All Aboard the Horse Training Roller Coaster: Casey & Alvie

“He had an excellent ride and I was completely pleased. That was a big win in my book […]Well, it came time to load up and go home. Here is where the wheels come off and things get interesting…”

All photos courtesy of Casey French

For 673 accepted trainers, the journey to the Retired Racehorse Project‘s 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover has begun! Over the training period, three of those trainers will blog their journeys, including their triumphs and their heartbreaks, successes and failures, for Horse Nation readers. Casey French details her latest series of ups and downs with Awesome Choice, aka Alvie.

The first ride was more of a “I need to see what I’m dealing with before I spend this money on applying to be a trainer in the Makeover” type of ride. I just had to get on and see what I was going to be working with, and if the time allotted was going to be something even remotely in the realm of possibility. After riding him for the first time, I was certain it was. I am not going to say that this is the same type of mentality I’ve kept for the duration!

We have had our challenges. The biggest issue was the fact that I was working on a horse that really wasn’t completely ready to train. He wasn’t thin, but he also wasn’t in a condition to handle much work. His feet were and still are a work in progress, but are progressively getting stronger. Amid a rough winter here in Tennessee, I did what I could when weather permitted. After a few successful rides, and quite a few cold rainy days passing, I thought it would be a good idea to take him to a local indoor arena.

Hacking out.

The day we picked him up from the farm in Kentucky, he did not eagerly load into our small stock trailer. Once we had him loaded though, he handled the trip fabulously.  I knew getting him loaded on the trailer for this next trip might take a few attempts so I planned accordingly.  Much to my surprise, he really didn’t seem to mind and loaded on just fine.

We arrived at the arena and I got him tacked up, then brought him inside to see the sights and found a good safe place to tie him up while I exercised another horse. He stood tied just as patiently as ever… a complete pro!! I was really impressed with him.

It came time for us to go for a ride: I climbed on, we took a few spins around the rail to see the flags, trash cans, barrels, all the “scaries.” He pricked his ears a few times, but nothing much different than what he’s like at home. He had an excellent ride and I was completely pleased. I thought to myself, yesss!!! That was a big win in my book. He really seemed to have some sense about himself.

Well, it came time to load up and go home. We untacked, got brushed off, watered and now it’s time to go. Here is where the wheels come off and things get interesting….

This horse will not load up to go home.

I tried, and I tried some more. I had no phone service. I can’t even call someone or ask social media for some professional help. This horse was in no way, shape, or form doing what I wanted. He just wasn’t getting in. If I had to compare his attitude during this, I would say that working with him on this was probably similar to that of a donkey. Just dead stare, locked legs, NO GO!! After about the 200th attempt I finally got him in there, but seriously, I can’t even tell you how. I guess he got bored with standing there? I’m not sure.

Well, we got home and go back to business as usual. I just thought to myself, okay, this trailering thing is something I have got to get squared away. This horse has to haul and I can’t let what happened last time happen again. Each time we would ride or exercise I would take him to the trailer and work on our loading.

Well, I would love to tell you that I got through to him in this way and it was no longer an issue, but I never could get him in the trailer. How embarrassing!! What kind of trainer am I really if I cannot even get a horse loaded on a trailer — one of the most basic tasks?? I think that in the past that I would’ve probably just found a way to figure it out on my own, but now I am a mom. We seriously just don’t have time for me to “figure it out.” So again, I called upon a friend/trainer who also was the same trainer who helped me with his ground work. I booked myself a “trailering” lesson.

Even for her, he wasn’t the easiest egg to crack, but she did get though to him. She worked with us together and now we are able to ride other places besides home — a great feat!!

Chilling in the trailer.

For the most part from December to March, we just rode around. When I say that, I mean that I really haven’t asked him for much: we walked, trotted, loped, stopped and backed. Our max ride times were around 20 to 30 minutes. Some days consisted of just walking and trotting. Some days if he loped well and caught leads the first try, we might only go two or three big circles. For me, consistency is key. I prefer to stop on good notes and ride more frequently versus getting in longer rides and fewer days.

After putting 30+ rides on him I did start asking for a little more — and then again, I found myself looking out there for knowledge beyond myself…

For many years I have worked mainly with Quarter horses. Having this guy in the barn in a sense has been a breath of fresh air because there are so many things he handles with ease and profound confidence. Even though horses are horses and many things that apply for some will apply for many, this Thoroughbred named Awesome Choice has also instilled another quote that I hear often, and that’s to treat each of them as an individual. Not one size fits all, and there’s a whole big world of “different ways” out there that I’m currently being led to. I for one cannot wait to see how far it takes me, not only with this horse but with every horse I meet for the rest of my life!

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