Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thewifedoesntknow: Training Blog, Week 1

In my blog post last week, I introduced you to YouTube sensation Thewifedoesntknow (Golden Missile - Aheadnotatail, by Unbridled), who retired from racing this month. New Jersey hunter/jumper trainer Carole Davison and her daughter Liz began training the mare for her second career in the hunter ring.

On Friday morning, I visited San Sue Acres in Howell, NJ, and photographed Carole's training session with Thewifedoesntknow (affectionately nicknamed Ally-Gator). As I watched Carole tack Ally up, I noticed that the mare was already comfortable in cross ties, and watched everything in the barn with interest and curiosity. Carole's tack choices are simple and classic: Thewifedoesntknow is outfitted in a plain snaffle bridle, a copper roller D-ring snaffle, a jumping saddle, and polo wraps. The mare wears no tie-downs and no extra training aids.

Ally stood calmly at the mounting block when Carole got into the saddle. She began the ride with a few quiet laps around the arena at a walk before getting into trot work. I was immediately impressed with the mare's willing attitude. As she trotted around the ring, she cocked one ear toward her trainer. Carole encouraged the mare to stretch onto the bit and relax her topline; it was really fun to see how intently Thewifedoesntknow concentrated on Carole and how carefully she worked to understand the new way of riding. 
 One of my favorite things about Thewifedoesntknow is her natural rhythm. Many green horses speed up and slow down as they learn how to engage their hind ends and balance themselves, but this mare has a wonderfully consistent tempo for a horse at her training level. This will prove to be a valuable asset in the hunter ring.
Ally continued to impress me when she encountered a few deer, who were just outside the arena. One deer quietly walked past the arena but another crashed through the woods. Ally reacted, but was quickly under control. Carole's body language gave the mare confidence and she relaxed as she watched them.
Carole began canter work with Thewifedoesntknow a few days earlier, and they are already making great progress. She readily picks up both leads, and is learning how to keep her balance around corners.

After the canter work, Carole did a little work with transitions within the gaits, asking for a little more push at the trot, and then slowing her posting down. The mare is very responsive and is picks up on Carole's weight shifts and cues. She did a "stretchy" circle as part of the cooldown; although she is very green, Ally has little "lightbulb moments" for a stride or two during these exercises while she tries to figure out what to do.
 Carole incorporated ground poles into Ally's training session, and she willingly walked over a few during the ride. 
 After the ride was over, Ally showed off her patience and intelligence by standing quietly as Carole unhooked the arena gate. She is learning the ins and outs of farm life.
After their ride, Ally was treated to a cooling hosedown and a pick of grass before she was turned out in her paddock. As she becomes more comfortable with her routine and her people, she shows off more and more of her lovely personality.
Carole was kind enough to supply me with a training log of their sessions. For the first few days, she and Liz did groundwork with the mare, with both grooming sessions and work under tack, including standing by the mounting block and a little longe line work. Her riding sessions are short and sweet, usually 30 minutes including warmup and cooldown. In addition to her schooling under saddle, Carole is introducing other elements to her training, such as being in the arena with other horses and negotiating unusual objects.

Please check back next Wednesday for more news and updates about this promising mare.

--Sarah Andrew

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