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So i'm going to learn how to ride- I went!!

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  • So i'm going to learn how to ride- I went!!

    Thanks for all the advice and interesting stories...

    I got to ride a horse today, the trainer was great and let me following him around all morning and watch a bunch of sets before I did anything. He let me ask tons of questions and tried to explain everything to me. The horse was really sweet and they assured me I wouldn't be over mounted. Things went well and thanksfully there was like no one on the track (this is at Fair Hill). I did really well (at least i think..) until the 1/2 mile mark when I got tired! I knew it was going to be hard work but OH MY GOSH! I prolly should have left my stirrups longer, but it was rough. I had to pull her up for a little while to recollect myself, the LAST thing I wanted was to get too tired and fall off or have her run away with me! when I started again and came around the backstretch she got really strong but it ended up ok. It was a great experience and def. taught me that I have a lot of work to do if I want to start doing this. I'm planning on looking into farms in my area instead of the track so I can start slower. If anyone has any suggestions i'd be greatful.
    My current job is cutting everyone's hours and I still have a few months before I grad. from college I really need some money! My old eventing trainer has been in the racing industry for a while now and she told me she could hook me up and is going to take me to Fair Hill for a few days so I can learn how to gallop. I want to be totally prepared for my experience from dress to etiquette and everything. I won't be staying at fair hill because I actually live in Annap so i'd be closer to Bowie or Laural and would be looking for a real job there...

    so educate me please!!
    Last edited by Meredith Clark; Dec. 5, 2008, 12:11 AM.
    http://www.clarkdesigngrouparchitects.com/index.html - Lets build your dream barn

  • #2
    I'll let others handle the technical aspects, but you need to start by going out and buying a bucket of Advil! I don't care how fit you think you are, you are going to hurt in places you didn't even know existed for the first week or so. Good luck!
    McDowell Racing Stables

    Home Away From Home


    • #3
      Get started on a farm galloping young horses and work your way up to galloping the racehorses. If you show an honest desire, a good work ethic and LISTEN to what you are told/taught you can find a trainer who will take you under his/her wing and get you started on some nice easy ones at the track.

      My ex brother in law was training at Sagamore farm in Md for awhile - my ex and I were galloping for him. After weeks of not getting paid, I told the ex "I am outa here til we get paid" and left - he soon followed. Brother in law put an 18 yo girl on one of the horses I got on 5x a week named One Fast Look - the horse ran off with her inside the hacienda (an covered 3/8 mile track), threw her then ran over her several more times before they could get the mare stopped. Her helmet was found 30 yards away in one of the stallion paddocks. She was life flighted out - paralyzed from chest down - and tried to kill herself because she was paralyzed. All of this because ex BIL wanted to get a horse galloped and put someone on the horse with no business being on a racehorse yet - she had only ever galloped babies before.

      I guess my point is - take care of yourself because most trainers aren't worried about the gallop person, they are worried about getting the horse to the track. Obviously this can be catastrophic to an inexperienced rider on a fit, tough racehorse.
      Jessi Pizzurro ~~ Pennyroyal Stables
      Racehorses, OTTBs ~~ 330 383 1281
      Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway. -- John Wayne


      • #4
        Amen to that Jessi... I've seen some horrible things due to the inexperience of riders (who thought they were), and trainers that didnt care.


        • #5
          Ditto. I saw a girl (who had been eventing) who came to the farm a few times get run off with inside the barn (it was set up for indoor galloping) real bad. I give her credit, she hung on gamely for about 5 laps before she got flung into the outside wall (concrete barn) She was stunned for a good while before picking herself up. The 'trainer' (and I use that term loosely) had put her on a horse that all of the jocks refused to ride...because the horse was rank and out of control. Yet she puts a clueless young girl on her and almost got her killed.

          Wear a flak vest. Do not ride ANYTHING without one. And make sure your helmet is up to the task too. Make sure whomever is taking you out isn't allowing you to get over mounted. If you aren't comfortable, don't do it. Take a look at the tack they are using. If it's ratty and looks old and uncared for, that can be a warning sign. Better barns take care of their gear. Gyps tend to use broken down tack that's on the verge of falling apart. And the gyp barns have been the ones where I've seen stuff like the above example happening.

          Your body is far too precious to destroy it for a few dollars. Use your common sense and take it slow.
          Hopefully you will end up have a good experience and will learn a lot. It can be a great experience.


          • #6
            Yes - remember that certain trainers don't care about the person getting on the horse - they just want a live/willing body to pilot it around there.

            Most all tracks require safety vests now, but make sure to wear one at the farm too.

            I used to think I could ride anything on hooves and miraculously enough I wasn't majorly injured when I was galloping. HOWEVER, I held gallop boy Orlando's hand while he lay on the track waiting for the ambulance - he got on a bad baby no one else wanted to get on, and now he is paralyzed. Gary Birzer won races for us, worked every morning, tried really hard to get his career going. Well the horse he was on broke a leg and he was run over and paralyzed by the horse behind him who couldn't avoid him and stepped on his neck. We watched on TVG when Mike Rowland was out in front on one of Bernie Flint's cripples as it broke down and horses behind him couldn't avoid him, and stepped on the side of his face, smashing it beyond repair - he died within hours or perhaps a day after. I saddled the horse that Tony Dlugopolski was riding when a horse went down in front of him and as she rolled/ somersaulted she took Attack Bird's legs out from underneath her, catapulting Tony up and he came straight down on his head. He is paralyzed as well.

            I am not really trying to scare you - just letting you know that this stuff really DOES happen. It isn't just with the galloping - heck, a couple years ago here at Mountaineer one of John Semer's grooms was done with her work and was outside raking up around the manure bin when she was run over by a loose horse that was galloping back to it's barn, turned the corner, couldn't avoid her and ran right over her, killing her. She was in her mid 30s with children. Steve Mick at Penn/Philly park lost an eye in the test barn at Penn National coming around the corner and a horse who was stopped drinking from it's bucket kicked him, he lost the eye. There are so many stories like this... please understand I am trying to tell you this shit really happens and it is dangerous. It can be gravy and wonderful but if you aren't hooked up with the right folks it can be detrimental to your health.

            TRY to find a good trainer that will help you keep from getting hurt. Do NOT overstate your experience because galloping XC (assuming you are from sporthorse world) is nothing at all like galloping a racehorse. And any racehorse will be harder and tougher at the track compared to the farm.

            Tell your trainer/mentor that you don't know how to gallop and you want to learn the RIGHT way, safely. Then look out for yourself til you find out if that trainer can be trusted. Best of luck!
            Jessi Pizzurro ~~ Pennyroyal Stables
            Racehorses, OTTBs ~~ 330 383 1281
            Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway. -- John Wayne


            • #7
              Like the others have mentioned. You can find yourself in a bad situation very quickly. A kind older man is always bringing young girls to the racetrack. He trains a few and he takes responsibility for them. Which he should. And though he is well meaning, the last girl bit off way more than she could chew and ended up getting run off with the wrong way on the track. Fortunately several people had seen it before and as it happened and one of the outriders did get ahold of the horse before thing became much worse. Don't ever be afraid to ask for help.
              As you get stronger and fit to the task and figure out how to gallop, and with confidence you'll love it. It's a blast! I like to equate it to flying. Sort of. freedom, power, beauty. I get a rush every single day! The only thing that turns me into a bit of an adrenaline junkie.
              You won't know everything. Everyone makes mistakes. People will offer lots of helpful words. Thank them. No attitude, store the information. You never know when you might need to draw on that information!
              When I started, I had to learn something very foreign. A little different than western tack!
              Enjoy, be safe, you can ride as fast as they can run. You will be over horses at some point!


              • #8
                This could turn into an oh crap thread quickly...

                I watched a very good friend lose her life at Laurel... very quiet late morning... two yr old she was galloping stumbled, landed on her, and while getting up kicked her in the head killing her...this woman had galloped horses for over 20 yrs and was a good rider...

                I survived 25 yrs of galloping and riding some races... pretty much in one peice.. I consider myself very lucky.. I've had a bit break in half while breezing a two yr old (it was a Two Punch, and a very smart filly thank God)... that was for you BO...

                I've lost stirrup leathers while working, had horses stumble and fall (one put me in the hospital with a suspected broken neck/back but xrays came out clean)...bandages come loose (even with pins)... etc...

                The usual advice I give to up and coming riders is to get with the best people you can, and expect to get hurt at some point.


                • #9
                  Definitely. I've not (sweet God knock on wood) had to watch anyone die on track. I've been with friends as they laid on the track, I've been the one on the track. I would break at least one bone group a year at the hand of the high percentage trainer. I own a bone growth stimulator so I could return to work faster.
                  You will get hurt. Occupational hazard. No way to sugar coat it.
                  The thing that separates is some people are smart enough to be scared. Others, like me and many of my friends, aren't.
                  Speed adds risk. It's a whole lot of fun. But when it goes bad, It's bad!


                  • #10
                    You know, I was never afraid while on a horse, stupid maybe, but not scared... but as I got older (and had two more young kids that needed me) I used to think of the what if's... that was something I never did when I was younger.

                    My galloping days are behind me I guess... so now I jump and foxhunt...hubby still thinks I'm crazy, or stupid, or both, LOL!


                    • #11
                      See, the jumping thing... I don't get it. Four feet of the ground as opposed to 35+mph on a sore one. I'll take the later. Of course the heirs to my "throne" are canine not children. Might be the reason why you choose the high and smarter road! Though still only slightly goofy!


                      • #12
                        Couple things... if you just need to make money, you can make more money doing something much safer. If this isn't a passion for you, go work at an eventing barn or even working a desk job doing paperwork will be better. No medical insurance, no benefits of any kind, and very dangerous.

                        That said, for those of us who do this, we know why we risk it all. First, DO NOT let anyone talk you into getting out on the actual track for at least 4-6 months. You need to learn at a training track where there is less traffic, horses aren't as hyped up, as it's generally safer to learn. Here's how I started... first few weeks were on the pony, galloping on a completely broke pony horse next to the racehorses and exercise riders. Next I was put on green horses that weren't very strong, but used to being with the pony. The pony rider kept a tight leash on the horse at first, then kept giving more slack as I got better. Once I was controling said beasty without assistance from the pony riders, I started riding babies by myself. Babies aren't as tough or strong, so don't pull as hard. I just kept riding the babies, and as they got stronger, so did I. You learn tricks along the way to BS the tough old guys around when they just want to pull like trains. You learn how to keep babies focused. It's just a different type of riding, but still horsemanship. Don't let anyone push you too fast. It's not just strength and it's not just knowledge, it's a combo of both.

                        As far as apparel goes, vest and helmet are necessary. I wear my old eventing Tipperary vest, as do many others. My helmet is a skull style with a cover that has a cardboard brim attached, but no attached visor. I ride in half chaps and jeans. Many of the guys ride in full chaps and jeans or wrap their legs with polos under their jeans, and then just bare jeans. I wrap my lower legs with vet wrap, then jeans, then half chaps. It keeps the rubs away. This is an example after two mornings with no vet wrap: http://www.geocities.com/jcrewgal8/BatteredLegs.jpg

                        No one ever really wears breeches. Also, SSG all weather gloves are the gloves of choice. Lots of people wear paddock boots. I wear my Ariat zip up paddocks, and no one bats an eye. Here are some pics of me galloping at different times of the year to show you what I usually wear:

                        The first few days, you will feel like you've been run over by a truck, backed over, then run over again. Advil is your friend, and getting back on is good. After the first one of the day, the soreness goes away, and you get relief for a few hours only to have it come back 10 fold.

                        OK, so rules of the track, the fastest horse has the right of way always. The track is broken up into "lanes". So far outside rail is for back tracking... trotting/jogging the "wrong way" or clockwise, tracking right, around the track. You can only walk or jog going the wrong way, but many people canter/lope to avoid fights with beasties. The next lane going in toward the inside rail is for ponies taking horses around going the right way. Inside that, hobby horsing, inside that are your gallopers, then 2 minute lickers (faster than gallop, but not as fast as a work, ideal speed for a 2 minute mile, hence two minute lick), then workers going race speed are on the rail. Do not go the wrong speed in the wrong lane or you and others can get hurt. If you're getting run off with, go to the inside rail. If you're working, get on the inside rail. If not, stay off it. Don't know what else to really tell you about what to expect. Much of it you will pick up on your first day.

                        If you have any other specific questions about stuff, just ask. There are lots on here with lots of knowledge. I'm not really one of them, but I try!!!


                        • #13
                          Hmmm, my vote for Gallopgirl is works for Ellen Jackson. I'm right, I believe, no? Rubacava... Reuben??? maybe??? or something like that, has worked for her for years! Ah ha!! Aiberto!!! Caitlin also started there. Worked for Boyer and Hollendorker eventually as well. Andy (dorf) now Mickey could fill in the blanks.
                          Jerry McArthur claimed Okay Mikey off of her? Stabled on the back side of Gloria Haley? I am so right!

                          I also started on a farm. Sort of. A breeding farm in Ontario. Mostly starting babies, the odd lay up. On a training and indoor track.

                          I met a crazy drunk woman who gave me um a shot? She pretty much taught me valuable lessons in what not to do. I was sheltered and it took me a while to pick up that she was a wee bit more impaired than her horses.

                          The "what not to do's" are a valuable lesson if you live to tell the story. BUT she did get me a gallop license at the track. I am grateful!

                          I had a hard time making a living as a freelance rider initially as I sucked. I remember the leading rider swearing at me when a horse ran to the rail as he was working toward me. Last winter my husband hustled book for him... Never hold a grudge.

                          I made a great living as an exercise rider, assistant, turned exhausted exercise rider, turned assistant... you get the picture. Work rider for many a high percentage and heartless individual. One fine fellow, the first day I worked for him I worked 6 horses. The sixth was a horse, my eventual husband's rider, had won 4 in a row on. He snapped it off at the 1/4 pole. I got a month off. My first horse back for the same guy, Had saddle failure. Good good times.

                          Be safe, be smart enough to be afraid or aware.


                          • #14
                            Great overview, GallopGirl! Great photos too You look terrific out there.

                            Hubby was bringing home broken bits of tack at the rate of about one thing a year while he was galloping for other trainers. Always check the tack when someone else does up the horse before you swing up. Stirrups, leathers, reins, bits, they've all broke, worked loose or come undone. I hated that, and am glad we pretty much have enough of our own horses and a few horses of people we've known for years to let him use his own gear on everything now. The really amusing(?) one was the day he brought home a particular broken stirrup. He'd brought them home broke at the top where the leather goes through and the metal is naturally thin a couple times before. But this particular stirrup actually broke clear across on the bottom, on both sides, as if someone bent it in half and snapped the foot rest right off. He had that one happen at a gallop, and thankfully as usual sat his bum down fast enough to stay with the horse

                            Reflexes. If you ain't got 'em, don't even try the job. I know I don't have them. I trip over my own feet


                            • #15
                              Oh what memories... I had forgotten about the broken stirrups.. had that happen twice!

                              And I forgot about galloping early in the morning, on tracks with no lights.. it took Laurel Park yrs to figure it might be a tad safer if they installed a few on the backside of the track... I remember pitch dark, and people yelling "loose horse"... NOT a good feeling when you cant see 2 feet in front of you.. I had one brush my horse coming at us while galloping... and that is why I've always considered myself lucky...sometimes as a rider you can do all the right things, and still have horrible accidents.

                              Gallop Girl, great pics, and I'm going to suggest again that you get a pair of leggings like the jocks wear, they can order you some in the jocks room... it will be way cheaper (and less time consuming) then using vetwrap!


                              • #16
                                All kinds of fun track things happen. Ours now has what I consider an "air raid" siren for a loose horse. Damn thing is one heck of a wake up call for horses and humans. First time I swung up on my TB mare at the farm we had a major accident right next to the farm and the rescue vehicles were going lights and sirens in quantities. Mare never blinked, meanwhile I spooked lol

                                The dark night thing is a good one to mention. Once you do get to the track, you may want to try light colored clothing, bright helmet cover, or even a blinking light on the back of your helmet when galloping in the dark. We don't have lights on our track, and we also frequently have lots of fog, particularly dense thanks to the infield lakes.


                                • #17
                                  And a bicycle light for your helmet. Allows people to see you much easier!


                                  • #18
                                    OMG, I have a great little story about the lights on helmets...

                                    Several yrs ago we had the Sniper thing going on in Maryland... one shooting took place less than 2 miles from the track... they did close the track that day, but the next day everyone took the lights off their helmets to gallop in the dark, I guess they felt like targets... not really funny, but kinda...LOL...


                                    • #19
                                      Dang! In that case I might prefer to wear dark colors and not be visible. Scary stuff!


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Blinkers On View Post
                                        Hmmm, my vote for Gallopgirl is works for Ellen Jackson. I'm right, I believe, no? Rubacava... Reuben??? maybe??? or something like that, has worked for her for years! Ah ha!! Aiberto!!! Caitlin also started there. Worked for Boyer and Hollendorker eventually as well. Andy (dorf) now Mickey could fill in the blanks.
                                        Jerry McArthur claimed Okay Mikey off of her? Stabled on the back side of Gloria Haley? I am so right!
                                        OK, I think I was out-ed a few months ago with the article in the Form. Yup, I ride for Ellen. Weird story how I came to her barn. I actually learned to ride at a training track in Hot Springs, AR close to Oaklawn Park. I was working as a TV news reporter at the time, and was doing a story about opening day at Oaklawn. My angle to make the story fresh was a new, popular, female jockey. After interviewing her and the trainer, I turned to the trainer and just said, "I want to learn to ride racehorses", and that's how the whole thing started. Work moved me from Little Rock to where I am now, and when I got here I called the CA TB Trainer's Association. I told them my experience and said I wanted to ride for someone who would just let me come out and ride when I could, but that I couldn't keep a set schedule. I'd had about 6 months off from riding in Arkansas, so I rode at Ellen's farm for 4 months or so, then she really helped me out by putting me on her work list so I could get my license in CA. I now just go down when I have the time. I rode quite a bit over the summer, but now that it's colder, and I'm back in school almost full time, I just can't get down there. I need to find time though.

                                        Yes, that's Alberto Ruvalcaba, her assistant trainer on the horse next to me in one of the pictures. What a great guy. He works so hard and cares so much about the horses, which is just a theme in her barn. I absolutely love them to death and can't say enough wonderful things about everyone associated with her barn. Horses are valued, sore ones don't ever run, and vets are there anytime there's even the slightest problem. Not to mention, Ellen is just a cool gal.

                                        Acertainsmile, I know I need to get the leggings, but I'm just too lazy to be honest! The vet wrap works. Not great, but what I really need to do is get new half chaps. That or get those taken in. The problem is the half chaps are so worn out, they aren't doing their job. You need to tell a few more of your old war stories. I know you have bunches of them!!