July 2019 - Thoroughbred Makeover: Hitting The Trails
Written by by Kaitlyn Zaleski
Monday, 01 July 2019 03:06


Building mental fitness by heading out of the arena.

by Kaitlyn Zaleski

The Thoroughbred Makeover is less than four months away, and soon we will be faced with the decision of which disciplines we will compete in. Each competitor or team is required to compete in one discipline, but may compete in two.

We’ve taken Hula to one show recently, which was the two-day Spring Fling Schooling Show at the Paso Robles Horse Park. I took her in a couple of Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP) flat classes and spent a lot of time schooling her around the show grounds. She settled so easily into what I considered to be a very busy environment, likely a result of the efforts we’ve made to haul her often since this journey began.

Early on, we dedicated hours on end to teaching Hula to rate herself at the trot and canter, building consistency in her gaits, and developing proper head and body carriage. While she’s made major progress physically, we are still battling with maintaining mental focus and her tendency to anticipate what’s next.

At this phase in Hula’s training, we’ve realized that our focus really needs to be on her mental fitness and have decided to work almost entirely out of the arena. For at least the last month, we’ve only worked her in the arena or round pen a handful of times. When we do, we focus on ground work and obstacles.

Almost all of her rides have been taking place out on the trails. We are lucky to have a mile-long track surrounding our ranch, plus access to miles of trails through citrus and nut farms. I started by taking her out multiple times a week and just letting her walk her energy out. At first, she walked much faster than what anyone would consider to be enjoyable. However, over time she has learned to relax and pace herself.

She has also developed an amazing sense of curiosity and has learned to thoughtfully approach things that would have previously made her very nervous, including but not limited to: cows, tunnels under our major highway, gigantic and noisy operating farm equipment, agriculture irrigation systems and lots and lots and lots of barking dogs. At this point, we are able to ride out for miles both alone and with other horses, and have worked up to trotting quietly followed by quiet transitions back to the walk.

I’m looking forward to moving back into more frequent arena work in the coming weeks. We have until August 15 to decide which classes we will enter at the Makeover, so it won’t be long before we start to get more specific with her training!

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook at KZ Equestrian and Instagram @kzequestrian_ca to stay updated on Hula’s journey!