horses on the ground
and in the arena so they were paired well to tackle
The First Test - Thoroughbreds Crossing a Wooden Bridge
Before we had hardly gotten started we came upon our first challenge
- a wooden bridge that spans a creek that was 30 feet below. It
has only a low wooden fence to keep you from stepping off. You
can see right through the fence, all the waaay down to the creek
You go first, NO, YOU go first . . . Elizabeth
explains how to cross the bridge.
We all gathered together
before the bridge while I explained that many of these horses
had been over that bridge without incident. I told
the riders to just look to the other side of the bridge - and
not down to the bottom of the creek. I said that the horses
would follow the more experienced horses without question. I got
a few good looks from the riders but they were willing to give
it a go.
Nancy Woodruff and Dream Pusher took the lead across the wooden
Unfortunately, I was mounted on an inexperienced
horse so I had to ask another rider to take the lead. Nancy
Woodruff and Dream
Pusher stepped up took the lead across the wooden
bridge! Nancy has only been riding a few years and this was only
her second trail ride on "Dream". She rode on
pace in Alabama the week before and we did a small trail
ride the next day. Dream
Pusher was purchased
by Nancy as a Prospect Horse For
Sale in February.
just four and only a few months off-the-track with a less experienced
rider - but one who knows her horse. "Dream" and
Nancy have done many lessons together - both on the ground
and mounted. He trusts Nancy and she trusts him and together
they led our group quietly across the wooden bridge. Not one
of the horses was concerned. The riders faces tell another
story but we all survived and it was on to the creek!
Conny Moebes and Tuck's St. Aly cross the bridge in front of Tammy
Gullet and Knight Villain.
Once across the bridge we continued on our quest to find water
to play in on this hot summer day. As we were riding along, the
second lesson was learned. Riding in a large group with horses
of all levels of training is not as easy as this group makes it
look. Some horses walk faster than others, some lag behind and
they all want to be in front - they ARE ex-race horses after all.
We took turns letting each horse take the
lead and or be in the rear. Riders kept a safe distance behind
any horse they were following.
We took turns letting each horse take the lead or be in the
rear. The riders learned to keep a safe distance behind any horse
they were following. This is good training for any of our horses
who will go on to become fox hunters. Riding in a group creates
all new dynamics for both the horse and the rider. The riders and
the horses learned to keep calm and adjust their pace to keep together
as a group.
At last we reached our real goal and test - the water crossing!
Many of the horses had played in this creek before but for many
of the riders and some of the horses it was a new experience.
Nancy had yet to get Dream
Pusher into the water, Tam Cunningham was worried
D Song would not cross a creek and Mamie Kerr just
wanted to have a great experience with her new horse Queen's
Who has the bigger grin, Sing D Song or his rider Tam Cunningham?
Sing D Song showed
Tam that trotting through the creek was great fun even if you got
water up your nose while I am just trying to keep my camera
dry while riding Classic Casey.
I had a great time introducing Classic
Casey to the creek. "Casey" is
a brave horse and will usually go anywhere. He acted as my "tripod"
for our ride. Casey has already shown that he
likes to get wet. Barry did give "Casey" a
lead one time through the creek with his "ride" for the day - F350.
Barry and his "ride" did give "Casey" a
lead one time through the creek.
We have to thank Barry for most of these wonderful photos. He
rode ahead of us and captured all the fun of the day. Barry and
F350 also got to play in the creek as you can see from my camera
as I rode Classic
Casey through the creek again.
We have to thank Barry for most of these wonderful photos. He rode
ahead of us and captured all the fun of the day. He was also our
groom and driver.
Tammy and Knight
Villain had gone through this creek before
and had a blast. Conny Moebes is our "Friend" from
Germany. She had never been on a trail ride before. Now
Conny was riding with her favorite Bits & Bytes Farm
St. Aly and they got to play in the water! What
fun they had.
Our riders were timid at first but once again an experienced
horse lead the way. Barbo, with Allison Moul, walked with confidence
into the creek and the other horses followed.
Tammy Gullet and OTTB Knight Villain cross water without hesitation.
with Allison Moul, walked with confidence into the creek and the
other horses followed.
Conny and "Aly" had a blast playing and trotting in the creek.
Conny rode her favorite Bits & Bytes
Farm horse for sale, Tuck's St. Aly and they got to play in the
I was glad that Classic Casey and none of the other horses decided
to get down and roll. I've lost one camera that way! It was on Queen
Rowdy Lad's first fox hunt years ago. Snake Proof dumped
me and my camera in the pond - in December!
This ride home was uneventful and we crossed the bridge once more.
I think I can honestly say, a good time was had by all - horses
and riders alike.