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  1. #1

    Default Exercise Riding 101!

    Okay, here is the deal. I lucked into a FABULOUS opportunity entirely by chance; a TB racing owner saw me riding my OTTB the other day and has asked me to exercise his horses at the track this season! I am super excited but not incredibly knowledgeable about racing. I am a jumper/dressage rider with some foxhunting under my belt. He says all his horses are easy to gallop and we will take it slow, he knows I have not done this before.

    I know all the regular advice applies (shut up, watch and listen) and am a competent rider, but I still know I am very much out of my league on this one and racing is an entirely different world. I of course will be asking questions as I go along, but does anyone have any tips (particularly track etiquette) or links with good info to get me started and make me sound like slightly less of a newbie? I like to learn!



  2. #2
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    You can search some of my posts, I know I've probably given some detailed info on here somewhere.

    Coming from the same background, I can tell you that no matter how "easy" the horses are (a competant excersise rider can make most of them look easy), they will most likely pull like nothing you've ever sat on.

    Rider position is totally different and takes awhile to get the balance of riding with shorter stirrups and learning to let the horse pull against themselves and not getting into a tug of war with them.

    As far as track etiquette, never gallop on the inside rail where horses may be breezing, or outside for that matter, horses jog on the outside clockwise (you gallop counterclockwise). Be very aware of your surroundings, horses passing you, whats going on in front of you, especially loose horses. If you are passing someone it's always polite to let them know, a simple "coming by" works. Pull up by gradually stearing towards the outer part of the track, but always make sure you look behind you so you don't cut anyone off.

    I could write a book, hopefully you will hook up with someone that can show you the ropes a bit before sending you out there on your own!


    Curious, what racetrack are you talking about?



  3. #3
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    You might want to do a week or so of hotwalking or grooming or just hanging out at the track so you can see what you're getting into. : )
    * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.



  4. #4
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    "A tb racing owner" ?? Not the trainer?
    Are you confident in this situation as to the owner's actual knowledge of how "easy" his horses might be to work with, etc.?
    In no way am I discouraging you -- just make sure, as ACS suggested, you hook up with someone who has your best interests, and safety, in mind.
    You may need a license - I believe some jurisdictions require it. You definitely need a body protector and a good skull cap. Paddock boots with half chaps or full chaps are pretty standard (no breeches!) Some like to ride in gloves as a matter of course, others not so much. You may want a racing bat, though certainly find that out from the trainer. No spurs. You might like to have goggles. If cold or rainy, have a jacket that is relatively snug fitting - you don't want it to billow around, especially not on a young horse!
    General sense and sensibility rules, but there are so many things about the backstretch of the racetrack that you'll want to know, I just can't emphasize enough that you might like to start with a week of work on the ground so you get to know your way around.
    Oh, and P.S. dont' be surprised when you puke from exertion and exhaustion holding strong horses your first full day of work. Drink lots of water.
    * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.



  5. #5
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    Good Points HR! I agree, most tracks require a license, and you'll need to gallop for the outrider before you'll be allowed to continue to get on horses. It's possible that the owner is also the trainer, it would really help to ask! I also agree to go out and watch, what I usually tell people that want to gallop is that you will get hurt at some point, just a matter of when. It's a very gruelling job, you really have to love it to keep going out there every morning.



  6. #6
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    Have you discussed salary or price per head? Will you be at a training facility, track, private farm? Is galloping all you have to do? I once went to get on a few extra head a day at a very well known steeplechase trainers only to find out I was expected to cool out my mounts after galloping for $3 less a head than I was getting for just galloping at another place.

    Google the person, ask around to the local vet, tack shop, feed store whatever and make sure they are legit. Often those offering great opportunities to newbies are doing it because they are notoriously bad pay.

    Be careful and have fun. Keep your hands planted, waterskiing is an ugly habit, and always keep a finger in the yoke!
    From AliCat518 "Seriously, why would you NOT put fried chicken in your purse?!"



  7. #7
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    Mar. 27, 2013
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    Hi guys, thanks for the quick responses. I have already arranged getting licensed/approved by an outrider and we are setting up insurance as well.

    We will be the first ones with horses at the track this season so hanging around, doing some hotwalking, etc for a week in advance unfortunately isn't in the books. At least I will have some time to figure it out before there are others around for me to worry about running over/getting run over by. We will be easing me in with just a couple horses a day to start, and working our way up to more. I fully expect to be exhausted even with a couple at first.

    Thanks for the comments about gear, I would have shown up in my breeches!

    As for the comments about it being odd/sketchy re: the owner approaching me... and the concerns about pay... I am aware of the sketchiness and have done much googling already! I am finding it very difficult to respond to your comments without making all this too identifiable (I have changed my location even to avoid any kind of recognition! I will say that I am in Canada looking out my window at snow!), and I do not like to gossip , but I know a number of people who can at least vouch for the character of the owner... but the owner is certainly trying to be cheap. I'm kind of okay with that, I do have some other income.



  8. #8
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    Make sure you try to really get fit before then. Do lots of calf and ankle strengthening, back strengthening, and if you can, practice pulling against something while holding "reins", balancing yourself. Set up a saddle on a stand and tie some reins to the wall and practice. When I started galloping I'd been ponying in an english saddle, working for a crazy trainer who insisted we only leave the horses side if they were galloping. Which meant I was doing a posting trot for 5-10 miles a day, and occasionally getting to stand up and practice galloping position. I thought I was fit, but after riding my first real racehorse (one that wasn't even close to being fully race fit), my whole body felt like jello! Make sure you ask lots of questions, most riders will offer you tips if you are starting out. I would go in company with a lot of riders, and they would give me pointers as we were galloping. Pick their brains and really watch the good riders. Don't be afraid to ask for help either. If you are having trouble with a horse, you can call to the outrider for help.

    For most horses while galloping, you will set your cross and hold it down just in front of the horses withers. Especially for strong horses, this will make them be pulling against themselves and not on your arms. Some horses like very still hands and will take off it you move too much, others do better with little squeezes and checks.

    When (not if) you get run off with, don't panic. As long as the horse is going around, that's all he's going to do and he'll eventually slow down if you can't get him to. If you are tall especially, try to adjust your stirrups where your knees can be used to push against the pommel of the saddle so you can brace yourself easier if needed. Helps give a little extra strength and balance. Learn how to "water ski", which can be helpful if you have an in control run away...stand up straight in the stirrups and lean all your weight back against the reins. Definitely don't do this if you think the horse is going to duck out! Another way of emergency stopping is to use half your cross and push down against the horses withers to anchor your hand and rein, then pull on the opposite rein.

    Always listen and be aware of what's going on around you. The inside rail is for horses who are breezing. The slower you are going, the farther to the outside you want to be. Always call out if you need to pass somebody. Try and give plenty of room.

    When you are being ponied, do not rely on the pony rider to control your horse. They are there for backup. Drove me crazy when I was ponying that the horse could be nutting out and the rider would just sit there with slack reins not doing anything. Pony people have far less control over the horse than the rider. The best riders would ask for plenty of slack from the pony person and ride the horse themselves, don't rely on your pony.

    Always change your leads when galloping, so you are on the right lead on the straightaways and left lead going into and around the turns. This is important for the horse to not only learn for racing, but to keep them sound. Make sure you change your posting diagnols when jogging too. Most horses will "backtrack", or jog the opposite way of the track along the outside rail, then turn around and gallop the right way. When they pull up, they will turn around and jog off. I think it's important to not just turn the horse and GO!, but to let them stand there for a few seconds. It seems to keep them calm, gives you a chance to make any adjustments before you start to gallop, and keeps them from wanting to bolt off into their work. Same thing when you pull up, go stand on the rail for a few seconds before heading off. Most horses really enjoy this, some will stand there for long periods just relaxed and watching what's going on. It was always one of my favorite moments on the track honestly, just sit there with your horse and be relaxed, bonding.

    MOST IMPORTANTLY-ALWAYS CHECK YOUR TACK!!! Don't rely on others to do it right, I've seen all sorts of problems that could have gotten somebody hurt had the riders not checked. Check your girth on both sides, check your stirrup leathers and stitching, check the pad, make sure the saddle is tight and not too far back. Check the bridle, make sure the noseband is adjusted properly and the bit is the proper one for the horse on right (seen too many backwards bits to count). Check the blinkers if they have them, make sure they are snug (saw 2 horses die last year because one of thems blinkers slipped, blindfolded it and it crashed into another horse). Check your martingale. Very importantly check your polos if they are wearing them. Don't rely on velcro, they should be secured with tape on top of that. After you tighten your girth, ALWAYS ALWAYS have the groom walk the horse up a couple steps before mounting, otherwise the horse might freak out.

    Anyways hope that's enough info hehe :-) Best of luck.
    OTTB CONNECT
    FB group for all things related to non racing Thoroughbreds.. Click here to join ~~~> OTTB CONNECT


    5 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
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    Know what a knot is and how to tie one. First mistake the newbies always make is not tying their knot.

    "Pat the horse; kick yourself" - Carl Hester


    3 members found this post helpful.

  10. #10
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    Must be a very strong owner because I wouldn’t think many trainers would hire someone that has never galloped at least at a training center or even better at a breaking/starting farm before moving on to the race track just because an owner wants them to. No disrespect to you or the owner. If you will be galloping at a racetrack you will be required to get licensed. This is more involved then just galloping for the head outrider. Unless the track is desperate for riders. You will be interviewed on your back ground and experience with racehorses. Asked, or should be asked on how to deal with a number of different situations. You will have to know what the various “poles” are. I am sure you will be asked to point out where the ¼ pole is, the 1/8, 1/2 etc. Your answers will have to be quick. You will be asked what color they are and what their relevance is. Their placing depends on the size of the race track. You should go to the website of the track you will be working at and print out the track layout and study it. Go to the track during morning work outs with this and watch what people are doing. Take a pair of binoculars and watch riders up close. Especially those on tough horses, or those that maybe on a runaway. Watch what happens when a rider gets dumped. Watch and learn as much as you can. But remember it all may look easy everything does sitting on the sidelines. But when the muck hit’s the fan reaction time and keeping presence of mind is not as easy as it looks.
    I don’t care how fit a show rider maybe there are quite surprised just how much more it takes to gallop a bunch of racehorses everyday. Not only strong legs but arms, shoulders ab’s and back. Being in the area we are there are plenty of show riders around and from time to time we have some gallop for us. They all say the same thing after getting off a horse or two. We prepare horses at our farm, along with legging up ones that have been on R&R. All horses run a trainer and riders job is to teach them how to race. Easier said then done. What separates the average exercise rider from the well paid ones is being able to communicate what the horse is doing, how it feels, when it’s on or off it’s game, suggest tack changes, very subtle changes that may suggest something is coming on in a tendon or some other soft tissue issues. Maybe a bone burse, chip, shins, etc. Not staying on a lead, swapping leads etc. Paying close attention to how the horse is breathing. Some will hold their breath and you will need to get them to relax and feel them getting a rhythm to their breathing. Do they take big ones, or lot so small breaths etc. Do they stay on the bit constantly or relax stay but stay in hand and then take the bit when asked. Do they always looks straight though the bridle no matter what’s going on around them or are they looky lous and or react stupidly when a horse comes up on them. Do they train like a winner or an also ran.
    A lot of the riding skills you have learned and are good at do not apply. IMO it is a different skill set. It takes a different type of nerve, brave but not stupid, being able to react to a giving situation without thinking. Basically a whole new set of “muscle memory” because if you have to think before reacting well, the outcome may not be good.
    Getting used to riding reasonably short is not an easy thing to do no matter how long you have been riding. There are 2 reasons to for riding short, the obvious a higher center of gravity doesn’t interfere with the horses running style they other is it gives you leverage when holding a horse for 2 miles. You can use more of you whole body then just the arms which tall riders like myself don’t have. You have to be able to keep the horse in hand with out re-griping the reins. Even when you arms, body are screaming. When a rider re-grips a lot of racehorses take it as a sign to go faster. Or they will take advantage of that momentary let off and you will find it very difficult to get them back in hand. Not all riders fit all horses and any trainer worth their salt know this and match horse to rider. There is no shame in telling the trainer that you don’t get on with a particular horse. A good trainer should be able to see this anyway from the sidelines. You should know what it means to take a “9-5” hold, and other various galloping terms. Forget the dressage, show training terms, most won’t know what you mean by “engaging, collection” etc. We have racetrack terms that are more simple but basically mean the same thing. Another poster mentioned a martingale I don’t see too many of those at the track. Bibs or rings are much more common. But just about all horses go out in a yoke. I advise all my riders especially beginners to keep a finger or 2 in the “loop”. There was a comment about knowing how to “water ski” personally I hate this style of galloping and don’t allow it. It ruins their month especially when their racing days are over. To each their own on this. You should have your own exercise saddle. But some outfits supply or want the rider to use what they want. You will need a Charles Owen jockey skull cap/helmet, approved flak jacket and soft stick. This is just the “Cliff notes” version and sorry to be long winded.
    Again, go to the track sit in the grandstand and watch, study and learn what’s going on. Start running, push ups, sit ups etc. The fitter you are the easier it will be. What does and will zap your strength is nerves/stress. And it may take a while to get comfortable with everything. But once you do it will be that much easier. Personally I love using show riders they have great hands, and know how to listen to instruction. They generally are good communicators not only to the trainer but the horse also.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by gumtree View Post
    Must be a very strong owner because I wouldn’t think many trainers would hire someone that has never galloped at least at a training center or even better at a breaking/starting farm before moving on to the race track just because an owner wants them to. No disrespect to you or the owner. If you will be galloping at a racetrack you will be required to get licensed. This is more involved then just galloping for the head outrider. Unless the track is desperate for riders. You will be interviewed on your back ground and experience with racehorses. Asked, or should be asked on how to deal with a number of different situations. You will have to know what the various “poles” are. I am sure you will be asked to point out where the ¼ pole is, the 1/8, 1/2 etc. Your answers will have to be quick. You will be asked what color they are and what their relevance is. Their placing depends on the size of the race track. You should go to the website of the track you will be working at and print out the track layout and study it. Go to the track during morning work outs with this and watch what people are doing. Take a pair of binoculars and watch riders up close. Especially those on tough horses, or those that maybe on a runaway. Watch what happens when a rider gets dumped. Watch and learn as much as you can. But remember it all may look easy everything does sitting on the sidelines. But when the muck hit’s the fan reaction time and keeping presence of mind is not as easy as it looks.
    I don’t care how fit a show rider maybe there are quite surprised just how much more it takes to gallop a bunch of racehorses everyday. Not only strong legs but arms, shoulders ab’s and back. Being in the area we are there are plenty of show riders around and from time to time we have some gallop for us. They all say the same thing after getting off a horse or two. We prepare horses at our farm, along with legging up ones that have been on R&R. All horses run a trainer and riders job is to teach them how to race. Easier said then done. What separates the average exercise rider from the well paid ones is being able to communicate what the horse is doing, how it feels, when it’s on or off it’s game, suggest tack changes, very subtle changes that may suggest something is coming on in a tendon or some other soft tissue issues. Maybe a bone burse, chip, shins, etc. Not staying on a lead, swapping leads etc. Paying close attention to how the horse is breathing. Some will hold their breath and you will need to get them to relax and feel them getting a rhythm to their breathing. Do they take big ones, or lot so small breaths etc. Do they stay on the bit constantly or relax stay but stay in hand and then take the bit when asked. Do they always looks straight though the bridle no matter what’s going on around them or are they looky lous and or react stupidly when a horse comes up on them. Do they train like a winner or an also ran.
    A lot of the riding skills you have learned and are good at do not apply. IMO it is a different skill set. It takes a different type of nerve, brave but not stupid, being able to react to a giving situation without thinking. Basically a whole new set of “muscle memory” because if you have to think before reacting well, the outcome may not be good.
    Getting used to riding reasonably short is not an easy thing to do no matter how long you have been riding. There are 2 reasons to for riding short, the obvious a higher center of gravity doesn’t interfere with the horses running style they other is it gives you leverage when holding a horse for 2 miles. You can use more of you whole body then just the arms which tall riders like myself don’t have. You have to be able to keep the horse in hand with out re-griping the reins. Even when you arms, body are screaming. When a rider re-grips a lot of racehorses take it as a sign to go faster. Or they will take advantage of that momentary let off and you will find it very difficult to get them back in hand. Not all riders fit all horses and any trainer worth their salt know this and match horse to rider. There is no shame in telling the trainer that you don’t get on with a particular horse. A good trainer should be able to see this anyway from the sidelines. You should know what it means to take a “9-5” hold, and other various galloping terms. Forget the dressage, show training terms, most won’t know what you mean by “engaging, collection” etc. We have racetrack terms that are more simple but basically mean the same thing. Another poster mentioned a martingale I don’t see too many of those at the track. Bibs or rings are much more common. But just about all horses go out in a yoke. I advise all my riders especially beginners to keep a finger or 2 in the “loop”. There was a comment about knowing how to “water ski” personally I hate this style of galloping and don’t allow it. It ruins their month especially when their racing days are over. To each their own on this. You should have your own exercise saddle. But some outfits supply or want the rider to use what they want. You will need a Charles Owen jockey skull cap/helmet, approved flak jacket and soft stick. This is just the “Cliff notes” version and sorry to be long winded.
    Again, go to the track sit in the grandstand and watch, study and learn what’s going on. Start running, push ups, sit ups etc. The fitter you are the easier it will be. What does and will zap your strength is nerves/stress. And it may take a while to get comfortable with everything. But once you do it will be that much easier. Personally I love using show riders they have great hands, and know how to listen to instruction. They generally are good communicators not only to the trainer but the horse also.
    Excellent advice, very well said. Just to clarify I meant bib/yoke when I say martingale, essentially the same thing. I mentioned waterskiing as an emergency situation response only, I would never gallop a horse like that always but it CAN be helpful in the case of a runaway or (since she'll be learning and unfit) when your arms just turn to jello and you literally can't hold anymore. I never had to recite the poles for my license (well, I never had to ride for my license but that was a special case) but I'm sure each track is different and either way you should know them.
    OTTB CONNECT
    FB group for all things related to non racing Thoroughbreds.. Click here to join ~~~> OTTB CONNECT



  12. #12
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    Take in all the advice of previous posters, but I would also go the track in the morning and watch. Just watch for as many hours as you can and see how different situations are handled and get a sense of pace and the rules (unwritten and written) of the track. You will see the typical behaviors of horses and be prepared (i.e, keep your eye out for workers inside of you....often your horse will get spooked by the hoofbeats coming up behind him and/or then get competitive and try to go with the worker).



  13. #13
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    We all missed the most important part. If you get dropped, you have to buy the barn a case of beer. Also, be nice to the grooms. They are in a serious position to screw with you, the horse, the tack, etc. Donuts are never unwelcome
    From AliCat518 "Seriously, why would you NOT put fried chicken in your purse?!"



  14. #14
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    As far as staying cool on a horse that is running off, my best advice is once you know you've been had, stop pulling (you've lost the battle and will only exhaust yourself), stay towards the inside rail and plant your hands with relaxed (but not loose) reins and start saying whoa...alot. Everyonce in awhile there will be an unplanned work, once the horse starts to relax ease towards the outside and pull up.

    Somtimes you will be lucky enough to have the outrider to assist you, if thats the case carefully turn the horses head to the left to help him grab a rein. Be careful not to turn to sharp and run into the pony. I watched a nice horse go down because of a green rider doing this.


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  15. #15
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    I like the reverse psychology method. Provided you have steering, drop him down on the rail and boot him on a good 1/4. 99% of the time you can get them right back.

    A very wonderful horseman of the old school once told me there is no reason to get run off with (after I got effed off with by one of his). There is a split second where you can break them back down to a jog. There really is. But good heavens that split second goes by so fast!
    From AliCat518 "Seriously, why would you NOT put fried chicken in your purse?!"



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by gumtree View Post
    You should know what it means to take a “9-5” hold, and other various galloping terms.
    Very good advice, I was a show rider when I started galloping years ago, it is a whole different experience. Unfortunately for my show horses I was brought to the dark side and love the track, my own horses now just sit in the field most of the time, I imagine they're quite happy with this turn of events!

    You have me curious, what is a 9-5 hold? I've never heard that term before.



  17. #17
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    I can't think what Canadian track your going to be at that hasn't opened for spring training. Unless it's Saskatoon. If your going to be the first people there, you wont be the only ones for long. I know most of the people out west, so PM the names, I can tell you what your getting into.



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by rustbreeches View Post
    I like the reverse psychology method. Provided you have steering, drop him down on the rail and boot him on a good 1/4. 99% of the time you can get them right back.

    A very wonderful horseman of the old school once told me there is no reason to get run off with (after I got effed off with by one of his). There is a split second where you can break them back down to a jog. There really is. But good heavens that split second goes by so fast!
    Yes you can sometimes...you can feel when they are about to get the jump on you. If your strong enough you can sort of knock them off stride and get a better hold of them. It's something you have to feel.

    As far as a 9 to 5 hold, it's a double cross, crank down, with your right rein anchored at their withers.



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by mintano View Post

    You have me curious, what is a 9-5 hold? I've never heard that term before.

    Maybe that's another term for a cross out east?

    "Pat the horse; kick yourself" - Carl Hester



  20. #20
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    Oops... Acertainsmile answered right as I posted that..

    "Pat the horse; kick yourself" - Carl Hester



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