Each Trainer and RRTP President, Steuart Pittman, has his or her own "Page" of blog entries with embedded videos. Access each trainer's page by clicking on their name below.
Kerry Blackmer - Kerry has Four X The Trouble, aka Tempyst, owned by Robin Coblyn
Tiffany Catledge - Tiffany has both High Level, owned by Jim Falk, and Solidify, owned by MidAtlantic Horse Rescue
Eric Dierks - Eric has Brazilian Wedding, owned by Pat Dale
Steuart Pittman - Steuart gets to post commentaries, plus he occasionally posts about Bodiddle, the horse owned by Lorna Starkey, that didn't make it to the Trainer Challenge
Sitting on each of the horses this past week made me smile. It also added to my respect for Kerry, Tiffany, and Eric.
Training a horse is an intimate process. We have to listen so carefully and be so open to creative strategies. When somebody is watching it is very difficult to prevent a part of our mind from wondering what that person thinks, and hoping that they are impressed. Those thoughts leave less room in our brains for the listening and creativity that our horses need from us.
Imagine doing a training session that will end up on a You Tube channel that has had 40,000 views in the last 30 days, with links to a Facebook page on which everyone has an opinion and has a total weekly reach of over 20,000. That's what our trainers are faced with.
This is an exercise that truly tests not only their training skills, but also their ability to focus. They have to shut all of this noise out and listen only to their horses.
After having ridden three of the horses, I know that the trainers are doing an extraordinary job. With each one I could feel the newness of what the horses had learned and understand how much finesse their riders were using. I would have preferred to spend some time alone with the horses because I didn't do them justice as a rider in my brief encounters in front of that damn camera!.
It was very different from getting on a horse whose understanding of the aids is confirmed. These horses are all trying very hard to work within the boundaries that their riders have presented to them, but they do not completely trust or understand. The parts of their bodies that offered resistance were different with each horse. Four X The Trouble felt physically quite good through his topline, but was reluctant to engage his engine. He took a lot of leg and was resistant to it. Solidify felt very solid in the bridle and responsive to the leg, but was resistant in his back. Brazilian Wedding felt very powerful behind and healthy through her back but with a tendancy to lean and pull, especially in the left rein.
Some day I will write an article for Dressage Today about how the dressage training scale is climbed a little differently with an ex-racehorse. Our horses off the track start with confidence, balance, strength, and a willingness to go forward. They also have felt the weight of the bit and pushed their power into it, even leaning into it. You will notice that none of our trainers spent much time riding their horses at the trot and canter on a loopy rein. They asked the horses to accept the contact in the first few days even though contact is not the first step in the training scale. They did this because they wanted to achieve relaxation and rhythm, which is the first step in the scale. So it looks like the horses are farther along than they are, because they are in a round frame, when in fact the round frame is simply a strategy to achieve the very basic rhythm that opens the door to the horse's mind and body. There's much more to say along these lines, so come to our Dressage for Ex-Racehorses session on Thursday at PA Expo if this discussion doesn't bore you. Or nudge me to write the article.
The fantastic video series of trainer interviews is almost done. Robin Coblyn is working on my interview with Eric as I write this. Voting will be open in a few days. You had fun voting for your favorite horse, and soon you get to vote for favorite trainer. Judges at the expo will each have a chunk of votes to add to the mix.
Winning this thing is secondary to participating in it. All of the trainers are thrilled with the exposure and the education that they have been able to offer us. They want that 30 x 40 oil portrait of their favorite horse by possibly the best equine artist alive today, Lelend Neff, but they know that we love and respect all of them equally. See you in Pennsylvania, or at least on the LiveStream from our web site at 2pm on the 25th!
The RRTP is a charitable organization under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. Donations are tax deductible pursuant to applicable laws. Our mission is to facilitate the placement of retired Thoroughbred racehorses in second careers by educating the public about the history, distinctive characteristics, versatility of use, and appropriate care and training of the iconic American Thoroughbred.
Funding is needed to maintain and expand our internet services, conduct our Throughbreds For All events, produce educational videos, and finance our presentations at horse expos and other high visibility public events. We do not use donated funds to care for individual horses. That work is done by the farms and organizations that we serve.