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Retraining ex-racehorse for dressage, looking for a study guide!

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  • Retraining ex-racehorse for dressage, looking for a study guide!

    I know there are tons of people who have taken ex TB racehorses into to the dressage arena, but has anyone blogged with video diaries or something along those lines?

    I am hoping to bring my own tb made along. I've never ridden beyond training level myself but I'm hoping she will get me to first level. That's my goal. But I find myself trainerless at the moment and looking for some inspiration and chance to see te small progresses that are made each ride. I was hoping there was a series of videos that someone has done at differen stages of their retraining as a study guide of sorts. The hardest part seems to be getting greedy. I don't want to push too far or expect too much too soon. How much is good for one day, where should she be in her trainin compared to other horses...etc.

  • #2

    Steuart's wife Erin posts on COTH
    I wasn't always a Smurf
    Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
    "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
    The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.


    • #3
      You first need to remember that she IS trained. She also knows how to work, and how to work hard. She's been trained from the ground and on her back. She has certain expectations of YOU.

      Since you will be sitting on her and using more seat and leg, you need to be patient and teach her what you want when you ask with those aids--actually, the rein aids are a bit different too.

      If you're into holding on to a horse's mouth, you'll need to stop doing that right away. That just means GO FASTER to an OTTB. You want to be soft, but have a nice consistant feel so there are no surprises in the contact unless she's doing something like leaning or running through the bit. Then you need to take a hold and then drop her, then do it again until you get her attention. Break the cycle with her and get her refocused on you.

      The only thing that's usually difficult about lower level dressage for an OTTB right away is the circling and the balancing during circles. Take the time to make sure she is comfortable with those and with moving in and out on a cirlce at the trot via a leg yield. Once she has it at the trot, then go to canter circles. But do the trot to build muscle and to develop a strong line of communication. The canter is always there on those horses. They were trained to run all out at a gallop AND to run with a shorter and engaged canter that is just a bit more on the forehand. When teaching the canter I always put together solid trot work under saddle and only do some nice forward canter just in warm up to get them out in front and going around the rail.

      Once they learn more balance and how to use the trot, then I go back and put in a canter with quiet aids and asking them to start on a circle and then go straight ahead and later come back to a circle if they are still maintaining their balance between my aids. (Meaning the inside to outside, etc., that they learned at the trot.) They usually make that connection quickly, but have to develop even more confidence in doing the circles WELL. They can all do a circle but a balanced one with a horse that is waiting and listening is what I am aiming for in the initial retraining stage.

      You can read a blog and other things, but your horse will handle and progress following it's own level of confidence in you, in itself, and it's ability to process new training and the new language of a dressage seat and legs.

      Don't compare your horse to any other horse. Since you don't have experience at the upper levels it's hard to believe you would push her to fast at anything--especially if your initial goal is Training Level.

      Ride her and LISTEN to her. Figure out what she's thinking and ask people out here why you might get a response that doesn't make sense to you. Often those of us who have retrained many OTTBs can tell you why she's doing that thing and have ideas on how to work around it. You need to be flexible and make sure you let her do pieces of the things she was taught and is comfortable with at first when mixing in new concepts. That way she'll always end feeling that she's done a good job and is proud of her accomplishments. Slowly you wean her over to the new ideas and concepts and make those the things she's even more proud of doing when under saddle.
      "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"


      • #4
        I got some great advice on my thread from last year.


        Then I posted video of my horse at his first show and the thread sort of derailed.

        But there are some good resources there.

        I LOVE my OTTB.
        Last edited by TheHorseProblem; Nov. 9, 2011, 05:52 PM. Reason: sp
        2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

        A helmet saved my life.


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by Velvet View Post
          You first need to remember that she IS trained. She also knows how to work, and how to work hard. She's been trained from the ground and on her back. She has certain expectations of YOU.
          Thank you Velvet for all that info.

          She's been doing the basics for the past 2.5 years. She came to me after she had a couple of months of basic w/t/c and she was started over fences. I introduced the dressage work, but have not been consistent. My situation and schedule has changed finally to where I feel I can focus and really start to make some progress. She is learning to work into the bridle, I'm working on my consistency in the feel so she is more consistent when shes there. We've started basic laterals.

          I know that I'm not going to compare her to another horse but my system to another to see how much people ask for how soon and how the horse handles it. I'm not sure if I can explain the conflict I'm having with myself! Am I asking her to be on the bit before she's ready? Am I asking her to canter in a frame she's not ready for? I get resistance and her version of a temper tantrum and most times she will work through them and be fine...but others she falls to pieces and I'm left wondering did I ask for too much or am I giving up too quickly? I think that's where I struggle. Maybe thats why i've been feeling our rides are improving, i'm just not asking hard enough questions.. I just thought maybe reading and seeing other people's experiences in their retraining process might help me gauge where I should pick my battles and when to be satisfied with a little less than my greediness is screaming for.

          I've had OTTBs before, but I've always had them sold, the owner wanted them back, etc before I was able to progress. But this one is finally mine and I have such a great connection with her I just want her to be really nice so the pressure is sort of on myself to move her and I forward and do more!


          • Original Poster

            Originally posted by TheHorseProblem View Post
            I got some great advice on my thread from last year.


            Then I posted video of my horse at his first show and the thread sort of derailed.

            But there are some good resources there.

            I LOVE my OTTB.
            I will definately check that out thank you :-)

            A helmet saved my life too. I'll never get on a horse again without one.


            • #7
              We have some TB's at the barn and mostly I hear my trainer say over and over "Lets just be quiet for moment and go around" whenever they are over done in the lesson and need to just settle.

              Ive ridden one with her and we do tons of walking and getting the horse to stretch to the bit, then short strides accepting shorter contact for moments at a time and then right back to stretch... Ive noticed that the horse becomes less claustorphobic when the more firm contact is introduced starting at the walk like this and the shorter more collected rein is "practiced" without much meaning behind it aka SLOW DOWN or STOP RUNNING AWAY lol later how it might be used at a canter or hand gallop...

              Its like speaking to them instead of waiting until you have to yell... With your hands I mean
              ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~