For me, not Liam, don’t worry!
Scott and I went to Arlington to watch the morning workouts and visit with his trainer. It was a delightful morning, the horses were amazing to watch, the riders were impressive as always, and the atmosphere is bustling yet friendly and inviting in the mornings. I noted a few things which I would like to report back, things I wish I would have known (or noticed? I’ve been there before, and maybe just not paid attention) when I was starting Liam, and things that maybe will help anyone starting a tb fresh off the track.
First, almost all the racehorses out exercising had running martingales. They are used to that pressure, and work quite happily that way. If I had realized this, it may have saved me quite a lot of time before resorting to giving the pelham a try! I was leery of trying a running martingale because I didn’t want him the feel the pressure and go upwards (which he almost did in the pelham as it was, but it was easy to give with my hands and redirect him). Maybe this also explains why his answer to anything he doesn’t want to do is to throw his head up in the air!
Second, the racehorses walk like trail horses going from the stable to the track, where they work out, then they walk like trail horses back to the stable. The path they go down is wide and has sandy type footing, it goes past buildings and parking lots, it curves, and has intersections and horse traffic going both ways. Leading up to the track, it is tree-lined and really quite peaceful. And the racehorses walk up and down this path like it’s no big deal. A few riders had even dropped their stirrups and sat totally relaxed with legs dangling on either side of their lazily ambling turbo-charged mounts. If this is the day-to-day routine of these horses, what’s the big deal when we take them off the track and start retraining them? Sure, it’s not arena work, but they are not like unbroke horses. Next time I must remember to bring my camera!
The last thing that was noteworthy was the efficiency of the morning routine, and the overall professional way these horses conduct themselves. The way they stand along the edge of the track waiting quietly for their turn to gallop. Then the way they stand while they are bathed. Then they are walked laps until they are cool and dry. It’s a lot of commotion because there are so many horses, but with very few exceptions, these horses know what is expected of them and act accordingly. The routine is organized and efficient, and the horses get quite a lot of handling and are exposed to lots of different things. All this is a huge asset when retraining a thoroughbred off the track, and maybe forgotten when people focus on the baggage some of them come with.
After a lovely morning at the track, Liam and I had a great ride. Liam is very grateful to Lynn, who reminded me that Liam wanted to jump and that I had agreed that once a week would be good for both of us. Of course, that was a few weeks ago. And, very conveniently, there was a small jump set up in the arena. It was all the suggestion we needed, I trotted Liam towards the jump and grabbed some mane (I was so scared to accidentally catch his mouth with that pelham and all those reins!!) and Liam took care of the rest. He loves to jump, he makes it seem effortless. We turned around and did it again the other direction, and he cantered off ready to go around and do it again. Much to his disappointment, I pulled him up, knowing that we’d both regret it later if I let him do it too many times, and I found myself wishing for the millionth time someone could have retired him from racing a few years before they did. I gave him a pat and cooled him down.
Remember that tack shop sale I mentioned, where I was considering getting a new bit? Well, I was at a loss as for what to do about the bit, so instead Liam got a new halter (he was sporting some duct tape on his old one) and a big bag of apple Willie Muffins, which he likes far more than the new halter. Here he is being sassy, begging for treats (he knows he deserves them), and showing off his new halter: