Posted by: shannonc | February 20, 2009


I’m serious.  There are essay questions involved.  After crashing the webform twice, I finally started writing answers on a clipboard.  Then I crashed the webform one more time.

I hope this is not a sign.


Please explain your understanding of a racehorse’s training and what you believe will be required in order to successfully transition the horse as a riding horse:

[It’s possible one or two things here don’t appear exactly as is on the CANTER application itself.  This will probably work okay as long as I don’t confuse the versions.  Who am I kidding?  How many times did I crash…uh, admit to crashing…the webform?]

I own an OTTB, Timely Blue (1994), whom I bought as a 4-yo just off the track and retrained to become a Preliminary level event horse.  I still ride Blue, but am looking for a new event partner.

[This will, I have no doubt, be their first question.  Once again I’m just going to do the little ditch story tap dance here…]

Looking back, two things stand out as having been especially important for me in the retraining process.  One was attitude: patience, consistency, understanding, [pigheadedness], [missing sense of self-preservation], [channeling energy from bad relationships], and firmness all helped me.  For example, I might have had a week [week, year…whatever!] of rides in which he rushed at the trot, and all I did was figures, try to make my posting very definite and regular, and then (having failed to really slow the thing down),

[I actually did include that part]

…get one or two good walk-trot transitions, reward, and dismount.  On the 8th day maybe I got one relaxed trot circle, and so on. 

I learned [the easy way, of course] that it was unwise for my ability level to make the OTTB too fit in this process…

I also learned that young OTTBs, in spite of the hard work they have done, are still young horses, curious and playful, and given sudden freedom and attention at a level and type they didn’t have on the track, need to be taught basic things like playing is for the pasture and not for the human.  Especially when it involves waving of the front feet.  Blue is a very, very dominant alpha type horse.  The biggest challenge I ever faced owning him was establishing that I was in charge.  [Notice there is no result report here.] Probably [!!] this made us a bit of a mismatch, since he was my first training project.  However, I’m a typical amateur in that once I commit to a horse, he’s more a family member than a commodity to be bought and sold, so I was invested in working through the difficulties [read: stubborn as hell].  That brings me to important thing #2 in the retraining process, which was getting help.  [*911? You decide*]

There were definitely times we were stuck, and I was fortunate enough to work with some very talented trainers who unstuck us, including Jim and Suzi Gornall, Stephie Baer, and Peter Atkins.  [Technically, Jim didn’t so much unstick us as suggest tying my horse to a tree with some pots and pans.]  They taught me about good groundwork, long lining, and what to do when you feel like a TB is going to explode underneath you (please, do not pull on the reins.  Go forward!). [Go ahead, pull on the reins.  See you in the next county!]

I am not in a hurry.  Blue and I took four and a half seasons to get to Preliminary, but all the time and experience we had together along the way built the trust and partnership that bonded us and made both the little and the big things really meaningful accomplishments.





  1. So did you get the horse or not already?!??!

  2. Not yet – but Sarah def. needs to come visit!

  3. Just happened upon this and am dying laughing. And contemplating filling an application out with what I learned from Kingsley. ;)

  4. Oh my goodness, you certainly are thorough!

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