HOLISTIC RETRAINING PROCESS

 

Selection

AFTER the Track selects Thoroughbred racehorses that are healthy and sound (including horses that are being rehabilitated from injuries), as certified by a DVM, and able to go on to a new career away from the track.   Horses are evaluated based on temperament, soundness of mind/body/spirit, preferences, athletic strengths, and individual needs to help them transition into productive lives and new athletic endeavors away from the track.

We work collaboratively with trainers and veterinarians at the track to identify and select Thoroughbreds appropriate for our program.

While most of our horses come directly from the racetrack, AFTER the Track also accepts horses from individuals who contact us for assistance.

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES FOR THOROUGHBREDS

Transitioning

  • Transitioning physically, mentally and emotionally from the racing lifestyle
  • Adjustment to farm life: turn out, leading, cross ties, socialization, barn manners

Health and Wellness

  • Specialized Nutrition Program: transitioning to forage based diet, individualized supplementation
  • Ulcer treatment and prevention
  • Routine body work: massage, reiki, stretching, tension release
  • Expert health care: veterinary, chiropractic, dental, surgical
  • Expert hoof care tailored to the specific needs of OTTBs in transition
  • Soundness, health and training evaluations with transparent record keeping

Training  

  • Ground work training individually designed to transform OTTBs physically and mentally into sport/pleasure/therapy horses (e.g., round pen, lunge, liberty work, voice aids, yoga, long line)
  • Training under saddle in dressage, jumping, cross country and trail riding
  • Trailering: loading and traveling calmly
  • Experience traveling to and participating in clinics and competitions
  • Experience working with new people

Adoptions

  • Placing our OTTBs in adoptive homes with perfect partners who are prepared to provide long term care
  • Ongoing support to ensure successful placements

Upon Arrival

When Thoroughbreds arrive at our farm, they are entering a new world where everything is foreign to them. The environment, routines, language, tack, behavioral expectations, even the food, is different! They need time to understand and adjust to their new way of life.

When they arrive, horses are given time to relax and adjust to life away from the track. During this time, they learn our farm routine, become accustomed to a new diet, and are introduced to turnout and social situations with horses and people. And dogs. We focus on developing relationships with each horse based on trust and respect. We begin teaching horses our methods of being led, cross-tied, groomed, and handled. Our vet and farrier see the horse as soon as possible. Immunizations are provided based on each horse’s individual records. All horses must be up to date on the following immunizations: EWT, Flu/Rhino, West Nile, Potomac, Rabies, Coggins. Racing shoes are removed, mounted and engraved for our Wall of Fame. Once the horse has settled in to farm life, they enter our Holistic Retraining Program. A specialized and individualized training plan is established for each horse based on our evaluation and ongoing assessment. Our work with each horse is documented using journals and video.

Evaluation

Horses arriving from the racetrack receive a thorough background review, assessment, holistic health care, and individualized training program, which is carefully documented and made available to the new owners. This includes:

  • History (pedigree, race records, ownership, medical records),
  • Individual characteristics (physical, emotional, learning style, personality)
  • Individualized curriculum, timelines and outcomes
  • Individualized supports (health care, hoof care, dental care, nutrition, supplements, tack fitting, etc.)

We begin by evaluating each horse for comfort, personality and learning style. We carefully observe the horse’s behavior around the barn and in the pasture. They are systematically introduced to turn out, and eventually a small herd.

We commence bodywork with the horse to establish areas of soreness and tension, and provide appropriate treatment to help alleviate discomfort.

Health Care

Our horses receive a thorough physical, routine dental care and vaccines from our veterinarian upon arrival at AFTER the Track. Ulcer prevention and treatment is provided as directed by our DVM advisor. A bodywork routine is established utilizing massage, reiki, tension release, stretching and muscle building exercises. Chiropractic work is provided on an as needed basis. Health records are maintained for each horse and made available for potential adopters.

Nutrition

Racehorses are typically fed a very high-energy ration of grain to keep them fit for the track. When horses arrive at AFTER the Track, we significantly reduce their grain ration.  Their diet consists of forage, free choice hay and pasture.  Supplements are added as needed. All horses are treated for ulcers. Each OTTB has a personalized nutritional plan based upon information from the previous trainer, the horse’s current condition, and development.  The nutritional plan for each horse is documented and provided for the adopter in the horse’s AFTER the Track Profile. A sound, individualized nutritional program is a crucial part of each horse’s Holistic Retraining Program. Our feeding practices result in OTTBs that are calm, obedient, and comfortable.

Tack

Thoroughbreds that are racing have very different musculature than do other sport and pleasure horses. As OTTBs progress through their training, they generally gain weight and their bodies can change dramatically. It is important to continually assess the fit of their saddles. A saddle that fits the horse when it begins training may not fit at all a short time later as it develops a topline. It will be very important to continue evaluating saddle fit as your horse continues to develop. A poorly fitting saddle can account for many challenging behaviors as horses try to evade pain and find comfort.

Hoof Care

Racing plates are pulled soon after our horses arrive at the farm. We work closely with our farrier to determine the best course of action for each horse. Some go barefoot for a while, others are re-shod soon after arrival. Racehorses are sometimes shod very differently than pleasure and sport horses. It can take up to a year of proper trimming and shoeing for a horse’s hooves to take shape.

TRAINING PRACTICES

AFTER the Track employs respectful, evidence based, individualized training methods designed to inspire each horse to be safe, work hard and have fun.

Each horse is an individual with a unique history. OTTBs are trained as racehorses, and we begin by acknowledging what they already know and building on their strengths and skills. Thoroughbreds are highly intelligent and athletic horses. They tend to be very sensitive and learn quickly. Horses off the track have already developed a solid work ethic, and it’s our duty to nourish that attitude while carefully guiding them into a new way of living, working and communicating.

Our Holistic Retraining Program is the backbone of AFTER the Track and the core of our work out of which all other activities evolve. Our first priority is to do the very best we can on behalf of each horse that enters our facility. We can touch the lives of many people by offering safe, healthy, athletic, affordable, and fun equestrian partners. Through our not for profit approach, we can do this using a transparent system that is designed solely to benefit the horses and people who love them.   The Holistic Retraining Program includes assessment, training and documentation.

Philosophy

We believe that every horse wants to work and will gladly learn what we are teaching if they are comfortable, feel safe and secure, and understand our instructions. We consider ourselves teachers, and the success of our “students” depends on the quality of our relationships and of our instruction.

The relationship we develop with each horse is paramount. Horses expect us to be their leaders. We must be confident, consistent and fair in our methods, and we must be crystal clear in explaining what we want them to do. At AFTER the Track, we utilize small step instruction that minimizes errors and promotes steady achievement on the part of each horse. We build on success. Success generates confidence, and confidence influences effort. Confident horses try hard to excel.

Instruction

All OTTBs receive a holistic, individualized curriculum that is based on our thorough assessment and designed to prepare them for new ventures as riding horses. The curriculum includes:

  • Ground work training individually designed to transform OTTBs physically and mentally into sport/pleasure/therapy horses (e.g., round pen, lunge, liberty work, voice aids, yoga, long line)
  • Training under saddle in dressage, jumping, cross country and trail riding
  • Trailering: loading and traveling calmly
  • Experience traveling to and participating in clinics and competitions
  • Experience working with new people

Initial training focuses on developing responsiveness to voice and gestural instructions while on the lead line, lunge line, long lines, and/or in the round pen. The evaluation continues to assess comfort, temperament and experience.  

Horses begin working under saddle when they are judged to be comfortable physically, mentally and emotionally. Their instruction may begin in the ring or on the trail depending on the individual. As they gain strength for their new work regime, we begin basic dressage training to develop balance, suppleness and connection. We utilize the training scale to guide our work with each horse. We frequently use cavaletti, cones, and other fun exercises and games during schooling sessions. Eventually, horses are introduced to gymnastics and jumping. During this time, we continue evaluating the horses to ascertain their preferred disciplines for their next career and their training will begin to focus on that discipline.

Curriculum Components

Farm Life

Leading, turn out, herd living, barn manners, cross ties, pasture and gate manners, people skills (e.g., personal space, greetings)

Ground Work

Leading, lunging, free lunging, long lining, round pen

Body Work

Grooming, massage, bathing, stretching, tack fitting

Under Saddle

Hacking: trail etiquette, safety, terrain, traffic, obstacles, conditioning

Dressage: training scale, gaits, transitions, figures exercises, riding tests

Jumping: cavaletti, gymnastics, courses

Cross Country – obstacles (solid fences, banks, drops, ditches, water, etc.), terrain, speed

Show ring etiquette

Traveling: trailering to and riding in new places

Competitions and Clinics: introduction to dressage shows, events, hunter/jumper shows, training clinics

Challenging Behaviors

OTTBs are highly sensitive, intelligent athletes that do best when in a consistent program with clear expectations and fair, kind and sympathetic treatment. It is our experience that most challenging behaviors on the part the OTTB are the direct result of discomfort, fear or confusion. They learn best when taught using small, consecutive step-by-step progressions. Once they understand what you expect, they rarely misbehave (assuming they are not being improperly fed). Punitive measures cause anxiety and fear, which will damage your relationship with your horse and interfere with progress. Trust is paramount. He must be treated fairly and consistently using methods designed to teach instead of punish.

Everyone makes mistakes when learning a new skill set, and horses are no different. Preventing behavioral problems is our goal and we do this by providing effective instructional practices along with sound management techniques. Appropriate nutrition, well fitting tack, adequate turn out, and a solid wellness program prevent most problem behaviors from happening in the first place. We believe that a horse’s problem behavior most likely began for a very good reason, such as discomfort, fear, anxiety, or confusion. We also understand that behaviors that may have been acceptable at the track might not be acceptable at the farm. Analyzing what the horse is communicating through the problem behavior informs us as to what the problem is and how to adjust our training to promote success. When necessary, we enlist the services of our veterinarian and farrier to help pinpoint triggers that may contribute to the challenging behavior.

When we do have problem behaviors, we treat them as learning errors on the part of the horse. We apply fair, instructional corrections and support the horse to try again and improve. Should a horse behave in an unsafe way, we provide immediate and just feedback and move on. We continually communicate clear, consistent behavioral expectations and we find that the horses quickly respond.

READINESS FOR ADOPTION

Every OTTB at AFTER the Track goes through our Holistic Re-training Program and is carefully introduced to the foundations of dressage, jumping, trail work and competition. However, each OTTB offered for adoption will need continued training to polish his understanding of the aids and move beyond the basics. Each horse has an AFTER the Track Profile that documents his or her history and complete assessment and training plan.

 

Ginny Iverson • Lakota Way Farm
3364 Silver St • Hinesburg, VT 05461

E-mail: info@afterthetrack.org • 802-355-5449 • afterthetrack.org

AFTER the Track, Inc. is a private, not for profit,
tax-exempt organization created under
501 (c)(3)of the Internal Revenue Code