OVER the last few weeks we have welcomed all our horses back into training after their summer break so the yard is buzzing with activity again after the holidays. They look really well for their summer at grass, with plenty of condition to work on. Some of them have really grown and filled out, which is always great to see. So the excitement has really started building for their season ahead.
We added a deep sand gallop last year but it wasn’t fully installed until the autumn so this is the first year we will be using it as part of the horses’ pre-season training programme. It’s really useful to have the facility and we can’t wait to see the outcome of using it as a key part of the core fitness we get into them from the start. This week we have just started hacking away on it, and it just feels the ideal exercise for them at this stage.
Initially each horse starts off on the walker for a week, just going round and stretching their legs while they’re in and out of the field. We increase that steadily as the week goes on, before putting tack on them and lunging them to get them used to it all once again. At this stage, we'll start backing them, a few of them have a tendency to be a bit naughty but this year everyone was very well behaved!
We are lucky to have the covered ride here so we get a bit of trotting into them there before moving on to going out on the roads; they don't get weeks of roadwork like they did in the past, but I like to give them a couple of weeks anyway, I'm sure it's good for them. And now that we have the sand we can combine a bit of roadwork followed by a couple of canters too.
The deep sand is excellent at this stage, we just go steady and build their muscles and core fitness slowly but surely. We'll do a few weeks of this, and then eventually get out to the all weather to step it up a bit.
There’s no real timeframe for how long it takes to get a horse ready because they are all individuals with different body shapes. Some of the lighter, good-ground horses, for instance, won’t take as long to get ready as a big, heavy, soft ground horse like a Captain Quint. So you can’t really say for certain how long it takes them to get fit, it’s about the individual horses.
There’s also no point having the soft ground horses ready too early, so their return has been staggered a bit - they came back later than the others. There’s no sense having them fit and ready to go, then not being able to run them because either the races aren't there or the ground isn’t suitable.
But for the good-ground horses, the ones we might take to Perth in September or Kelso’s early meeting, they were in a couple of weeks before the real deep winter ones. Those, the nippy horses and the smaller mares, don’t tend to put as much weight on so they don’t need as much work. Slanelough is a good example of one who doesn’t need so much, it doesn’t take him too long to get fit but our old friend Doktor Glaz, who has retired now, was a big brute who could take as much as five months to get right!
The sand gallop was an addition we had been looking to make for some time and hopefully it might help bring that extra five to ten percent improvement we need to win more races this season. Fingers crossed! The videos and photos show how the yard is swinging into activity again after a very quiet summer. Us riders have been discussing the 'summer spread', so equines & humans are more than ready for their work!