RNC the OTTB: Settling into a Routine

The past seven months have taught me a lot about the value of stability, both in my horse’s life and in my own. At this point in Ren’s career, I’m seeing all of our hard work paying off in a big way. All of our efforts to keep his mind and body healthy are contributing to incredible strides in his training. Now that he’s mastered the basics, we’ve bee able to incorporate regular jump schools and more rigorous technical work into his daily workload.

Ren’s anxiety is improving with every ride, and his focus is awesome considering where he started and how young his brain is. During our jump schools, he is so brave to the fences. I seriously expected jumping to be a huge challenge, but Rency LOVES that part of his job. He rarely bats an eye at a new fence or combination, and when he does, all it takes is a little leg and a cluck to reassure him. Just two days ago we conquered 2’6″, point and shoot, no questions asked. I was seriously over the moon!

Photo by Ivy Maron

His frame is coming along as his anxiety dies down, but I’m not rushing it. Because he’s so young and green, I don’t use tie-downs to teach him how to shape. I truthfully can’t justify using equipment to restrict him in these early stages of training. Yeah, he looks like a hot mess sometimes, but he’s learning how to use his body. As he learns to dedicate more and more focus on me and finds his suppleness, I think a proper frame will come easily.

Our rides are mostly chill, and he enjoys working with other horses. He almost feels like just another green-bean some days, as opposed to some semi-trained dragon. But everything that has made a positive difference in his training was a long time coming. At the risk of jinxing myself, I’m happy to say that I may have found a routine that works for both Rency and I, and it only took seven months!

Solving Ren’s health and behavioral problems was like putting together a puzzle, only the problem was that fixing one would often inevitably lead to worsening another. He has weak hooves, gut problems, anxiety issues and an extremely energetic disposition. These are all pretty common for Thoroughbreds, but that didn’t make it any easier to make progress.

Photo by Ivy Maron

If we put him in 24/7 turnout to promote a healthy gut, he would develop an abscess. If we kept him in to protect his feet, he gathered too much pent up energy and was impossible to work with or train. Our number one focus during those first few months was keeping Rency as comfortable and healthy as possible, as riding was far from being a priority.

Our longest battle health-wise was his feet, and we’re still doing maintenance on them daily. To try to solve his abscess problem without holing him up in a stall, we began doing turnout in our arena at nighttime. It worked to prevent the abscesses, but it wasn’t good for his overall health as he wasn’t able to graze or socialize with multiple horses.

At the request of our farrier, we started with a cheap supplement that would help promote healthy growth; gelatin. Yes, like the kind you eat. Knox Unflavored Gelatin from Walmart, to be exact. For $14 a month, we got a 30 day supply of powder which was added to his feed. On top of that, we picked up some American Venice Turpentine from Tractor Supply and apply it religiously to his feet once a day. All these things helped, but I would say that the most beneficial thing we did for his hoof health was to find a GOOD farrier.

Rency gets corrective shoeing every five weeks like clockwork, and he hasn’t had a problem so far. The shoes are light and help to improve his hoof angles, which will ultimately keep him sound in the long-run. And although he still can’t go out into the mud or puddles, I’m confident that we’re gonna get to a place where he can hang with the cool kids in the paddock no matter the weather.

Photo by Ivy Maron

After we gained some traction on the hoof issues, we could address a couple more long term challenges. Gut issues are a terrifying and risky thing to be dealing with, and Rency has experienced two colic episodes since we got him. One was a minor gas colic in August as a result of ulcers, and the other was an impaction in January which required an overnight stay at the hospital. The number one best thing that has helped prevent gut problems for us is turnout and free-choice hay/grass.

In addition to being healthier, since he started going out into a field day and night, Rency’s attitude has taken a complete 180. Where I used to have an overexcited ball of energy, I have a happy, zen little worker. He even has a girlfriend, Tinkerbell, who he loves to follow around the pasture. On top of allowing for him to graze naturally, we give Purina Outlast as a daily buffer, Gatorade after hard rides and I do my best to have his feed soaked during drastic changes in the temperature. I was a bit skeptical at first about Outlast because I was wondering just how much of a difference a few pellets could make. After only a couple of weeks, he is much more comfortable when I tighten his girth, which is a great sign. Adding support to his diet gives me peace of mind, especially on days where the weather isn’t good enough for turnout.

Photo by Ivy Maron

Now to our most challenging battle; training. Yes, I could sit here and say that patience and a sense of humor are the most valuable tools in training a horse (don’t get me wrong, they are extremely necessary), but the most valuable tool we have on our side is a good trainer. Say it with me; A GOOD TRAINER MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Yes, I’m Ren’s Makeover trainer, but every human in this sport needs a trustworthy teacher who can guide them the whole way. We take lessons once a week as a way of touching base and setting goals, and each week we conquer a new milestone. A good trainer makes all the difference.

Looking towards the future, I anticipate that anxiety will be our biggest hurdle to clear. New places are still a bit of a scary thing for Rency, but I’m doing my best to expose him to as much as possible. Every time a trailer leaves our barn I try my hardest to get my horse on it. Making progress on his anxiety at home gives me hope that he can and will chill out when we travel, but nothing keeps me up at night like the fear of him freaking out in Kentucky. It happens, and if he does have a full on panic-attack, I won’t ever be angry with him. I want him to enjoy our time there as much as possible. Needless to say, this will be the topic of blogs in the future, but for now, I’m happy with the progress we’ve made today. Until next time, may your week be full of quiet rides and shoes that stay firmly nailed into their respective hooves.