Monday, February 16, 2015

Progression of an OTTB

Because I am a TOTAL NERD about progression shots, here we go. I'm not just posting these shots to brag on how great my horse is (although there's that, too), but to lay out a little bit of a timeline. I feel like there's way too much emphasis on pushing OTTBs to be amazing in no time at all and not enough awareness of the kind of work and time that goes into remodeling the entire body of a 1000 pound animal.

So here we go.

August 2013
This is Courage at 30 days off the track. He has no concept of side reins or contact. His stride is short and stilted, his body is sore, he can't balance on a circle, and his neck is completely upside down.

Even if I wanted to do solid groundwork and make Courage be "good" at lunging at this point, his body simply couldn't do it. He was fit and trim and ready to race. That isn't the same sort of fitness that riding horses use.

February 2014
I had a whole new horse six months later. Part of it was training, but a good chunk of the difference here was simply the time off he had over the winter. Thoroughbreds like to stay fit and it takes a lot of down time for those race muscles to let go.

Courage looks a lot better. He's able to reach forward and move more. He's somewhat educated about circles. He's learned to carry his neck down, but he isn't using himself just yet.

I don't lunge much or take pictures of it, so here's our next shot:



February 2015
I absolutely love that Courage is offering this action up in a halter without any gadgets. I mean, I didn't even have a whip on me. He was just playing, and this is what that looks like now.

Obviously, he's taken forward to a whole new level. He's using his topline (neck and butt OMG), he's engaging his hocks, he's stretching.

I could look at this picture all day.

But the timeline. Look at that. Courage is a solid year and a half off the track. He's had lots of time off and lots more slow, consistent work. Most of the last 7 weeks have been walking and slow trotting and hundreds of transitions in between. He's well past racing fit and he's starting to be sporthorse fit. It's not just about re-muscling the body--it's also changing the brain, one day at a time.

21 comments:

  1. Such a nice change! He looks fab

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  2. You've done a great job with his re-education!

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  3. If I could caption his first photo it would be "racehorse dressing up in sport horse tack"

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  4. He looks great! I'd love to know what you did to progress him. My OTTB mare is still stuck in Courage's August 2013 photo stage.... :-)

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    1. Heather--it's been a really long process, most of it on the blog. In a nutshell, lunging didn't compute to him, so I very rarely lunge him. I focused on going slow, educating him about contact, and going slow.

      Basically, an OTTB's default response to consistent pressure on the bit is to invert and pull, because that's what racehorses learn to do. I had to spend more time (and patience) re-educating him to pressure from bit and legs under saddle before he could apply it at all on a lunge line. All horses are different. YMMV. ;-) Good luck!

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    2. You know, I never thought about that! I hardly ever lunge either. Chloe just wants to get running on the lunge line and I feel like it is just counterproductive to let her race around hollow when that is exactly what I am trying to correct.

      Thanks for the tip! I haven't had a chance to binge read your blog yet, but I'm excited to read about how Courage progressed!

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  5. Great job! I love that you took things slowly and it really paid off!

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  6. You've done such a good job with him. It's very admirable how you have continuously done what is in his best interest. You have a very good intuition when it comes to your horse's needs and you trust it. You should be very proud of yourself :)

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  7. I love your progression posts. I look forward to someday doing similar ones with my OTTB. =-)

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  8. Wow, he's looking really really good. You've done a great job and let him take his time with it, too.

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  9. Holy crap. I forgot about giraffe Papa. All I ever think of him as is this sexy version.

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  10. I love progression shots too! He's come so ridiculously far, I really notice it in his loins, they're so filled in now!

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    1. Ditto on the loins! Courage is really looking gorgeous right now, and I love your (and my) mantra: slow, slow, sloooow. I should see if I can't dig up pictures of Murray in his 18 months of training.

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  11. GREAT series of photos. It's been great to watch him come along, and seeing the 2013 photo really puts it into perspective!

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  12. He is such a sexy beast...to be fair though he always has been, but man oh man what a transformation he has made in his time with you.
    You truly do the best by him (and all your animals) and communicate and listen to him in a way I wish I could learn to do too

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