Retired Racehorse Project Showcase: Trainer Videos, Part II

Watch our spotlight trainers in action!

With May coming to a close, the second half of our Retired Racehorse Project trainers are actively moving forward in their training with their mounts. They were eager to share their progress and training tips through their videos. What is interesting is all of these tips and tricks can be used for any horse in any discipline. It is all about refining and polishing the horse in preparation for further discipline specific training. So keep on reading and check out the videos to see what our trainers have been up to for the month of May!

Nicole Valeri – Barrel Racing, Professional

“I did see improvement in her from just this first time performing the exercises. She started searching for the correct answer.

Nicole offers up some great exercises to prepare your new barrel horse to the concept, without the barrel. With some things having held back her progress with Sly up to this point, she didn’t feel as if Sly was 100% ready to be introduced to the barrel and felt these exercises would be very beneficial to share with others working with OTTBs for the sport. These exercises are simple enough that anyone from any discipline could utilize them and benefit from them. They prepare Sly for the pattern and help you as the trainer gauge how far along your horse is and where you should go next.

As you can see in the video, Nicole has set up some cones for Sly to maneuver around. “When you are riding the outside of the cones, you should be aiming to make a very straight line in between and then waiting for your leg to pass the cone before you make the turn,” shares Nicole. By encouraging the horse to shift their weight back onto their haunches and really bringing their shoulders through the turn, you are able to better balance the horse which allows them to move away freely and quickly. When you begin making circles around the cones, again focus on your horses shoulder placement and ensure the shoulder is past the cone prior to turning so that they use those hindquarters effectively. Inside leg will encourage bend through the ribcage and a driving seat will help keep the rhythm consistent. No matter what, don’t give up. Continue to circle the cones until you feel a level of consistency and can maintain your rhythm, speed, and distance from the cone.

While Nicole admits that she and Sly will need to continue to practice with this exercise many more times, she was impressed to see some improvement towards the end of the ride. Sly began to offer more bend and softness through her face and body, despite struggling at some points. Even though she might have fallen down on her forehand at times and leaned a little too much one way, she made progress.

Lauren Turner – Eventing, Professional

Horses will be horses and of course when Lauren went to film her training video with Gift, she found he was short a shoe. The show must go on, however, and Lauren took it a step further and even filmed her responses to this month’s challenge so she could better explain the importance of the different kinds of tack you can use in the retraining process and how she selects what Gift needs based off of his place in his training at the moment.

So sit back, relax, and be ready to soak up some wisdom!

Savannah Ranes – Junior, Dressage

“I am grateful we got to go to the clinic and be in that situation where he had to trust me and rely on me. It has strengthened our relationship and made me realize that we are partners!

Savannah and Bentley have been using all of the resources they can find for their training program and she was happy to take the always-adorable gray gelding off the property some this month. Some off-property experience paired with a clinic tailored towards their goals at the RRP really helped them progress. In the videos below, Savannah shows how she adapts to her horse’s personality on off-property ventures and what they worked on in their clinic with Richard Lamb.

Their main focus was encouraging Bentley to relax into the bridle and start to move from behind. To help him with his balance, Savannah did lots of transitions and circles, along with lateral work as displayed in the videos. Transitions help the horse balance on his hind end and not run through his aids. She knew that Bentley could do these things at home, but it was important to her to take him to places he wasn’t used to and to encourage him to use those skills elsewhere. In order to make this all happen, Savannah rides with her hands up and out of his way with a lot of leg to encourage him forward and keep the rhythm steady. Repetition and consistency is key when trying to form this sort of foundation.

In the first clip, Bentley was off of the farm but in an area he had been to before so for the most part he was relaxed and he schooled very well. As you can see Bentley was very understanding and accepting of the way Savannah was asking for the exercise and was doing it very well, leading to a nice suppleness throughout. The second clip was from their clinic with Richard Lamb and it was as if Bentley was a new horse. Savannah explained that this was a new area for him and it was right by a race track which seemed to cause him some anxiety. He started to flip his head and even rear, but despite his poor reaction Savannah stayed calm and cool and continued to work him through his temper tantrums. “It was very important to bring him there and have him act like that so I will know how to handle him if he acts like that in the future,” she said.

Lindsy Behrend – Hunter, Professional

“If we can compete and hang with this crowd, then we will be ready for bigger things like the RRP in October with no problems!

Many of the RRP trainers are moving forward with their mounts and taking them off property, even to some shows to really get a feel for what their horse has learned. Lindsy and Fergie are at that stage in their training and Lindsy wanted to share a video that would help trainers understand what to expect for your Makeover mount’s first show and how to set goals for the second show.

To start, have a good idea of your expectations for your first show out together. Lindsy was looking to get Fergie to the show safely and school her, gauging her comfort in new surroundings and feeling if she was ready for this new experience. Their time in the schooling ring together was going to set the tone for if Fergie was ready to show that day or not. After a great schooling, Lindsy moved forward with her second goal of the day: to make it over every fence whether they walked, trotted, or cantered. She just wanted to end the day positively with no refusals and leave the ring with a positive first experience.

Not only was Fergie more than game for this challenge, she blew past Lindsy’s expectations by cantering her first hunter round, having flying lead changes, and even getting the right strides. Even though the experience was altogether positive, the pair did not pin out of a class of 20 due to a rail. They still went home with homework to prepare themselves for their second outing together.

Three weeks later, the duo went to their second show. Just like with the first show, Lindsy knew what she wanted to make of the day. The goal was to repeat the previous show, cantering the course with flying lead changes and putting a little more polished touch in the corners and a more consistent pace. Fergie is always a good sport and again went in as though she had been doing this for years. She was a hair nervous, as you can tell in the video by her nickering, but she really tried her heart out and Lindsy is excited to see where the future takes the two of them. At their second show together, Fergie placed fourth out of a class of 15 in a professional division with trainers showing green horses with two years or less of show experience.

After such great outcomes at their first few outings, Lindsy is eager to move forward with Fergie’s training, but they will continue to work on consistency at home. The pair will stay at 2’6” for the entire summer to build up the mare’s confidence. Even though Lindsy admits that Fergie still has a lot to learn, she feels Fergie is off to a great start and couldn’t ask for more out of her.

Oliver Kiethley – Polo, Amateur

“Last year I was too tough trying to meet the deadline. This year I’m more patient with my training.

With the weather finally on their side, Oliver and Fitzy have been hard at work preparing for the Makeover. One of the basics that Oliver likes to restart all of his polo mounts on is neck reining. Neck reining is vital to the sport, but as we all know racehorses don’t necessarily come off of the track understanding this new aid. “Some horses are great at it,” Oliver says, “but others you really have to go back to the basics frequently and just reintroduce them to it over and over again.” Ensuring that Fitzy understands what Oliver is asking for when he neck reins will really change the game on the polo field. Once they are on the field with other horses and tracking a ball, the team will have to rely on neck reining to get the job done.

To start out with familiarizing the horse to neck reining, Oliver applies pressure to the horse’s neck and utilizes his leg to get the bend he is looking for. At first, he might also need to use a little pressure on the rein as well just to get the horse to understand what he is asking of him. Once the horse begins to understand this cue at the walk, it is time to build on that foundation and practice neck reining at the trot, canter, and gallop. On the polo field there are many different speeds a horse will need to become accustomed too. Being able to make a quick, tight turn is imperative. Oliver also mentions that finding the right bit for your horse will make all of the difference both when training the horse to neck rein and using a little pressure and on the polo field.

Fitzy has accepted the concept of neck reining fairly well, but it’s definitely new to him. “It’s not like ‘oh my gosh, he was born to do this’,” Oliver said when describing Fitzy’s training progress. He doesn’t fight the pressure and tries his hardest. With the help of a martingale (loose in the beginning and slowly tightened so the horse can adjust) and consistency, he is picking up on it. With the season starting, Oliver is hoping to show off Fitzy’s newfound skills by taking him out to stick and ball (basically their practices for us non-polo folks) and potentially playing the role of umpire on the field so he can adjust the environment.

It has been so exciting to see the progress of each horse and trainer combination each month and this month really captures just how big of an improvement each pair has made. With the Thoroughbred Makeover drawing closer, they will continue to push forward with new goals in mind. Countdown to the RRP: 5 months!

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