*New* Retraining The Giant Bolster from racehorse to riding horse

  • Horse & Hound is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy. Learn more
  • Welcome to my blog!

    My name is Lucy Bridgwater and my husband, David, and I train racehorses in the Cotswolds.

    The Giant Bolster, who was in training with us, has recently retired after a very successful career as a racehorse — his highlights include being second, fourth and third in three consecutive Gold Cups from 2012 to 2014, winning the Argento Chase at Cheltenham and second in the Denman Chase at Newbury. I am the very lucky lady who has been entrusted, by owner Simon Hunt, with his retraining. I adore this horse and am so pleased we can spend more time together.

    He arrived at our yard as an unraced three-year-old. By Black Sam Bellamy the stable name of ‘Sammy’ soon stuck. He’s always had a huge  personality which has its pros and cons. He has always been very willing however does have his own ideas about things sometimes. As a very athletic horse, retraining him will be more about his brain than his body.

    A new routine

    Sammy’s retraining has only just started and I will very much let him take me down the route he wishes to go — be it dressage, showing, or showjumping. The Retraining of Racehorses (ROR) has an amazing series which is very well supported, so The Giant Bolster is now registered with them.

    The first thing I have done is to change his routine as he is obviously still in the same yard he raced from. Sammy always had plenty of turn out when in training, however now he is turned out first thing as soon as it gets light (pictured, below). This really relaxes him and takes him out of his habit of being ridden first on the gallops. He remains in the field until lunchtime when I finish morning stables and can then ride him.


    Obviously he has been taken off his racing diet and is on low-energy cubes, chaff and add-lib hay. I am very lucky in the respect that he is quite greedy and does not mind the change! Racehorses are used to small, frequently fed amounts of high-energy feed and haylage — however, his diet now needs to suit his activity.

    I have so far been riding Sammy in a racing saddle, which is something I intend to change soon. The feel of a hard saddle can be very strange and bothering to a racehorse. I am trying to source a second-hand saddle, as with work his width will probably change as he’ll be using himself differently.

    A handsome chap

    For the past few days I have been riding Sammy in the manége which is somewhere he would not normally go. The aim at the moment is to get him to relax in a different environment. I have been very pleased with how he has taken to things, although he has given me some strange sideways looks as if to say: “Really’? Do you know who I am?!”

    So far things have been understandably basic; trotting in figure of eights and circles. At the moment I am trying to encourage an inside bend, which is strange for a racehorse as they tend to go everywhere in a straight line.

    Our time in the manége is limited to how much Sammy can do happily. As time goes on we can gradually build up his work as his muscles change. One thing that does make his time schooling more fun is that he has discovered how handsome he is and spends much time admiring himself in the arena mirrors. Every time we pass, he takes a long glance. Now he knows what the public saw at Cheltenham and may guess why he and his big white blaze are so adored!

    Bring on the bling!

    Other changes I have made are to his bridle. Sammy has always had a very good mouth and always only been ridden in a link snaffle. Taking a little more contact on the bit however I have added a loose flash to encourage him to keep his mouth shut and take the contact forward. He is also sporting a bling brow band for the first time (below). Simon Hunt and I joked how long it would take me to get him into dressage bling on him!

    Sammy has also been lunged a couple of times, not having been lunged since a two-year-old this has jogged his memory. It gives him a chance to release some exuberance and also prepares him for when a hard saddle is introduced. He will definitely need to be lunged in it before being ridden, as this guy knows how to pull shapes!


    I am very much looking forward to continuing our relationship and journey together. When in training, I was Sammy’s work rider and I am hoping the bond and trust we established over the years will allow him to let me educate him in a different career. If he is as successful as he was a racehorse, we have some very exciting times ahead.

    The Giant Bolster has always been a people’s horse and captured the hearts of many. I do hope they can now enjoy following his progress after racing — so far so good!


    You may like...