Retraining a Racehorse - Moonfire (Week 2)
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   1st Aug 2010   •   10,942 views   •   17 comments
Week 2 [Click here to read Week 1]
Before I begin, let me make something clear. These are my methods. Methods that have worked for me in the past as well as new methods that I have decided will work for Moony in the future. These methods might not work for every horse, in fact they probably won't, because Moony is uncharacteristically calm for a race horse, especially compared to those I have worked with before.

I am moving along at the pace I feel the horse is ready for. The most important thing to remember is that there is no right and wrong in training horses, as every horse and every rider is different. You just have to find what will work best for your horse and work with that. If you have any questions or concerns, if you want direct advice, or if you just want a second opinion on how to train your racer, please feel free to mail me.

Tuesday 13 July:
No work with Moonfire.

Wednesday 14 July:
I decided it was time for Moony to start finding his place in the herd, so I let him out of his paddock and watched the horses carefully as they started sorting out where in the pecking order Moony should fit. He's a kind horse, but he looks after himself well, so we did not have any major problems. Once they had all settled down, I caught him and tacked him up for his first group outride.

I had both of my fellow riders swap places with me numerous times, so I could see how Moony would react to being in the front, at the back, or in the middle. He didn't have any problems, just trotted happily along. I introduced him to water as well, and he thoroughly enjoyed trotting his way splashily through all the little puddles. I worked on adjusting his stride to match with the other horses, and once again I found him beautifully co-operative. We found a few little jumps, and he popped sweetly over those.

The conclusion was that Moony is as lovely in company as on his own.

Retraining a Racehorse
Moony finding his place in the herd

Thursday 15 July:
No work with Moonfire.

Friday 16 July:
I started off by doing a bit of schooling. I tried to get him bending, and attempted to get him into a frame, but he did not quite understand. I worked on his left canter some more, and we managed 2 successful strike-offs, yet even when he got the wrong lead he would quickly switch to the correct one. We also did a couple of flying changes on command, which he performed very well. He changes his front legs at the twitch of a finger, but often ends up disunited, so I'm going to have to get him working from behind and responding to the leg better before I tackle those more seriously.

Once he was nicely warmed up, I ran through a Pre-Novice dressage test that I was learning for my eventing over the weekend. Moony seemed very calm and balanced throughout the whole thing, though of course his bend is minimal and he is not yet in a frame. Still, his only errors were when he broke into canter during the lengthened trot, and when he didn't get the left canter lead, and I had to change his lead and circle him before going on.

Once done with my schooling, I went out for another outride with my friend, this time heading off to our little 'cross country track' which is basically just a sand track with jumps made out of piles of logs and twigs. The jumps are mostly around 60cm, with the odd twiggy one here and there reaching a bit higher. I had Moony go behind, as my friend was riding Dinar, who gets flighty when he isn't in front. Moony jumped brilliantly, and it was clear to see that he enjoyed being out on the trails and jumping again. His technique was so much better, it was unbelievable! He's started learning to place himself, and tucks up his legs to clear the jumps without throwing himself over. On the way back, he was going nice and strongly, so I was able to take a slightly better hold on his mouth, and really ride him into the contact. When I did this, he dropped his head onto the bit and settled into the most amazing jumping canter, as though he had been doing it his whole life! I could feel the power springing up from his hindquarters, and his mouth was like putty in my hands. He was amazingly smooth to adjust, and his jumps out of this canter felt amazing. I've now had a taste of what he can do, so I'm going to work even harder to get the same thing happening in the ring, since now I know he can do it.

When we got back, my instructor was there, and she decided to do some long-reining and double lunging with Moony. He was a little confused, but soon got used to it and worked quite nicely. Once again, he started to settle into a frame, and his rhythm and balance seemed to improve as well.

Here is what my instructor had to say on the topic of long-reining:

"Long reining is a very important training component of the classical dressage discipline. It is an excellent tool to improve collection and suppleness as well as to teach horses to really accept the outside rein without interference from the weight of a rider. It teaches a horse to be responsive and supple without a rider on board.

It is ideal for the young or week horse to be worked in this way. It teaches a young horse to move forward with a person walking behind it, before having a rider on its back and using the reins. It is a good training method to re school the older horse that has missed out on the basics.

It is an introduction before riding it. The feel of the out side rein on its side will make the horse more accepting of your leg, the first time you mount the horse.

Long reining puts no strain on the horse, if it is done correctly. If the horse has a tendency to cut in on part of a circle when you lunge it, you can keep it out with the second rein, and likewise if he turns in on you.

Using two reins will encourage the horse to work through from behind and track up, influencing the forehand and hindquarters."

Here is what she said when asked how Moony had responded to the training:

"He was very relaxed and receptive for a first timer and took to the work like a duck to water... as he is eager to please he listens carefully to voice commands and managed to become very active in both walk and trot and suppling nicely. A great first session... "

This is what my instructor had to say about double lunging:

"Double lungeing is also useful for preparing the young or green horse for riding. It teaches the horse to respond to the voice commands and also accept the bit the horse learns to balance himself before having to balance with the rider on board. Working on the double lunge is great in suppling the horse right through his entire body. Only supple horses can navigate obstacles or achieve the higher level movements. "

And here is her report on how Moony responded:

"Moony transitioned very well to Double lunging (that’s when I was circling with the two lunge reins) from long-reining (when I was driving him from behind) and took it very much in his stride and seemed very pleased and comfortable when he began to find his own balance without the weight of a rider. His previously awkward unbalanced trot was greatly improved from working him in walk mainly. Next session will introduce more trot work."

Retraining a Racehorse
Moony being double lunged

Saturday 17 July:
No work with Moonfire.

Sunday 18 July:
When I got back from the eventing, I decided to take Moony on an outride to a new place: A nearby clay mining quarry. We went with two other riders, and Moony was the perfect gentleman, never trying to race them or tug past, so I was very pleased with that. When we got to the quarries, Moony did not spook and goggle at all the birds, water and wide open spaces as I expected him to, but simply trudged along happily, taking in all the sights and sounds. Once we were fully convinced that Moony was perfectly confident, we walked through some water, which Moony enjoyed hugely. He even gave me a few steps of something almost like a Spanish walk when he tried to paw and walk at the same time, silly horse. He had a great time in the water, and it was clear to me that he absolutely loved it. We soon progressed to trotting and cantering through, and Moony seemed to love that even more! I started with following the other horses in, then taught Moony to canter in on his own. Already, I am starting to see that makings of an event horse! Once done with the water, we went to some nice sand hills to work on hillwork and build Moony's muscles. He was a little unnerved by the hill, and tried to veer sideways about halfway up, thus losing his momentum and having to pull himself up the last bit at a walk. When he went down the other side, he went rather hesitantly, taking a few steps, stopping, then taking a few more. The next time I followed my friend up, and her mount, Dinar, also veered a little. Moony kept his canter this time, and walked smoothly down the other side. After repeating this twice more on his own, I decided that it was enough, and that overall, Moony had been very good with the exercise. Finally, we finished by combining some shallower water and less steep hills. I took Moony at a quick canter through the water, leaped up a smallish hill, cantered around on a slope, then went through the water again, up the hill again and down another hill. Almost like a cross-country course without jumps. I was very pleased with Moony's performance and he clearly had the time of his life! I'm really liking the effect outrides seem to be having on him. He clearly enjoys it, and he learns a lot at the same time. Clearly, he is the sort of horse who needs to learn through fun, else he will become sour, so I will have to do whatever it takes to keep him from getting bored. He is an intelligent sort, and I know from previous experience that if these horses have to do the same thing over and over, they will not work as nicely. So, I have decided to start running through lots of dressage tests with him for his schooling, mixing it up and keeping it interesting. For jumping, I'm going to do some gridwork to get him jumping correctly, placing himself well and so on, and outrides to keep him interested and to put what he learned in the arena to the test.

Retraining a Racehorse
Moony’s first canter in water

Retraining a Racehorse
Moony doing hillwork
Awesome! He looks great! Good job!
  59 days ago  •  8,828 views
Amazing! You're doing a wonderful job! Keep it up!
  59 days ago  •  8,797 views
Fox Crest Stables  
Wow, you're STILL jumping this 3yr old without him even having consistant work every day.

  59 days ago  •  8,815 views
No Walkin Farms11  
Wonderful set of articles. Moonfire looks great. Can't wait to read more about him. =)
  59 days ago  •  8,880 views
Inactive Member  
Your doing a really good job, moony is lucky to have you!

Foxie: Ease up your being really snobby.
  59 days ago  •  8,821 views
Polo the Weirdo  MOD 
Thanks guys! :D He is going extremely well and I'm very pleased with him. :)

Foxie: You have your methods and I have mine. :) I thank you very much for all your input and opinions. :D I have thought over everything carefully and taken everything I can from them. :) I don't have all that much time, so I do not ride Moony every day, but I feel that break does him the world of good, as it keeps him fresh. He's turning 4 in a month or 2 and is well ready to do what I'm asking of him. He enjoys it more and more by the day, bless him! :D But yes, I a indeed jumping him, and I shall continue to do so, as that is what I like to do when training showjumpers or eventers, especially for resale. ^_^ Of course, I'm not working over anything high now, except when loose-jumping, since I've already tested his abilities. I'm not starting some gymnastics and little courses with him, just trying to put everything together and smooth out the kinks. :) My instructor and I are hoping to have him ready f
  59 days ago  •  8,796 views
Star Lake  
Foxie-You didn't even read it did you.

Polo-He looks great! Keep up the good work. I have a retired TB. She's a total air head, but I love her. When my instructor was retraining her we found that, at first, she collected best if you rode her in a very small circle and just played with your inside rein, using your outside rein and leg to "catch" her. After a little bit of that she could do slightly bigger circles, etc. But something else might work better for Moony.

Thanks for posting your training progress. I love reading them. And one quick question what kind of supplement is speedibeet?
  59 days ago  •  8,892 views
Polo the Weirdo  MOD 
Ooops, I meant I AM starting gymnastics and courses, not that I'm not... *facepalm* Silly Polo. :P

Star Lake: Thank you very much. :) That is exactly what I did with Finola! :P Moony doesn't need to be collected as much, since he's pretty calm... I tried the small circles for bend, but he didn't really get it... I made a major breakthrough in bending him the other day though - discovered how he wanted to learn! :D *cheers* I was very chuffed indeed. ^_^ I used counterflexion and neck suppling exercises on a straight line, so I could get him willingly bending his head. Once he'd got the concept of that, he started getting it right on the cirles. :) Bless him, he's such a trier. ^_^

Not a problem, I love posting them! :D
Speedibeet is basically sugar beet, but it soaks in about 10 minutes, and I think has some other stuff in it... O.O I hav never used it before, to be honest. My super instructor bought it as a giftie for Moony. :P He was very pleased indeed - he loves the stuff! H
  59 days ago  •  8,796 views
Once again, I am with Foxie.
  59 days ago  •  8,919 views
A few various points I'd like to make, the majority of them thoughts on comments I read on the posts of both Week 1 and Week 2.

1. There is a difference between a horse who is willing to do as you ask and one who is entirely ready to do what you ask.
2. It is very hard to downright force a horse to do something, but it's like eating something that you know doesn't sit well in your stomach. It's pretty darn sweet, and you may just be nibbling, but down the road it will come back to haunt you and you know it.
3. Just because no one has complained about the fact that two year olds are raced doesn't mean that they aren't perfectly aware. The comments are focused about the subject of this particular article, not everything to do with its entire content.
4. The sentient ability to predict likely outcomes of the future based on the past and present is actually quite common. It's very useful, you see. I use it myself more times than you can shake an octopus at!

I'm not going to get in
  58 days ago  •  8,986 views
Speedibeet dies no harm to horses. I give it to my horse Toff. He has to twice a day everyday all the time except for summer when there is loads of grass out. It helps with their energy levels and keeps them at a decent weight. As Polo mentioned it is basically sugar beet. but it just sets quicker and makes it easier to make if your in a hurry.
  58 days ago  •  9,174 views
my mum uses speedi beets on her thoroughbred.

and polo another amazing article!
  58 days ago  •  8,823 views
All I'm going to say is:

You go, girl.
  58 days ago  •  8,827 views
Inactive Member  
out of curiousity: What other methods would you have tried if you hadnt yet established a bend?
gr8 article x
  58 days ago  •  8,821 views
Polo the Weirdo  MOD 
Thanks everybody. :) Sophie, I have published an article in response to your query, and will inform you when it has been accepted. Thank you very much!
  57 days ago  •  8,796 views
Guys, you need to be nicer to Polo. Everyone does their best. I like what she is doing, and if you do not, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT!~

You are doing great with him! Moonfire is a nice horse, and you are a smart, great trainer.
  57 days ago  •  8,824 views
I defended Polo last time and i will defend her again. Foxie: WOW, your STILL commenting and being a prissy little know it all snob. WOW

If this bothers you soo much than stop reading about it altogether. As i said last time, what polo wants to do with this horse she can. She has every right to train this horse how she wants and when she wants. YOU have no say. If this horse pulls up lame later in life it could be because of this, but is that your problem? I think Polo is doing a great job with this horse. Keep it up Polo!
  56 days ago  •  8,888 views
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