A Trip to the Track

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:


3 thoughts on “A Trip to the Track

  1. Christy,
    I’m now addicted to reading your posts but I need some help with horse language. Is there a web site dictionary that can help translate the foreign language. (for example: martingale, pelham, our transition, staying soft and reaching into contact, and our half halts, and our haunches-in…, etc.)

  2. Excellent Blog! I am not 100% sure what issues you are having with the bit. My own off track TB went through a bunch of bits before I got him. From mylars to gags. When I got him the only bit I had that would fit his 5 1/4 inch mouth was a D ring snaffle. It was scary to try it but he actully did very well in it. I know you are training in dressage and in your picture I belive that is a loose ring snaffle? In the end my horse and I both liked the loose ring snaffle with a french key. We learned to listen to my body cues more and less to the metal thing in his mouth. That took a while though. What about the pelham is working for you? Is it the chain? the double reins? the fact it has more check coverage? Think about it and maybe you can try a bit that has just one of those things to see if it works as well. Don’t buy anything though untill you get some of your friends to lend you there bits to try out if you can. That is always the best way. I am sure someone has a spare bit lying around somewhere that they can lend you.
    Now for my real advise to you…there is a DVD about bits that I LOVE I mean it is a DVD about bits so it is not the most exciting thing in the world but if you could ever get your hands on a copy of “Understanding Bits with Stormy May” it is FULL of information about bits. I learned so much from watching it. I am not a bit expert by any stretch of the imagination but this DVD makes me feel like one 😛
    Keep up the good work with Liam! It is always a good idea to do some jumps every now and again. And keep up with the dressage training too. You and Liam will do great things together I am sure!

  3. Have you been to Hawthorne Race Track? Arlington is much nicer.

    Do you have any trainer contacts at the track? know anyone that is wanting to rehome a TB? I am furiously looking for an OTTB as my next project horse.

    I am in Wisconsin, about an hour and a half from Arlington.

    You can email me at eamadunic@yahoo.com.

    LOVE your blog!

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