The Thoroughbred mind…and yes, they do have one!

Those of us who like Thoroughbreds tend to spend a lot of time arguing with people who don’t over whether or not they are crazy. We point out that we can ride ours in halters with lead ropes and they follow us around like puppydogs. This does nothing to convince those other folks, who have determined they are all batshit psycho after seeing a Thoroughbred run around a show facility dragging the hook from the side of the horse trailer, a lawn chair and a hay net while 53 people tried to catch him and he successfully evaded them all.

The truth is, we’re both right.

Thoroughbreds are my favorite breed. Have been for a long time. I grew up on Thoroughbreds; I learned to ride at a polo barn and was working polo ponies by the time I was in high school. They were smart and fun and had a lot of personality. If only I could have found high school boys with those qualities, I might not have ended up dating a 32 year old in my senior year. But I digress…

Honey is a perfect example of a typical Thoroughbred personality. When Honey first arrived here, she was snorty and silly and reactive. The first time I got on her, she was so light sided I couldn’t touch her and she overreacted to everything. Her head was in the air and her feet barely touched the ground. It was easy to see how she could be an intimidating ride.

A few weeks later? She is a dead dog. I could ride her anywhere now in a halter, no problem. She doesn’t spook. Nothing bothers her. She is easier than the VLC to ride, and that’s saying something.

To me, this is a very familiar pattern. Thoroughbreds are sensitive beasts. They get somewhere new and their reaction to everything is OMG OMG OMG at first. They pick up the attitudes of other horses like a lightning rod – if another horse is upset, you can bet your Thoroughbred will have sympathy hysteria. Same goes for your attitude. If you are scared – they will be scared. Every time. After all, if you’re scared there must be something to be scared about, right? A smart horse will react now and not get eaten by that mountain lion that apparently only his rider can see.

But once they adjust, which can take an hour or a month depending on the horse, the circumstances, etc. – they are fine. They are like Quarter Horses to ride, just a little more light-sided. The polo ponies are typically the easiest horses to ride in the world – you pitch their head away and they lope until you tell them not to – usually while you pony 2 or more horses off of them at the same time, and on a track not so different from the one they once raced on. It’s pretty unusual to see a polo pony screwing around during exercising. They know enough to save their energy for the field.

So how do you survive the high phase? My best tactic has always been long trotting. Don’t even try to make them walk. You will not win. They will just get more and more stupid and hyped up. Just let them trot, and let them trot as fast as their legs will carry them. Don’t let them break into the canter, but let them trottrottrot as fast as they want. Put them into a big circle if you want to slow down a bit, but don’t pull on them. (You’ll never outpull an ex-racehorse but you may piss them off and teach them to leap or rear by trying) Trot, trot, trot. 20 minutes straight is not unusual to get the edge off. You wanted to be in better shape anyway, didn’t you?

The high phase doesn’t last. Give them a little time, a lot of turnout, lots of hay and no grain. You’ll have a whole different horse in short order, and you may even change your mind about the breed in general!

(as opposed to some other breeds, cough cough cough Arabians, that you cannot freakin’ tire out or wear down or get the edge off of no matter what you do!)

*ducks tomatoes from the Ay-rab people*

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Published in: on July 17, 2008 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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