Each horse is different, and we act accordingly, but there are some basics we tend to follow with each one of them. The first thing we do when a horse arrives from racing is to allow him to settle into the new routine. The more the horse can count on a schedule or routine, the easier it will be for him to accept the tremendous change in his life. Fortunately we run things on a very reliable schedule at Leighton Farm. This helps the horse accept this new and strange environment. The next thing is to evaluate him by observing him and getting to know him and then having our vet, farrier, and dentist have a look. This gives us a good baseline to begin with and helps ensure we haven’t missed anything.
If the horse is healthy and sound, I put them into some kind of training or work period almost immediately. This doesn’t mean I ride him or that it’s for a long period. I might just put him on a tie chain in the stall and groom him each day. If he’s calm, I’ll move over to the grooming stall and introduce cross tying. I’m as consistent as possible and try to do it around the same time each day. This is the beginning of laying down a new foundation of training. I keep the sessions short and am sure to make them enjoyable for the horse. If I find the horse is struggling, I back off. I make small corrections coupled with positive reinforcement, avoiding negative reinforcement at this juncture. The exception being if he is doing something completely unacceptable such as biting or kicking – something almost none of them ever do. If this happens, I change my strategy because I understand the horse is feeling defensive about something and maybe I need to do more detective work to find the reason. I cater my interaction to things he doesn’t object to at this point in an effort to lay down a positive working relationship with the horse.
With Stevie, I began basic training almost immediately but I didn’t push. We just spent about 10 minutes a day grooming and learning to stand quietly in cross ties. We also worked on leading out to the field without resistance and basic manners which was easy for Stevie because he was a real people person from the start – even though he’s a horse.
After about two weeks we began walk/halts in hand and segued into lunging at the walk only. I did not have someone to video these sessions but you can see how I do it by checking out other posts on this blog. I did Stevie in the same way. I began riding him at the beginning of January and the first rides follow this post.