It is not commonly understood that most racehorses never win even one race and with each win the odds of winning another race decline. Only a very small number of racehorses are successful at any level of racing.
These horses are trained and prepared for several years during their young lives to become racehorses. Normally the training begins at the age of one when they are green broke and from the beginning the focus is on forward. The answer to every question the horse has is Go! Imagine how you would feel if you were systematically trained to do something for years only to find out you are no good at it. You tried your very best, but you just couldn’t do it. What would this do to your sense of self? Your self confidence?
This is what many retired racehorses face. They are bred to be generous. Their heightened flight instinct makes them extremely sensitive. They love people. They are surrounded by humans from a young age and most are very attached to the attention and handling they receive. These horses leave racing knowing full well they have failed. They lack confidence and this is something that should be addressed. I see people bring horses straight from the track and begin jumping them or throwing new training principles at them immediately. This is with little regard for the horse’s needs.
Because retiring racehorses are so generous, they do their best to fulfill the ambitions of their new trainers and do things for them, they have not been prepared to do – they are after all, bred to be athletes. The lack of confidence will come back to haunt you if you move forward to the challenges of more advanced training or if the horse ends up with someone who is not capable of filling in the great void with their riding skills. This is when the lack of confidence will rear it’s ugly head.
I am not against riding the horse when he comes from the track, rather if he is sound, I am for it, but this is far different from jumping right into asking the horse to perform a completely new discipline without the time to realize this new training is something he can do.
And then there is evaluating the horse for the discipline he is best suited for. Simply because you like to do jumpers, doesn’t mean the horse you just got from the track will be a good jumper. He may be best suited for dressage, endurance riding or something completely different…….