Second Career Jumps: Retraining Your Thoroughbred

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Many people who adopt retired racehorses dream of teaching them to jump. After all, these powerful athletes seem built for soaring over obstacles. But for a Thoroughbred who’s spent its life sprinting on flat tracks, jumping can be a whole new ball game.

This blog post dives into the world of retraining Thoroughbreds for jumping disciplines.

Can My Thoroughbred Jump?

Just by looking at a horse, it’s tough to predict if they’ll be a jumping superstar. Trainers advise against making snap judgments based on a horse’s appearance. Horses wearing blinkers or shadow rolls might be easily spooked, making jumping trickier.

Conformation, however, can offer some clues. Look for horses with a balanced build and uphill frame, avoiding those with crooked legs, small feet, or a downhill build. Ideally, the horse should have straight legs for good balance and a neck that connects high on the shoulders.

A horse’s smooth, natural walk and canter often indicate the potential for jumping success.

The Right Attitude Matters

A horse’s temperament plays a crucial role. A horse willing to learn and work with its rider is a dream come true. Horses at the track often behave differently in a new environment, so waiting to assess their personality after settling in is wise.

Building a Strong Foundation

Before tackling jumps, both trainers emphasize the importance of solid flat work. The horse needs to be responsive to your aids, moving forward willingly and changing gaits smoothly.

Introducing Jumps Gradually

Once your horse is comfortable on the flat, it’s time for baby steps. Start with ground poles on the arena floor, gradually introducing them at the walk, trot, and canter. The goal is to desensitize the horse to poles and jumps without creating any stress.

Taking the First Jump

Start with a tiny jump, one the horse can easily walk over. Confidence is key, so if the horse shows hesitation, lower the jump or break it down further. The first jump should be a positive experience.

Safety and Patience

Remember, retraining takes time and patience. Over-jumping a young horse can lead to burnout and injuries. Limit jumping sessions and keep the jumps low.

Not Every Horse is a Jumper

Some horses, despite excellent training, might not take to jumping. If your horse exhibits persistent fear or refusal, it’s best to respect their boundaries and explore other disciplines.

Final Thoughts

Retraining a Thoroughbred for jumping can be a rewarding experience, but it requires careful planning, expert guidance,and a healthy dose of patience. By following these tips, you can set your off-the-track Thoroughbred on the path to a happy, fulfilling second career.

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