We recently welcomed Baran to our training program. This handsome 16 year old off-track Standardbred comes to us through a new partnership with Futures for Standardbreds. Baran is a true war horse, who raced until he had to retire at age 14 and won over a quarter of a million dollars along the way.
As we do with every horse, we are starting Baran from the ground up. The skillset that made him an incredible racing horse can translate to being a riding horse, since he already has so much life experience and understands the key concepts of forward and straight. The big change for Baran is that we now also want him to turn and bend! Once Baran learns to soften and stretch through his body, he will be able to balance himself much more comfortably when ridden.
To introduce these new concepts, we begin with groundwork. Our first goal is for Baran to lead softly on a line and stay with us as we go, stop, and turn. This means that he will be yielding his hind end and shoulders, stopping, backing, and coming forward without pressure on the line. We want him to take responsibility for staying with us, so that he is light and easy for anyone to lead. These skills of focus and self carriage transition right into work on a longer line or in the roundpen: we are looking for Baran to be able to move his body around in a soft, stretchy way while following the shape of a circle (not something he would have done ever on the track!) This is all prep for when we climb aboard, in hopes that he will already have an understanding of how to bend and balance himself when we add a rider.
There are so many new things to explore with a horse like Baran, and we try to keep it fun and interesting. We can introduce him to our different obstacles, work him in different areas of the farm, show him our trails and work on ground tying when getting groomed in the barn. Once he gets checked out by the chiropractor and has a few weeks of groundwork under his belt, we will begin introducing him to a saddle and ground driving.
Thus far, Baran has proven to be a quick study and already demonstrates some nice softness in his movement. We’ve turned him out in our biggest pasture with a few friends, and we know that moving up and down the hill all day will be excellent physical conditioning in itself. Baran seems to be a sweet and somewhat reserved personality thus far, and we are enjoying getting to know him. As with any horse, it’s all about explaining the new game in a kind and consistent way, and we look forward to seeing what Baran thinks of his new career.