The famous blue silks of Sheikh Mohammed’s racing powerhouse Godolphin are a regular sight in the winner’s enclosure across the globe. In Australia, the trainers involved in the large-scale operation have discovered the benefits of jumping the Flat horses.
Horse & Hound spoke to Godophin’s head trainer in Australia, James Cummings, to find out more about this secret weapon…
Q: How do you decide which horses will jump?
A: We get feedback on every horse each day while they are in training. When we start to get the impression that they are bored of the routine or not enjoying it the way they should, we use jumping as one way to introduce something different.
Q: Why do you jump them and how does it help them when racing on the Flat?
A: Popping our horses over logs and brushes forces the horse to think differently, use different muscle groups and it gives them a spark in their week that they are not expecting. This can both generate a turnaround in behaviour and enthusiasm and prolong a horse’s interest in its campaign.
Q: What exactly do you jump them over?
A: At different places we have variations in our jumps. At Flemington in Melbourne we have access to a bullring and at our private facility Osborne Park in Hawkesbury we have little logs and taller brushes.
Q: How much jumping do you do with them per week and how do you integrate it into their training?
A: We tend to keep the jumping to a minimum. We like to do it after they have had a good warm up, with a small canter on the sand track so that we are not placing too much pressure on their legs. We avoid doing it on the same day that the horses train hard.
Q: Do most of the horses take to it naturally and how old are the horses you jump?
A: We jump the horses anywhere from the age of two, right up to the oldest horses we have in training. The older horses are seven or eight years of age in our stable. I would say that our racehorses are a mixed bag. Some jump beautifully at their first go and some others tend to take a bit more time to learn to get themselves set and need to be given a little bit more patience from their riders to learn to jump clear.
Interestingly, we tend to notice the greatest change in behaviour from the horses who tend to need the most improvement when they are first learning to pop over the logs.