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Blog Tales from the LOPE Ranch

Lucky Maria: Training Update


Lucky Maria is a beautiful 7-year-old dark bay mare with a lovely pedigree (including Alydar). Her race owner gave her a year off from racing and then donated her to LOPE so that Maria could find a terrific new career.

Maria had been the herd boss back at the race farm. A stocky, well-built mare, she also had put on quite a lot of weight since her track days. Although her curves were impressive (she looked almost like a warmblood), we decided to give her month at LOPE before heading into our training program – so that she could adjust to a bit of a diet, as well as begin some basic ground work.

During her month at LOPE, we found Maria to be intelligent as well as lovely. Although she would give off the “boss mare” or diva vibe, Maria was actually very kind and sensitive underneath that façade. She would soften quickly to a gentle touch and showed much aptitude for “feel” (or a super light willingness on the end of the lead rope during ground sessions). Maria seemed to need a little time to get to know new people – but once they passed her approval process, she was quite affectionate and very sweet.

Once she had slimmed down just a little and had several ground sessions, we decided to send Maria to Holly Flint at Flint Equestrian to receive some training through LOPE’s Racehorse Education Program. For the first couple of weeks, Holly went slow with Maria – introducing her to cross ties, the covered arena and all the other aspects of life in her training barn. Holly also began doing some lunge work with Maria and was very pleased with how nicely she responded on the end of the lunge line.

During her short lunge sessions, Maria showed some tightness in her hindquarters and lower back. This can be quite typical of ex-racehorses who have been off work for several months, as their racing muscles fade without new type of muscle being built. In spite of her rounded physique, Maria’s hind end needed to become stronger and more supple – so that she could step under herself more correctly and track up consistently. Here is a link to one of  Maria’s first lunging sessions with Holly:

Holly also discovered that while Maria is a sensitive (yet at times bossy) mare, she also likes to receive clear direction from her handler and rider. In this way, Holly thinks Maria is almost a little more like a gelding in her work ethic. She doesn’t become offended if the rider sets a clear structure and tone for the ride (as long as the rider isn’t abrupt or heavy-handed). At the same time, Maria will appreciate and require a rider who is comfortable with her finely tuned desire to please.

Holly had begun riding Maria and it is obvious that Maria had a very good foundation in her early under saddle work. She stands well for mounting (with just a minor wiggle or two), doesn’t over react to the leg or rein, allows Holly to mount and dismount from the right and waits for Holly to cue her before moving away from the mounting block to start the ride. Maria also has a soft mouth and is very receptive to light hands on the reins. I watched Holly work with Maria on her second ride (after over a year off) – never once did Maria pull or root on the reins. Instead, she does her best to carry herself in a efficient frame and to stay respectful of the rider’s cues.

During her very first ride, Holly reported that Maria was a little nervous and tried to side step and spook in place. However, by the second ride this behavior had vanished – Maria now knew that Holly was a considerate and calm rider, so her anxiety dropped considerably by the second ride.

During this phase of her training, Holly will focus on helping Maria to loosen and strengthen her hindquarters and back. This will involve a consistent schedule of short, steady rides that include some light lateral moves, regular lunging sessions and some ground work sessions geared toward untracking the hindquarters, backing slowly and learning to step under herself more easily.

We are so happy to see Maria back in work! She is a talented mare with a fun personality and willing work ethic. Maria is available for adoption now at LOPE – 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
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Thoroughbred Charities of America Scissortail Hill Equestrian Secretariat Foundation
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