Individual Treatment Of Horses Key To Success In Equine Makeover Competitions
Lexington, KY (February 26, 2019) -A variety of equine enthusiasts gathered at the Red Mile Clubhouse for the first meeting of the Kentucky Equine Networking Association (KENA) in 2019. Presented by the Equine Law Group of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, the evening highlighted successful competitors in both the Mustang Makeover and the Retired Racehorse Project's Thoroughbred Makeover; both competitions focus on creating horses that are prepared for new careers.
Equine professionals, horse owners and recreational riders heard first-hand about the importance of treating a horse as both an individual and as an athlete to get the best performance from them in the show ring. Dr. Fernanda Camargo, an Associate Extension Professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at the University of Kentucky, spoke on feeding the two vastly different breeds.
"Everything has to do with calories in and calories out," she explained, noting that the breed of horse is not an excuse for a horse to be too thin or too heavy. Thoroughbreds tend to need a significantly higher number of calories per day than Mustangs, which are designed to be thrifty and to hold on to calories they ingest. Additional factors to consider when determining the correct amount of feed to offer a horse include what kind of exercise the horse is expected to do; how often he will be worked; the skill level of the rider; the climate; the condition of the ground on which he will be worked; and the combined weight of the tack and rider.
With only six weeks to nine months to prepare the horse for competition, it's important to constantly reassess the horse and his energy requirements, she noted.
Dan James, a renowned equine educator and competitor, has competed in a plethora of training competitions, including the Mustang Millionionaire and the Road to the Horse competitions; he has coached multiple students to top-level placings in the Mustang Makeover and the Thoroughbred Makeover.
Dan spoke about what he feels is the main point to keep in mind when working with a horse for any format of training competition: the difference between re-education and education. A rider is re-educating a Thoroughbred, who has already had many life experiences by the time he retires from racing. Educating a Mustang is vastly different: The horses used in these competitions are not completely unaccustomed to humans, but they have never been saddled or ridden. Though the management and training of these two breeds may be different, James' advice for success in any makeover competition is the same: Don't go it alone; invest in a quality trainer; and don't underestimate the impact of a mentor.
The final panelist, Emily Brollier Curtis, owns and operates a dressage training and sales business out of Lexington, KY, where she has developed more than 12 horses to the FEI competition levels. She specializes in both young and difficult horses, and has an innate knack for restarting Thoroughbreds that have retired from the track and for finding them new homes.
Emily also reiterated the necessity to treat each horse like an individual. She noted that the horse she prefers as a ride for herself, a professional, is much hotter than a Thoroughbred she is seeking to place with an adult amateur rider whose main focus is to be to enjoy a quiet horse with a good brain. "It's not a bad thing that they want to go," she explains, but it's the rider's job to teach the horse that "go" is not all he is expected to do any longer. She focuses on exposing the horse to new experiences both on and off the farm to make him understand his new job.
Thoroughbreds want to learn and please, then they want to be left alone to do their job, she says. The release of pressure is the best reward for these horses. Though it's important to look at the end game (the competition), it's imperative that the trainer take it one day at a time and treat each horse as an individual to give them the best possible chance for success, she concludes.
The next KENA meeting will take place on May 21 at the Red Mile Clubhouse in Lexington with the topic, "Managing Mud
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