Training thoroughbreds for the racetrack comes with very specific challenges – it’s different from training regular riding horses, and to many people outside of the industry it appears to be an assembly line producing a lot of wild and uncontrollable animals. In reality, thoroughbreds are trained carefully – but quickly – to do a specific job, and most of them do that job pretty well, whether or not they are fast.
Remember that racing stables and studs have a lot of young horses to break in a very short time. And these horses don’t have to know much – they need to accept a rider, go fast, and stop. Later, they’ll need to know how to enter starting stalls, and respond in different ways to a jockeys commands, but for most youngsters, they need to be broken just enough to start training.
Many training stables use natural horsemanship techniques to get these thoroughbreds trained. Natural horsemanship works very well for thoroughbred training; it teaches horses to move forward – which is pretty essential for a racehorse – and to accept a saddle, bridle, and a rider very quickly.
More and more training stables are using round pens and natural horsemanship methods to get their youngsters ready for the track as quickly as possible. The leadership training the horses get in the round pen is valuable when they need to follow a handler into the starting stalls, or if they have to adapt to new surroundings frequently. For many trainers, natural horsemanship training is the method of choice for breaking their horses.
If you’ve just adopted a retired racehorse, think about natural horsemanship for re-training your horse. Much of the groundwork has been done for you – your horse will accept a saddle and bridle and a rider, and will be conditioned to move forward. Really, all you need to do now is add consistency, and control.
For this, remember that the language a racehorse uses, and that it expects from you, is very similar to what you use in natural horsemanship. After all, racing is a natural instinct for horses – most are very happy to run, and to run fast – and jockeys use a lot of hidden and surprisingly natural methods to control their horses because they simply can’t force them to do anything in the heat of a race.
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