Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: First Day Working with Ginger a Success

Aftercare
Jake Sutton rides Ginger in Disguise during early training for the Thoroughbred Makeover (Dehlia Sutton photo)

We are one month into having Ginger in Disguise and starting our Retired Racehorse Project journey ,and I feel like it should only be two weeks into it. The Kansas weather has done nothing to help with all the rain, wind, and snow coming on days that we can work horses. And the days when we have had other commitments (which have not been many)…..it of course has been a lovely day where it’s not windy, the sun is out, and its 70 degrees outside. Welcome to springtime in Kansas and reason 180 of why I want to win the lottery and build an indoor facility. 

The author with Ginger. (Dehlia Sutton photo)

Springtime in Kansas for ranchers is a pretty busy time of year. Not only does the weather constantly change (this spring has consisted of 40-60 mph winds, which is NOT normal, snow storms, 60 degree overnight temperature drops, and more), but it is calving season, burning season, and you are prepping for the summer grass cattle to come in starting the middle of May. This might not sound like much, but due to the wind and weather, burning sometimes has to happen at the drop of the hat – even if it is at night.

Because of all of this, Ginger has been getting a lot of ground work and round pen work done to work on suppleness, balance, and strength, plus the slow introduction to the cattle that are all around her. Most of our young ones we get in now days are Quarter Horses that are cow-bred. These guys just seem to look at cattle for the first time and the strange looking creatures don’t even seem to bother them. Most of the Thoroughbreds and Warmblooods that I have had in the past take a little bit of time to get used to them. 

The first day I was able to work with Ginger, it was just to really assess where she was in knowledge and to get to know her and her general trainability. We started out with some general things that most people take for granted: standing tied, grooming, saddling, taking the bridle. I know that seems very simple, but many off-the-trackers have never been cross tied while on the track – they get tacked up in the stall. They are used to grooming, but are they sensitive when it comes to brushing? Saddling is another thing they are used to, but an exercise saddle and jockey’s saddle look and feel A LOT different than big ranch saddle. 

Ginger showed she has a lot of class. She stood tied great – a little sensitive to some grooming (her tummy), but that’s okay – and she didn’t mind the big western pad or saddle after letting her sniff and look at it. Once we were in the round pen, I just wanted to watch her move with the tack on. I wanted to see how balanced she was, if the ranch saddle bothered her (especially having a back cinch on) and most important, if any of it did bother her, what was going to be her reaction? Would she freeze up, would she just try to run away from it, or try to explode?  This was going to tell me a lot about her and her personality in a short time. 

Well, Ginger was great. It took her little time to get used to the saddle and back cinch; she responded great to pressure with me stepping into her space and moving away, and in little time started to pick up on smaller cues with my body. Once that was said and done, it was time to hop on her for the first time.

Dehlia Sutton photo

In my experience on the track as an exercise rider we were always thrown up while the horses where walking around the shed row. Once we were “tied on,“ down to the track we went. I never go to get on an off-the-track horse thinking that they will just stand there – not because they are being naughty or bad, that’s just simply nothing they have been taught to do. So, I got up on the mounting block thinking she would walk off, but a few turns around the block and then she stopped. I hopped on her and she just stood there, like she knew the whole time what was expected. To be honest, she might have, but I like to start off with each OTTB as if they didn’t know anything other than what I think they might have known on the track based off of my experiences.

That first ride just consisted of turning, stopping, moving off of my leg, and giving to the bit –  it really wasn’t much, but it was a great starting point!

Jake has put a few rides on her and it’s a bit of a different story. She definitely shows him her red-headed side. Watching him ride her, he challenges her more, which I think is good – and one of the reasons why we make an awesome team! I feel like one of my weak points is sometimes I don’t challenge or ask enough each time I am on. He has really been getting her to give and use that inside hind leg… which can be tough. It’s really hard when you start using your body correctly on top of that and she has let him know a few times. Nothing bad, but she definitely has opinions on when she should be done and has worked hard enough. He is very patient, and has pushed just enough outside of her comfort zone to have her gain confidence – which I think is a rare talent! 

We are still extremely excited about this journey and sharing it with you! Until next month… hopefully we have not blown away! Seriously, 60mph winds can go somewhere else for the rest of the year!

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