Kauto Star — what a horse! I’ve just finished reading the article in Horse & Hound magazine featuring Laura Collett retraining the ex-racing star for dressage.

It just goes to show that a well-trained horse with a good temperament can turn their hoof to any discipline. Any horse that is backed to take the weight of a rider will have had some initial flatwork training. How extensive that training is depends on what discipline that horse is in training for, but again this goes back to my belief that any horse can do flatwork and dressage.

Ex-racers are a particular interest of mine and I have two in the yard for training at the moment. As we all know, many racehorses have to be retired from racing before they are retired from work. Many go on to event or just have a more leisurely life hacking, but many go on to be talented amateur’s and professional’s dressage horses.

The thoroughbreds I have worked with have all had a very trainable nature and are often a bit less opinionated than a warmblood! (Just to clarify, I’m not looking for a change of career, but a bit of variey never hurt anyone 😉 )

Zac and Woody, the two ex-racers I have had for schooling recently, love their work. Yes their training and feeding regime are different to those of my other horses, but they can still show those posh dressage horses a thing or two. Both of them love their hacking and a bit of fittening work on the canter track. They are going great guns in the school, have started working on their changes and are starting baby lateral work. Sadly, both of them will be going home to their owners soon. What will I do with a big ex-racehorse gap to fill in my life?!

I’ve started to get back out competing again. It’s been difficult to fit it in while setting up my business and also due to a lack of horsey transport. In fact I haven’t competed since the Nationals in September — crickey!

On Saturday I took Andrea Bailey’s Maisie (pictured above working at home) to Burrows Court Farm near Dursley, Gloucestershire. This was her first competition, and although a little overwhelmed by all the goings on (muck spreaders in nearby fields are very scary!), she behaved impeccably. Now we have got the first one out the way, we shall take her to lots of different venues to let her see the world and work on our accuracy and balance in the arena.

Last weekend, I was very lucky to have some training with Austrian Olympic rider Caroline Hatlapa, with my two boys plus Zac. Caroline had us working on an inside leg to outside rein feel, which is a method I use in my training anyway. It really helps to make sure that the horse is balanced and supple, ready for the rider to give another aid.

Caroline also instructed me to think of riding my horses more uphill and to imagine I was putting their front feet on top of the mirrors. It’s amazing how just thinking in a different way can make a difference to the horses’ way of going. She asked me to imagine that the horse was dancing, which really helped too, although I hope she didn’t mean like the new Three mobile advert!

With all three horses we worked on “bodybuilding” exercises, with masses of transitions between the trot and the canter, before moving onto smaller circles and a bit of shoulder-in and half pass. They all behaved impeccably.

Debby Lush also came this weekend and worked on my position. As a rider I always try to actively improve my position, so that I can sit in perfect balance and therefore help the horse balance as well. Debby has left me with lots of gymnastic homework for both me and my horses before she sees us again in a month’s time. Surely I’ll be doing backflips round the arena by then?!

Anyway best get back out riding, there appears to be a glowing orb of light and warmth in the sky… I shall go to investigate!

Matt