Jason Webb’s blog: Brilliant Badminton plus working with retrained racehorses

  • What a fantastic finish to Badminton Horse Trials and a well deserved win for Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh.   Watching the thrills and spills of the cross-country brings home the trust these horses and riders have in each other. This was shown just as much between Sam and his horse as it was by Francis Whittington, who sacrificed a fantastic position in the competition for the sake of his horse when he knew Easy Target was too tired to get safely home.

    Although it was a great win for the Aussies, we were cheering Francis on as we have done a few horses for his sister Bryony.  In fact at our last Christmas Coffee Morning, Bryony gave me a jumping lesson on her lovely youngster Carter and I think the crowd enjoyed me being the one taking instruction for a change!

    RoR coffee morning

    My ’usual’ coffee mornings involve me working with 2 or 3 of the horses I have in for training, but this month I did one in conjunction with the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) organisation. I have been working with a colt who was going into training with Jim Boyle whose wife, Pippa, is RoR’s south east representative.

    I was bought up with home-bred thoroughbreds and in my teens I helped my Dad start them and do some pre-training before they went to the trainer.  If they didn’t make it on the track, we used to re-educate them for various disciplines including polo, polocrosse, eventing and show jumping.  In fact, they were usually more successful in their new jobs than they were on the racetrack, much to Dad’s disappointment!

    Since being in England, I have started a number of trickier horses for various trainers and worked with plenty of ex-racehorses during their retraining process. People tend to have the perception that thoroughbreds, and ex-racers in particular, are “mad” or “neurotic”. The truth is they rarely have problems if their rehoming and retraining is done thoughtfully with an understanding of what their life was like as a racehorse with their routines and work.

    It was very heartening to hear from so many people when I wrote a facebook post about some tips for handling and riding ex-racers, eulogising about their fantastic experiences with these horses.  Some of them were competing their ex-racers at a high level in a variety of disciplines, whilst others enjoyed hacking and local shows.

    The challenges

    I worked with 2 horses at the demonstration: one was a young mare that had some loading issues and the other was a gelding that was competing successfully, but had a spooking and spinning habit in certain situations.

    loading racehorseThe mare (pictured right) was not too reluctant to load but she would try and back off the trailer as soon as she was on.  The tip here is to never prevent a horse from backing off a trailer as you will just increase their feelings of claustrophobia and dislike of being on it.  Instead, you need to change the horse’s mind so that they feel comfortable and at ease on the trailer.

    The gelding (pictured top) was a little sharp and anxious when he wasn’t sure of something, which could be related to his days of always working with other horses, rather than on his own.  I demonstrated some ways to deal with anxiety and to pick up a steady rhythm without restricting the horse’s speed with the reins as he had a tendency to rush through his paces.

    A busy period

    Tom and I are having very full days on the yard at the moment, in addition to running clinics.  Young dressage prospectWe have about 20 horses in ranging from native ponies to 7 of the Tomlinson’s homebred polo ponies to a number of competition horses, including a couple of very well bred dressage prospects (pictured left).  I have just given them their first couple of rides and their movement and temperaments are fantastic. I wouldn’t be surprised if they make it right through the levels.

    I’m glad we’re so busy as my bank balance has just taken a massive hit — we’ve just bought 10 new stables and a new horsebox!  I’m now wondering how long I’ll have to save up again to realise the dream of covering our arena… it probably won’t be done in time for winter now!


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