Training horses has always been like a puzzle to me. I have an image in my head of what I want the final product to look like, and I work at putting the pieces together to get there. Unlike a real puzzle, sometimes that final image can change, but I am always working with the pieces. Sometimes, the pieces even change shape.
The puzzle consists of more than just the actual training. When horses come off the track, they tend to go through a phase of readjusting to their new lives. Many are kept in stalls at the track for years, so they have no clue how to go outside and be a “real” horse. They are exposed to elements, other horses, grass, bugs, etc. Also, the diet of most racehorses is so vastly different from what we feed sporthorses. Our farrier work is even different. Health concerns play a huge role in the puzzle. A trainer must figure out what works best for each horse and realize that sometimes things look worse before they get better.
Since Sexy has arrived here, I have made a lot of changes in her life. It took her awhile before she would eat my feed, as I feed non-molasses based feeds from ADM Alliance Nutrition. Everything I feed is very high fat, but it is not like eating the candy from the track, I am sure. Between changing her feed and turning her out 24/7, Sexy did lose some weight. Again, this is part of the puzzle. I have had many off the track horses drop weight before they put it back on. Every time, I have a bit of a panic attack that I am doing something wrong. However, after a few months, they start to pick weight back up and look healthy and glowing. Their bodies just need time to go through the shock of such a big change in their lives. Some horses deal with it better than others.
I am excited to announce that Omega Alpha supplements has joined Sexy’s team, and I am eager to see how all of their supplements help get Sexy back on track nutritionally.
Another piece to the puzzle has been skin care. We have been having a rain forest wet summer. The mud is abounding and all of the horses are suffering from rain rot. Constant baths with anti-fungals are a daily chore. Sexy has been a victim of this annoying problem. This is another puzzle piece that looks worse before it looks better. I must say, she is looking a bit sad right now, but I think we are on the road to getting everything cleared up.
When Sexy arrived here, she was a sweet, laid back girl with a bit of a herd bound problem. She was low mare on the totem pole in the field. Over the past few months, Sexy has changed her attitude completely. She was turned out in my back field with about 4 other mares. She would come in to work and then go back out. During this time, Sexy managed to completely take over the herd. She is the smallest mare, but she turned into top dog. My working students would joke that Sexy had become feral.
This was not a puzzle piece I had even planned to deal with! Sexy has now been moved to a stall and is being turned out at night. I was worried about her hurting herself or the other mares, as she really had found her mare ‘tude. Also, I was concerned that her trainability would suffer. Since moving to the barn, she has changed a lot. She is back to her old, laid back self, and she is much less attached to the other horses.
Due to the excess of rain, I haven’t been able to do as much arena work with Sexy as I had hoped I would be doing by now. However, she is getting more and more confident on her hacks, and she is understanding lunging in side reins more and more. I did have a few days that I did some flatwork with her in the arena. She was quite good. On the last day in the arena, we did some trot poles and even a small crossrail, and she handled it all like a champ.
While some of the puzzle pieces have changed, I am confident that I am still on the right track to the final picture in my head.