Monday, February 20, 2012

Keeping up with the Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge

- Sarah Andrew

Life moves pretty fast. It’s time to sit down with a cup of coffee and catch up with the Retired Racehorse Training Project’s Trainer Challenge. We’re already in the final week. It seems like 5 weeks flew by in the blink of an eye, and I’m sure the horses’ trainers would agree.

You can read my accounts for the Thoroughbred Daily News and see my photos of Day One and Day Two of the trainer/horse evaluations and introductions at the Maryland Horse World Expo at these links: 

And here’s an RRTP video of the horses at the Expo.

Brazilian Wedding (Milwaukee Brew--Lady In Tails, by Black Tie Affair {Ire})
Trainer: Eric Dierks
Owner: Pat Dale

The elegant grey mare’s education continues to improve in leaps and bounds. Eric Dierks’ training videos are excellent in quality and in content. I’m so impressed with his riding and with his teaching style. He always has a plan and a logical progression to his training sessions. I ride a Thoroughbred, and I have watched each of his videos several times as training tools. I’ve learned more watching these videos than I have at some riding clinics.

Here’s an interview/ride video with Steuart Pittman during Week Three (check out that mare’s lateral work!): click for video

Dierks writes in his blog for the Retired Racehorse Training Project:

 “My workouts are very concentrated in perfecting the little things, that make the more advance moves easier and more logical. There is always a reason for every action I take, and it is to complement the biomechanics that make the horse balanced. My advice is to study the horse out in the field, under saddle, jumping, etc. Study what makes them tick, how they are on their feet, how they use their top line, what are they thinking. Don't be a follower and use the same terms as everyone else like, coming from behind, or rocking back if you are not seeing it. Anyone can train a horse, it's just a matter of whether you are training the horse to do something you want. So educated yourself what you want and be clear to your horse. One thing I'm committing to myself, is to always keep my eyes open and learn from others. The equine world is a fascinating one, regardless of discipline, there is something to learn.”
The icing on the cake is the latest video, in which Brazilian Wedding begins work over fences with a one-stride grid: click for video

Four X The Trouble, aka Tempyst (Domestic Dispute--Rynot, by Caveat)
Trainer: Kerry Blackmer
Owner: Robin Coblyn

Half the battle of training a young horse is having a plan for each ride. Kerry Blackmer has done a masterful job of staying one step ahead of the clever and athletic Tempyst, and by doing so, has brought him along beautifully. Some days, they do dressage work. Some days, they take field trips. Some days, they desensitize him to clapping hands. Tempyst’s quick mind seems to appreciate a trainer like Blackmer. He looks like he’s the kind of horse who would take charge if his rider was not in charge. In the videos, you can see how game and relaxed he has become- his trainer's confidence encourages his own confidence. Blackmer seems to be perfectly in tune to his mental and physical limits, and she can keep him engaged without ever overfacing him.

Here's a video of Tempyst going for a hack in some wide open territory, and some schooling- sometimes, he tends to curl behind the bit, so Blackmer works on keeping him forward and straight: click for video

The next week, a snowy ride with some big improvements in his connection to the bit: click for video

And the best video of all, a video of Tempyst enjoying his “field trip” to visit High Level and Tiffany Catledge. Check out how much his canter has improved and how he handles hopping over some little logs. He seems to actually ride best when he’s challenged by new things: click for video

Kerry’s interview with Steuart Pittman- some great discussion about the sale value of a horse fresh off the track: click for video

High Level (Mutakddim--Maria's Crown, by Maria's Mon)
Trainer: Tiffany Catledge
Owner: Jim Falk 

Solidify (Alajwad--Kali Dearest, by Dearest Doctor)
Trainer: Tiffany Catledge
Owner: MidAtlantic Horse Rescue

Since Tiffany Catledge is training both horses, I’ll address them together. On her farm’s website, she’s keeping her own blog,  plus her regular RRTP blog. High Level was Catledge’s selection at the Expo, but he ended up with a sole bruise. Catledge ended up keeping both Solidify and High Level, and training both, but Solidify has gotten more rides.

Here’s a video of Solidify, early in the training process: click for video

And here you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth: click for video

On February 8, Solidify takes his first attempt at a cross rail and some trot poles- you can see how his rhythm at the trot has already improved: click for video

The second week in February, High Level was back in action, and braved a mini-blizzard: click for video

Solidify graduates to a dressage saddle, and shows how elastic and balanced he is now: click for video

High Level practices in a busy indoor arena in preparation for next week’s Expo: click for video

Not to be outdone, Solidify takes a few little jumps like a STAR. Check out how powerful he is: click for video

Tiffany’s interviews with Steuart Pittman: Interview One, Interview Two

You can read more discussion on the Chronicle of the Horse forum and on the Retired Racehorse Blog.

So what is next? There will be several blog and Facebook updates this week from the trainers. The Pennsylvania Horse World Expo is this weekend. If you want to see these horses and trainers in person, be sure to check out the Expo. These horses are all for sale. Please contact the RRTP folks if you’re interested. 

You can also donate directly to the RRTP (it’s a 501(c)3 charity) if you’d like to see challenges like this in the future. Join them on Facebook, and visit the RRTP website. Tell your friends, and share these links and videos. It's a fantastic project, and watching the progress videos is addicting! It seems like every time I visit the barn or my friends' barns, someone always has a comment about the latest video or their favorite horses. Join the fun!

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