Saturday, January 17, 2015

Life. Is. Not. Fair. + Racing Lesson 3

So just in case you would not have guessed...

Broken ribs + cold/flu = All of the pain.

Also I'm concerned about my shoulder and neck but we have to wait for the doctor's appointment to find out what the heck is up with that crap.

I have not been able to go out and see beastie unfortunately but I thought I would give another racing tidbit.  So here goes:

On the Bit (Racing Lesson 3)

In a perfect world, a horse is balanced, with his/her head on a flawless vertical while engaging the hind end right?  Light on the bit but still moving forward into your hands.  At least that is the best way I can describe it with my racing experience and minimal show horse time.

I have always been an advocate of racehorses being light in your hands...after all it is a severe amount of wasted energy for both horse and rider to fight over control...not to mention dangerous in a race.  You see the majority of exercise riders (those who help train the horses in the morning) are in excess of 130 pounds and many weigh between 150-200 pounds.  These are big, heavily muscled men that literally can take a hold of a horse and pin him down to the point he cannot go anywhere.  Meanwhile your average jockey weighs between 110-115 and has starved and dehydrated themselves, to the point of near collapse...literally.  There were days I told myself it was fine if I fell down to the floor after my race as long as I managed to get through the race.  "Don't fifteen minutes you can hit the floor"...

So when someone teaches the horse every morning to pull and fight and drag the rider around because it looks impressive to the owners who are paying to see a strong and healthy and aggressive animal...well, it makes the jockey's life terrible.  You see one step wrong, one out of control moment, and you go Boom (as I expressed in an earlier post).

The best horseman I ever worked for had rode races as well.  He was adamant about the horses being responsive and obedient in a race.  He was also the man who had multi-million dollar yearlings so most of those never made it to the show horse world to be appreciated for their awesomesauce.

Alas, many trainers and owners want to see their horses dragging the riders around in the morning which makes them seem like they WANT to race.  Not true, as we all know, horses are creatures of habit.  Still, the more they seem the horse pulling, with his head tucked in (SIGNIFICANTLY behind the bit) and fighting the rider, the more they believe the animal is ready.  This is not even considering the fact that these horses only get out of their stalls for a maximum of an hour a day...not loose but carefully controlled and baited into being aggressive and then walked with a lip chain on to ensure they do not escape.  I'll be the first to say and advocate that racehorses are not abused but pampered in a way I cannot afford for my own self but we do pump them up intentionally so on race days they will give you a hundred percent (I have seen show horse people do this as well).

When I breezed a horse to prepare them for a race (IE: GO REALLY, REALLY FAST), there is an occasional ritual of "teasing a horse".  This is when you get the horse primed and ready to go super fast, let them think they will and they get excited, but then hold them in a bit where they have been taught to go their fastest.  Usually this precedes a race by only a couple of day to prime them and make them want to go.  It does work... :/

The best horses I have ever been on are not trained this way.  Instead they are responsive and mellow until you give them an outright cue.  I personally have "rehabilitated" difficult horses in the morning so they will preform better in races, it simply requires patience, and being quiet.  The best system I developed was not responded to their antics, no matter what they did, for a stride or two and then asking them to CHILL OUT while not losing my cool.  You absolutely cannot lose your cool or tense because they will know and tension is part of the way we ask them to go fast.  I literally can get on some of the most difficult horses on the track and drop the reins to the buckle and they will relax.  You fight, they fight and many times no one has ever trusted them that way but reached up and fought them instead.  Trust CANNOT win the fight.


  1. I think someone got connection and pulling confused along the way. Coming from dressage to the track, I cringe when I watch about ninety percent of horses on the out there (especially at these smaller tracks we are at). My fiancé does most of our galloping, but I'm super picky about the people we use. If they crank the horse down too much and especially if they crank the head sideways, they never get on another one. I would rather the rider just relax and let the horse clip around their until it relaxes as long as it's straight and stretching through the neck. You would think these guys would realize how sore and more likely to get injured they make the horses. The problem is so many excercise riders don't care.

    Anyway, didn't mean to go on a rant about how much I agree. I hope you start feeling better soon and that your neck and shoulder are okay.

    1. Also, ignore any crappy grammar in that. I typed it on my phone and it likes to make me look like a dumb ass.

  2. S2 & Jodi - super cool insight! I think may people forget that exercise riders can be 150-200 lbs.

    I would love to hear a post on the role of women in racing. I did sales prep on a farm in KY, and it was still very much an 'Old Boys Club'. But I didn't really spend any time at the track.

    1. Will absolutely do that one next!! So much to say there!

  3. super interesting post - esp your point about 'tension is part of how ask them to go fast'. that explains a LOT about some of the OTTBs i've ridden lol

  4. Hope you feel better soon and that your cold goes away ASAP!