Riding on Faith: Casey & Alvie

“Throughout our training, I had an idea of what my horse could be like, but … I was just riding on faith. I hadn’t really had many of those ‘glimpses of greatness’ …  I just had a hunch that things would turn out okay… I’m feeling better about it with each ride.”

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 discusses riding on the faith that her methods are the right choice for Alvie.

Photo by Casey French

I think what keeps us trainers going is the anticipation of those pivotal moments when it all comes together. Or sometimes, not even when it all comes together, but when tiny pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. Those moments of affirmation make it all worthwhile. We get to see the light switch go on, and that’s exciting!

Every article that I’ve written thus far has been mostly about the struggle. While the struggle still remains in a few areas, it’s increasingly becoming smaller and smaller. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now there is more sun and far less rain. Which, quite honestly, is happening at the perfect time. Throughout our training, I had an idea of what my horse could be like, but quite literally, I was just riding on faith. I hadn’t really had many of those “glimpses of greatness,” as I like to call them. I just had a hunch that things would turn out okay. I still can’t say for sure that they will, but I’m feeling better about it with each ride.

Photo by Casey French.

I religiously watch the Chris Cox Horsemanship show on RFD-TV every morning while my son and I eat breakfast. He is one of my favorite trainers because he incorporates dressage, along with other horsemanship techniques, into training all facets of performance horses. One thing I’ve heard him say was that he doesn’t just train on the maneuvers that he wishes to accomplish. He mainly trains on the elements that makeup that maneuver.

That resonated with me because that is so much of what I have been focusing on with my horse Awesome Choice. I thought that what I have been doing was right, but often I am just hoping I am doing it right. Most times I feel like I have a rhyme to my reason, but sometimes I feel as if I am out there just “winging it”.

Yes, I have done this before… but not with an OTTB.

We have just recently added barrels to our training regimen. I feel that many people were worried about us (and probably continue to be!). We took a really, really long time to actually add barrels into the equation. Even my family started questioning my judgement and what we were doing all this time. I started to question myself. Maybe I did wait too late? What if I won’t have enough time to get him ready by postponing the actual barrel training? So many times I’ve questioned myself, but hearing a top trainer say that my idea was on track did help me to breathe a sigh of relief.

Photo courtesy of Casey French.

My thoughts were and continue to be that if a horse has the fundamentals and all the tools it needs, turning a barrel should come relatively easy. Countless times I have taken ex working cow horses or reiners and made them into barrel horses fairly quickly. They aren’t always the fastest, but they usually work and are so fun and easy to train! There’s a reason why they catch on quick, and it’s because they typically have a great foundation. You can put their body anywhere you want it (which is pretty important in what we do).

So since day one, my main goal was to get Alvie from point A to point B (and any other place that I might want to go) with minimal effort, then to teach that same thing at each increasing speed. So, I guess you could say that I do a barrel racing version of straightness training in a sense.

The Makeover is one of the few events, if not the only event, where barrel racing has a judged pattern that goes along with your time(s) for a combined total. I am not sure who made this a thing, but in my opinion, it is key for the program’s mission. In order to properly train a horse for this event, you should be able to execute this at a high level. In preparing myself for our pattern I noticed that my horse might have a shot at something else. Maybe you will see us in two events if I am brave enough around final entry time!

It has taken a while, but finally I can say that my patience has started to pay off. Bruce Lee said, “Patience is not passive, on the contrary it is concentrated strength.” Faith and patience seem to hold one another’s hand when it comes to horse training. You must trust that what you are doing is right, even when you aren’t sure that it is. I hope that my decisions and methods continue to prove themselves true for years to come for Alvie and me, as the Makeover is only the beginning for us!

Photo by Casey French.

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