Retraining a Racehorse – Week two.

Well, this week has involved zero retraining, because as you all know, we entered a temporary ice age. For most horse owners this week has mostly consisted of attempting to defrost things, flying fresh AF horse on the end of ropes and dreaming of summer. With that in mind, this weeks blog post is going to have a bit of a focus on a few products that I love and setting myself a plan of action for the week ahead.

A plan of action.

With the week ahead looking mild but damp, I’m determined to get cracking on with Azzerti and start setting some goals with my coach. Rules on coaching are currently pretty vague, with different insurance companies and governing bodies having differing guidelines for their coaches. This means that at the moment, my usual coach can’t come out to meet Azzerti. With that in mind a local trainer is going to come out this week, to give me a socially distanced session to help me with getting the basics right and establishing some direction in the training.

For me, the basics are the most important thing when retraining. Going back to the very beginning, establishing the aids and getting good transitions, forward movement, relaxation and bend, are all key to success as things get more advanced. Like the foundations of a house, you may be able to start to build on poor foundations, but eventually it’s going to go wrong and it’s the same with training horses.

I guess the hardest thing with ex-racers, is that you’re not only training them, you’re attempting to undo all the training that they have had for most of their lives. So, before my coach comes out on Thursday, I’ll spend the start of the week working on a few things in the school and a bit of hacking.

Hacking for me is one of the most important things you can do with and for your horse. Working on different surfaces can help prevent injury and help strengthen the horse, it’s also great for their brains to work in different environments, see different things and not be constantly going in circles. Hill work on hacks is something I try to plan my routes for, like lots of racing trainers have gallops on an incline, leisure horses or horses in other disciplines benefit from hill work, encouraging the horses to engage their hind end and push themselves up the hill, rather than pulling themselves along on their shoulder.
Another one of the things hacking is important for, is training your horse to listen and trust you. It’s not uncommon for people to put off hacking and do most of their training in the menage, but then find that when they ask their horse to work in a new environment, such as a competition, the horse doesn’t perform well, can become tense and excitable or scared. When you go out hacking and ask your horse to work, they are constantly experiencing a new environment and new hazards that they have to take in and work through, setting you in good stead for competing!

With Azzerti I don’t yet know how much of the world he’s seen away from the race track and his training yard, so we’ll start going out with a sensible hacking buddy and see how he does.


My other favourite thing to do with the ex-racers when they first come out of racing, is pole work. Pole work has so many benefits for the horses, teaching them to shorten and lengthen their stride, to pick their feet up and use their bodies, it can be used for accuracy training, encouraging bend, creating a good rhythm, the benefits really are endless. But one thing I find is that it helps to focus the ex-racers, their new way of being ridden is very different to how they are ridden in training, so by giving them the poles to focus on, they spend less time focusing on the new feeling of the contact and the new aides being different. In my experience this generally helps them to relax and in my first pole work session with Azzerti, I was amazed at how quickly he felt more relaxed and supple.

Here’s some pole exercises that I’ll work on this week, from ‘How To Dressage’, I’ll be sure to get some videos to show you in my next blog post too.

I’m taking delivery of a pivo pod this week, so I’ll be able to capture much more ridden footage, if there’s anything you’d like to see, or any questions you have, drop me a message through my contacts page!

My go to products for winter and beyond.

With having a quiet week, I’ve decided to post about a few products that I’m using for myself and for my horses. I generally like to buy things based on recommendation, rather than from advertising, so here’s a few things I recommend, most of which you can buy through Equus.

Grooming.

I’m not the kind of person that likes to spend a lot of time grooming in the winter, (that’s probably why I favour naturally mud coloured horses). Obviously grooming is important as whilst brushing the horses off, you can check for any little cuts or knocks that need treating, so a couple of things I find make grooming easier are Nettex Seven Day Mud Away & See Change Now shampoo bars.
7 Day Mud away is a spray that basically stops the mud from sticking to the horses legs and coat and when it does stick it’s much easier to brush away, so saves loads of time and fuss, whilst the See Change Now bars are a product I featured on my Christmas Gift Guide, they’re a vegan and eco-friendly product, that is great for the horses and the bag the bar comes in is great for buffing out stable stains and stubborn mud.

Keeping Warm.

I’ve realised this week that I’ve essentially been living in my LeMieux breeches and that I haven’t really raved about them enough. In the rain, snow, wind, hale, they’ve kept me warm, riding racehorses in the snow at Fergal O’Brien’s, I was toasty and dry, I’ve really put them to the test, and they still look good as new and wash really well. The weather is brutal up on the hill where my livery yard is and they’ve done exactly what they need to do, whilst being comfortable.

I also realised that I am in a constant cycle of wearing boots, them leaking, me getting wet feet, drying said boots out and repeat. So today I’ve treated myself to the gorgeous Ariat Wythburn boots for pottering around the yard and dog walking in, they’re mega comfortable and warm, so we shall see how they stand up to day to day use!

I also treated myself to some electronic hand warmers on Amazon, which have been a godsend whilst walking the dog or standing with the horses for the vet and farrier.

Supplements.

Supplements for horses drive me insane, there’s so many available on the market that you’re blinded by choice and options, I like to try to have some brand loyalty, but if something works, you gotta go with it. So I’ve got my horses on three supplements at the moment.

The Pilot Equine joint supplement, which is the first thing I’ve ever given my mare that has stopped her legs filling over night in the stable, she’s coming out of the box a lot less stiff, which considering she has severe arthritis in both hind legs, is a big deal.

GWF one cup, which is a balancer type supplement, that contains lots of different vitamins and minerals, we started our horses on this after a couple of them felt a bit lethargic and flat, within two weeks of taking this, they felt so much better in their work, so now all four of the horses are on it and doing well.

The final one is one that’s new to me, Equine Products Comfort Gut, it’s the first of the Equine Products range that I have used and I put Grumeti on it after his digestive system took a battering from the antibiotics and pain medication he was on when he fractured his leg, It’s a charcoal based supplement, so can get a little messy, but I’ve seen it take effect really quickly with the horses when a change of diet or routine has upset their digestion.

Thank you as ever for taking the time to read my pieces, the response to my last two pieces was huge and all your kind words have really helped me to feel that my feelings are valid.

Remember if you are struggling, do reach out to someone, anyone.

Hopefully with better weather, next week we will have more exciting things to talk about with Azzerti’s retraining and Grumeti’s rehab.

Feel free to follow me on my social media channels for more insights into life with Grumeti & Azzerti

XOXO Katie.

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