Apollo was cleared for limited turn out last Thursday after the new digitals were done. With all of the rain and the greasy footing we decided not to turn him out just yet but instead to begin longe training in the round pen. We have one round pen with sand footing. I know what some of you are thinking – longeing is very hard on a young horse and probably isn’t a good idea for a horse coming off of stall rest. You would be correct if you think our approach to longeing is the one often seen at horse shows and even on the internet. We do not longe horses to get them tired, EVER! Getting a horse tired is getting them fit, if you don’t blow out their stifles or some other joint. Each horse who goes through our program is worked on the longe and it always begins with behavior modification and then work at the walk only on the longe. The develops discipline in the horse. It also reinforces the voice commands and most importantly teaches the horse to keep his attention on the handler who will eventually become the rider.
Many don’t realize that the job of the racehorse is not to carry the rider. It is to win races. The rider’s job is to stay out of the horse’s way so he can do that. Most jockeys will tell you that they can’t make a horse faster, but they can make them slower. The best jocks get in the way of the horse the least. Riders do guide or direct the horse, but the horse is never made to feel like a beast of burden. To win races he or she must be confident and allowed to be the king or queen of the world! Thus, one of my first jobs is to develop a new relationship between rider/handler and horse. While I work with him, he is to focus on me 100% of the time. I’d rather get this premise down before I get on him. Wouldn’t you?
One must keep in mind that the horse will need to develop his attention span. It’s not going to happen in one day or even one week in most cases but it can get better every day – if you are consistant. Racehorses are used to consistant. All horses rely on and trust consistency. So, back to transitioning Apollo from stall rest.
In the round pen for five minutes each direction at the walk. Not trotting will be tolerated. This doen’t not apply only to him. Each horse we train must be walking relaxed and obediently before we do any trot work on the longe. With Apollo it is a bit different because he will remain at the walk for the next 30 days. First on the longe and then when mounted. Boring? Only if you make it that way. We will first increase the amount of time going each direction and then will begin to do transitions within the walk itself and walk/halt transitions.
You can find out more about behavior modification and our approach to longeing by reading “New Track, New Life” a retraining manual I wrote to help others understand and retrain their retired racehorses. It is offered free on the goodhorse.org website. http://www.goodhorse.org/resources/new-track-new-life/