I’m no expert on bringing on young horses, but I have developed a policy with OTTBs. I believe they are intelligent, energetic animals with an outstanding work ethic. They are used to working hard every day. That is why I believe that taking them out of a training yard situation and chucking them into a paddock with nothing to do, is counterproductive at best and dangerous at worst.
So, Cas, as soon as he had healed, started work. We started out as we meant to continue – outrides, schooling, lots of hill work. Schooling consisted of big easy circles and loops on a long rein under the watchful eye of my super-instructor, Jenny Andreani. I also lunged him at a trot in a very loose chambon.
We briefly tried bitless. No special bridle, just the reins on the cavesson noseband. And although he was very good in it, even doing outrides, I changed back to using a bit. You bitless guys are going to lambast me – but I honestly prefer the feel and communication you get using a bit.
He started to change shape – from a lean, fit racehorse, he started becoming rounder. (His top line was a veritable advert for Sport Horse mix.)
And I started to find out more about his personality. I had been told that his sire, Elusive Fort, was known to pass on his level head on to his progeny. This was very true. My riding consists of a lot of hacking out out all alone on the huge farm next door to us. Cas encountered cows, dogs, birds, water, hills, rocks in those first few weeks and none of it scared him. He was intensely interested, but never spooked or tried to run away.
He also has a very strong sense of justice. There have been quite a few times when he has put his foot down with me. Injections, for example, are totally unacceptable in Cas’s world. And that hot Sunday when we went up the big hill – cruelty to animals in his opinion. Also, best you do his girth up very slowly and very gently or you risk a bite on the bum.
He is by far the cleverest horse I have ever owned. He learns very fast and once he understands what you are asking for, he tries his heart out.
He responds better to voice commands than to aids. In fact, he listens to my instructor and does what she says before I’ve even had a chance to ask him to do it.
In the next article, I’m going to tell you about our shows and eventing and being a dressage queen. 😉