Blog Tales from the LOPE Ranch

Big Bold Red: Training Update

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Big Bold Red is a lovely 6-year-old dark chestnut mare with a very nice pedigree (including Alydar and Seattle Slew). Her race owner gave her a year off from racing and then donated her to LOPE so that Big Bold could find a terrific new career.

Big Bold immediately impressed us with her sweet and sensible personality. Since she had been turned out for quite a while, we decided to give her month at LOPE before heading into our training program – so that she could have some handling and basic ground work before her more serious training began.

bbcute At LOPE, we found Big Bold to be just a delight to have on the ranch! She has such a kind and appealing way about her. We did some simple ground sessions with Big Bold and quickly discovered that she was an intelligent and thoughtful mare. When faced with something new to her, Big Bold wouldn’t get upset at all – she would simply slow down, put her thinking cap on and try to figure out what her handler was asking of her.

We also saw that Big Bold was a bit stiff in her jaw and poll. This is quite typical of ex-racehorses, as they often become accustomed to running in a frame that works easiest for them to accelerate and gallop powerfully down a track. Sometimes that racing frame can also produce muscle memory and patterns for the neck and head that aren’t as useful for pleasure riding though.

Once she had some ground sessions here, we decided to send Big Bold to Laura Whitfield at Poseidon Sport Horses to receive some training through LOPE’s racehorse education program. For the first couple of weeks, Laura worked with Big Bold to introduce her to the new training barn’s routine. Big Bold learned all about cross ties, standing still while other horses clomped up and down the barn aisle, working in the covered arena and so on.

So far, Big Bold has done very well with her ground work and all-around handling. Laura reports that she is a gentle, sensible mare with a heart of gold. As we said above, like many horses from the track, Big Bold has a bit of brace in her poll and jaw. On Big Bold, this shows up as tightness on the right side of her poll and jaw — she really wants to tilt to the left (as she is doing in the first photo here).

With a horse as sweet as Big Bold, some trainers might be tempted to just get her under saddle quickly. But Laura likes to smooth out this type of physical tension first on the ground — so that Big Bold can be relaxed from her head to her withers on her first post-track ride.

bb3In the second photo, Laura is helping Big Bold learn to relax her jaw and base of her neck — so that she can turn more easily to the right. Note where Laura’s hands are on Big Bold — she is gently supporting Big Bold where she is tight in those two areas — so that Big Bold can feel that Laura “gets” that this move is difficult for Big Bold.

At first, Big Bold’s flex to the right was a bit clunky (like a robot dance move) — but with each release and each “ask” for the same flex, the movement becomes more and more easy. And it feels good for Big Bold too! By the end of one session, she definitely was coming to the conclusion that giving and softening to the right thing was actually pretty fun to do!

Laura will start Big Bold back into riding work within the next week or so. From all signs, Big Bold appears to be the kind of horse who will enjoy being under saddle work. She genuinely seems to love people and enjoys learning new things. Big Bold is young and green – but she is not the type of horse whose first response is to be emotionally reactive or nervous about the world. At heart, Big Bold is showing a steady character and incredibly willing temperament.

We are so happy to see Big Bold in training and are looking forward to watching her progress! Big Bold will be available for adoption at LOPE once her adoption fee is set (which will be very soon) – see more details on her adoption listing page.

Austin Equine Hospital Schleese
Paddock Foundation American Association of Equine Technicians and Assistants Sam Houston Race Park
Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance The Ranch Broker Moose Pants Studio
Thoroughbred Charities of America Scissortail Hill Equestrian Secretariat Foundation
Treaty Oak Equine Express