Each first ride is similar, but has differences based on what each individual horse needs to feel safe and relaxed. I do my best to listen to the horse and give him or her what they need on that day. Wally is a calm and relaxed horse so this was a very easy ride. It was tempting to do more with him, but my sole goal was to give him a ride where he is a complete success. I accomplished the goal so there was no reason to continue. Tomorrow we can do a little more.
This first ride is an introduction – to you and to a new way of being for the horse. Don’t get on your retired racer until you are certain you will be able to make this introduction as a relaxed rider. Wait until you are comfortable with him. Safety is paramount on your first ride and every ride after. The goal of this first ride should be for the horse and rider to relax and enjoy it. Retraining can come later, this is the foundation of your relationship with the horse.
When I mount the horse, I sit down very lightly and support my weight in the stirrups thoughout the ride to stay off of their back and invite them to use it. I avoid doing lots of transitions, too many circles or other training for this introductory ride. Asking too little makes the horse believe working with you will be easy. Asking too much can cause problems you will have to address instead of slowly progressing each day. Be mindful that you are already introducing a new way of riding to him. All of the details come later when you have established a drama free, reliable training session where the horse expects to find success. Gradually immerse the horse into this new program. I keep my first rides short, around 10 minutes in length. I limit the gaits to mostly walk with a bit of trot if things are going well, and I definitely post at the trot.
Most racehorses go in a simple D-bit so resist the temptation to “over bit” them. Their back will be tight and they may carry their head a bit high, but don’t worry about that. It normally goes away on its own as the horse lets go and lets down. Give him the liberty of his head in an effort to allow him to relax. Keep your lower back very supple so you don’t block any of the relaxation of his back muscles.
I filmed this with my Pixem, so it’s a little unsteady at times. Sometimes the robot gets confused, but it is a good video and shows my first ride on Wally, exactly as it occurred.