A Horse of Course

Don and Walter
Don and Walter

            It’s amazing how simple it is to win with show horses or race horses.

There are only four things to know.

            It’s amazing how hard so many make it.

            I think it has to do with the fact that the trainer, rider, or owner’s mind is in the wrong place……they are thinking about themselves instead of the horse.  Trainers tend to think if they aren’t training the horse they aren’t doing their job.  Riders tend to think they have to ride and ride and ride or they aren’t doing their job.  Owners tend to think they aren’t getting their money’s worth if the horse isn’t being trained or ridden every hour of every day.

            The fact is more trainers, more riders and more owners get their horses beat, than help them win.

            Before we go any farther, granted, you have to have a horse trained well enough (that’s a long way from perfect) to compete, and you have to have a horse with enough conformation and look to complete.  After that it’s sort of out of the horse’s hoofs.   (There is no doubt you can “buy” winners…but you’ll have to keep them there.)

            Do four things and you can make your horse a winner.  Of course, most of the time the trainer, rider or owner won’t do all four…or even two of four.  That’s why they lose, and that’s why there are only a few at the top of the mountain that keep winning and winning and winning.

            So what are the four things?

            I’m going to tell you, and I’m going to put them in order…can’t do number two until you complete number one.

            1. No pain.  Never work a horse that is feeling any kind of pain. 

            Unfortunately most horses go out every day with some kind of pain and the trainer or rider never even thinks about it.  If the horse is standing and eating, they figure it’s okay to work him. 

            How often have you seen a trainer walk into a stall and feel his or her horse’s legs and feet for coolness…..or run hands down the horse’s back, down the heavy muscle on the hind leg, over the withers and along the shoulder……don’t try to kid me…you’ve haven’t seen it.

            How many trainers do you think take a horse’s temperature before they take them out for a training session?  (Race horse trainers are pretty good at it…show horse trainers haven’t got a clue.)

            After a day at a show, how many trainers or owners poultice their horse’s legs, massage the muscles, give a bute tab, fresh water, fresh hay and fresh bedding?  (Most associations today allow horses to show on specified amounts of bute.)

            2.  Enough exercise to be fit to do the job.   This is one of the most violated rules.  If you are going to run 6 furlongs you don’t need to be fit to run 3 miles.   If you are going to show in two western pleasure classes, you don’t have to be fit enough to ride in 20.

            Everyone claims they’ve got to work them down; can’t have them feeling too good.

            You’re kidding yourself…they know their job and they do it better if they aren’t “over exercised…over trained.”

            A horse has had enough exercise for the day when his gaits begin to improve and reach the level of his best understanding.   Teach him to side-pass today…but when he starts to improve at the exercise, he’s had enough.  He doesn’t have to get it perfect today…or tomorrow.  He’ll learn and he’ll be happy to do it when he’s fit enough to do it; not over-trained.

            3.  Plenty of rest.  Show horses are lunged and lunged and ridden and ridden and hauled down the road…and lunged and ridden some more.  Give them a break.  Let them rest.  Think it isn’t important…just look around at a show…everyone’s tired and it’s easy to see what it does to relationships and the “desire to pitch in an help out.”  

            The horse feels the same way.

            4.  Put him where he can win.  You’ve got to be honest–if the horse isn’t Kentucky Derby caliber, don’t run him there.  If the horse isn’t “A” circuit quality, don’t show him there.

            You only get the horse beat and make yourself look bad by over-matching.  Find competition the horse can beat…that’s called good management. 

            It’s simple!  Follow the four rules and you’ll be amazed at what happens….keep doing what you are doing and you’ll keep getting the gate.

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