Understanding Your OTTB


The Melting Point……


How to Introduce working your ex racehorse with other horses in the arena


The ‘Fears’ Surrounding Retraining Racehorses


How long does it take you to build a brick wall? 


Are we Forevermore a ‘Retrained Racehorse’?


🏋️‍♀️Strength Training 🏋️‍♀️


How to Introduce working your ex racehorse with other horses in the arena

Working with other horses in an arena, all working in different directions, with different types of movement can be quite daunting and possibly distressing for your OTTB. In this short webinar (13 minutes) we discuss the process/steps you can go through to make this experience a good one and how you can then transition this into the warming up area when out competing. 

Are we Forevermore a ‘Retrained Racehorse’?

Des the retraining ever end? 

Yes, I recently wrote about; there is no way to tell your racehorse that their racing career has ended, but do we ever feel like the ‘retaining’ ends? Is there a stage when, actually, our beloved four legged friends becomes just ‘horse’ rather than ‘retrained racehorse?” 

I was thinking about this the other day as now owner declared to me that her horse had done ‘4 months of retraining’ so therefore they were now a riding horse. My initial reaction (in my head) was that the idea, or concept of ‘retraining in four months’ was barely scratching the surface of what this horse was going through both mentally and physically, but then I was slightly in awe, because this owner had taken a good mental stance of removing the ‘potential stigma’ of ‘racehorse’ and applied a new, ever growing attitude towards ‘horse.’ 

As with any situation, there are multiple avenues for which you can explore to this they/argument:

  • By removing the ‘racehorse’ and replacing with ‘horse/riding horse’ after an initial short period of ‘retraining’ are we not actually taking a full view/care/justice to these animals and just how much time they need.
  • How their conformation is going to require for them to be trained in a certain way for the rest of their lives?
  • Exposing them to different situations is going to cause moments of different behaviours; are we allowing ourselves to understand them from their ‘racing’ perspective, or are we potentially just labelling as a ‘horse’ and not giving them the re education/understanding?
  • Are we possibly making potential ‘excuses’ for them by using the phrase ‘well it’s a racehorse?’

I would also argue the toss, that is the ‘retraining’ feel/thoughts, coming from us as riders/trainers alone? Hands up, I am guilty of looking to a situation and saying ‘its because he/she is a racehorse’, so am I the one putting this stigma on them that they are forever more in ‘retraining?’

Can we actually define a specific’ retraining period?’ Is there a defined time frame/scale? Some may say that once they’ve down their first show, they’re now a riding horse, but what is we have horses who want to hack for the rest of their days? Do they have a defined period of when they become ‘horse’ and their retraining ends? Would you consider being able to walk/trot/canter safely and calmly as the ‘end period’ to the retraining? ( I would STRONGLY argue if this one is the case that ALL of mine have not progressed past ‘retraining’) 

I do think that being able to celebrate having a Retrained Racehorse is something we should always do and never shy away from. We still have to remember that their conformation is not built for the second career that we are looking towards, but yet, they still do it ever so well. We can be belligerent to the fact, that we will always need to understand our horses best, both in the physical and mental state to then be able to adapt as trainers and allow our horses to thrive in their own right at their own pace. However, if I take Quadrille for example, he is still in ‘retraining’ or is he in fact, retraining me?

The Melting Point……

We all know that water boils at 100 degrees, but at what temperature does a TB’s brain start to boil????????

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t want for this to happen, but, the honesty is that this is a very real prospect that you can/will face over the years of your re training journey with your OTTB. Now ‘boiling over’ doesn’t have to look like the image above (the vast amount of times it does, but…) it can actually present itself as; 

shutting down, 

unwillingness to travel forward, 

head high in the air, 

frozen to the spot state, 

eyes feeling like they’re about to explode out of your OTTB’s head

heart pounding, but no moving of limbs

As they say, prevention is cure, but, sadly, we only know the TRUE EXTENT of the warning signs, once we have experienced the boiling over point. What works as a calming effect for one TB can wind another up, trying to rationalise with your TB in ‘boil over’ moments can seem a bit like a lost cause. Dropping your reins and letting your horse walk can be detrimental for some, going off in canter in half seat and allowing your horse to stretch can be one riders idea of a quick trip in the back of an ambulance. You, as the retrainer, have to wrk out, what it is that settles them the most. For some it can be:

Walking on a long rein

Going half seat in the pace

Allowing them to stop, process, understand and then move on

Trot/Canter/Trot transitions

Long leg yields

Spiralling in and out on a circle

Etc etc etc 

The way in which we get out OTTB’s to ‘travel forward’ isnt just ‘forward and go.’ We have to remember that these guys have spent their entire careers going fast, they don’t need to keep king fast for the rest of their lives. It is not about: restricting them, pulling them back, getting a bigger, different bit, adding lots of gadgets, its being able to; redirect the focus and most importantly RE DIRECT the energy. 

Whether your ‘boiling point’ is acrobatics shown so beautifully by 6 year old Quad, or a complete shut down where you’re not sure how/where your OTTB is about to go/d, if you can RE DIRECT their energy, focus and mind into turns and moving of feet, opening their body up sideways, it still allows of the energy to be ‘forward’ and ‘used’ but it gives it a controlled and more focused direction. 

The worst thing you can do in a situation of ‘boil’ is feel like you’re a toddler with all of the pots pans and wooden spoons! Legs, arms, voice, everything all going at once adding to the ‘boiling point.’ Start with one i.e. the voice, or the rein to guide, or the neck strap to help turn the shoulders to get the feet moving. Give your OTTB the chance to bring down the ‘boiling point’ by you taking the lead, Re directing the energy and focus and giving your OTTB a different direction other than just “GO”.

For more information, help, or concerns about your OTTB please either DM or head to www.thoroughbreddressage.com

How long does it take you to build a brick wall? 

A brick wall is built brick by brick with mortar in between to connect each brick to one another. Each brick is an individual piece to ‘the bigger picture’ and has its own matter/place in the bigger equation of THE WALL. 

In re training you need to place each brick, brick by brick, making sure that it is not only level with the brick adjacent, but also to the brick below. They’ve spent all of their lives going fast, so why do we have to carry on at such speed? Why do we have this notion that we have to be out competing in’X’ amount of time? Or we just ‘have to get on’ straight away, or we ’should be doing…(insert answer here)’ 

Kobe Bryant, widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, was asked what made him so great, his answer: Im an expert at the fundamentals.’ It was known that he would arrive an hour early for practice and stay and hour after practice just working on the basics of basketball. We should apply teh same Terry to our retraining of our ex racehorse. We need to become experts at the fundamentals! These horses bodies/conformation will ALWAYS be trying to ‘pull them back’ into their natural position. Its never a case of they ‘cant’ have a better muscular posture and development, we know this from may many re trained racehorse; however, we have to keep on making sure that we work time and time again on the basics to keep those ‘riding horse’ muscles switch on and not the ‘racehorse’ ones. 

You don’t get medals for ‘sitting it out the longest’ or getting on because ‘you should.’ In all honesty, if you try and take the first two options in most scenarios neither yourself or your ex racehorse benefit and you will end up with holes in your brick laying, which only weakens the foundation to your wall. 

Everyones WALL will look different. For some they want their wall to be tall, others shorter in height, some longer, some to have a pattern, for some, they may want windows in their walls, either way, each brick still needs to be placed with care and thought and also be open to the idea that the size and shape of your wall may change over time. For some, the weather stays good for ‘perfect’ building conditions, for others, gale force winds, storms and hurricanes take place, BUT the wall will grow and built, it may just take a bit longer (and sometimes there may be a brick supply shortage…)

To allow yourself to build good foundations I would ask have you truly taken the time to research and think about HOW your ex racehorse has been cared for in their previous role? (And I don’t mean for you to go and fire off hundreds of emails to their previous trainers right this second…) What their routine looked like? The tack they wore, how they were ridden, what is their understanding of the bit/contact, how they were fed, how their normal day to day life looked? This is not so you can go and point fingers, but to understand your ex racehorse to the fullest extent and help bridge the gap between the racing world and the re training world, which will lead to GREAT foundations.

Have you got the right team of ‘bricklayers’ surrounding you? Who has the spirit level? Who is going to tell you that its wonky, even when you don’t want to hear it? Who is mixing up the mortar even though it’s tough going? Who is making the cups of tea? 

For me, I always say the first year-18months are the hardest/most challenging and that’s if you get through it problem free/no soundness issues along the way……to some that might sound like a fair amount of time; however, we are taking a horse bred for speed and asking their brain and their body to change and develop in a way that is going to challenge them and to that, we owe them the time to place each brick carefully and with consideration 

Each individual ex racehorse has their own version of how their wall will look like, but to stay sound physically and mentally, they need the best foundations that we can provide for them to allow their wall to grow, develop and stay upright even in the toughest of conditions. 

🏋️‍♀️Strength Training 🏋️‍♀️ 

Direct comparisons are made from the Racing photos to ‘the transformation’, which is brilliant to see and to celebrate, but what about the stages in between?

I think, especially in a age where the potential stress, desire and pressure that social media can cause, it is imperative that we not only appreciate what our ex racehorses can achieve but WHAT they’re managing to achieve despite what their conformation is/put together. 

Bottom line; our ex racehorses are not built, naturally, ‘to sit’. It’s not a case of they can’t, but it’s how we start that conversation and journey without breaking them both mentally and physically. It is also an absolute testament to their trainable natures and their want to try, because as you can see int be top image, their ‘natural way’ is to be downhill in their movement. 

The ‘downhill’ movement isn’t a negative thing. The dynamics of the way they move allow them to be effect AS A RACEHORSE! As a riding horse, we are looking for the PROGRESSION towards the ‘IDEAL’ movement, which is to become uphill and in self carriage. 

The highlight from this is TIME! In an ideal scenario I would have used an image of Greg racing; however, I don’t have said image (so the top one is very kindly from Amy Murphy racing of her horses enjoying time at the beach🥰) The reality is that from ‘racing Greg’ to bottom image Greg is three years and counting, we are still NO WHERE NEAR fully balanced in the canter, which then also becomes super fragile when we start to take that canter and put it into a 10m circle/half pass etc etc. muscle fibres don’t just ‘let go’ or ‘develop and grow’ overnight/within days/weeks, we are talking MONTHS AND YEARS. We also have to bear in mind that we have to quietly and continuously work on developing and supporting this muscle structure as their ‘natural way of being’ will always try and slightly ‘pull them back.’ 

A brilliant team of physio, saddlers, trainers, farrier etc will help you develop your ex racehorse and keep them sound both mentally and physically, but ultimately, it is you, as the Trainer, who needs to allow the time, keep focused on the end result and work with the horse you’ve got rather than trying to make them something they’re not ❤️🥰

The ‘Fears’ Surrounding Retraining Racehorses

The Fear of Failure 

Failure looks like different things to different people. Whether its; that you cant get your OTTB on the bit, that you feel like they’re constantly running away, 🏇🏾🏇🏾that you cant get the correct canter lead on one rein, that you cant control the canter. THESE ARE NOT FAILINGS! They are ‘training moments’ and things that you can, and will get through, you just need the right tools and understanding to be able to get through them (this is where we can help 🥰😉) 

The Fear of People making fun of me for Failing

This one is a pretty horrid one, 🤢🤮but also a very valid one. It is so hard to not be influenced by those surrounding you, especially, when on DIY/Livery yards. It is difficult and can feel like you’re the ‘odd one out’ or the one doing ‘wrong.’ You’re not, you just have a horse who is a little bit different, needs a certain approach to management and riding, and THATS ABSOLUTELY FINE! Surround yourself with people who; encourage, support, lift you up (and also give you a good kick up the backside when you need it..) Your home team is absolutely key in the retraining process and anyone who sent there to helps support and see you progress needs to, politely, leave the ‘support bubble.’ 🤗

The Fear of Investing 

Knowing which trainer/trainers to invest in, along with the correct saddle, bridle, physio, farrier etc can all be very daunting! Know that, especially in the early years, the investment will be higher due to the change that is going on with your OTTB, both physically and mentally, but see this an investment forward, to the future. Lessons ARE A MUST for us all, at all stages of the retraining journey! 

The Fear of Commitment 

The panic of ‘just how much time’ 🤯🤯is a real one. Your OTTB does not know your schedule for the day/week/year, so they won’t panic if they’re not ridden an exact number of times per week. Time off horse/out of the saddle is just as beneficial (if not more for the young OTTB’s) for your OTTB. Its all about building up and maintaining the posture and core strength and getting inventive with your work routine/schedule. There is no ‘exact timeline’ for anyone. Progress at your own rate/time and the benefits will be HUGE

The Fear of people being Mean on Social Media

What you decide to post/not post is up to you. As goes with the heading of ‘fear of people making fun of you on social media’ anyone who is a negative Nancy needs to be asked to ‘leave the support bubble’ and the joy of a ‘BLOCK’ button is wonderful. The SAME goes for anything that triggers you as a rider. Block/mute/remove yourself from the situation, ITS DOES NO ONE ANY FAVOURS!

The Fear of Rejection 🥺

This can be true if you go fr a lesson with a new instructor, or you feel like you don’t know where else to go/what to do and reach out for help.Always know that you will NEVER be rejected. Asking for help guidance is such a POSITIVE step in the right direction. Retraining and racehorse isn’t easy/straightforward and all!!! You’re doing it and giving this horse a second career in a loved home, surely that’s a wonderful thing in itself! 😚 🦄 

The Fear of it all being ‘too much’ 

There are days/week at a time where this can be very true! Just know that you are always progressing, even on days when you don’t feel like it. Take regular photographs of your OTTB stood up, take regular videos you can look back and see how far you’ve come. Sometimes when we are ‘in it’ we cant see the progress. And remember, that EVERY SMALL STEP needs to be celebrated (no matter how ‘small’) its always AN ACHIEVEMENT 🥳🥳

If any one the above resonates with you and you would like to know HOW to move forward through your ‘fear of failures’ working with your OTTB as themselves, their body and their retraining journey, I am doing a Masterclass for OTTB Mafia THIS WEDNESDAY at 5pm EST (10pm GMT/London time) We will talk through topics to do with; conformation, contact, rider position and balance, how to stop the strong/running OTTB and allow YOU to ask questions to help you with your OTTB and their retraining journey. 

To join us the sign up link is below and if you cant make it, you will receive the playback which you have lifetime access to! Any question please DM or head to