The Cyberhorse Racehorse Outplacement Program blog features stories about ex-racehorses undergoing training or graduates which have made the transition to the equestrian world.
Tania Twaits purchased Chocolate Jade (Choco) last October. Here is his page on the Racehorse Outplacement Program site.
Here is Tania's story of how Choco became an important part of her family.
There are a couple of tests a new horse must pass at our place:
- The children test
We have two active boys aged 6 and 8 who love horses and want to be involved in all elements and;
- The adaptable test
I want to be able to ride anywhere and in any conditions and enjoy it.
On his first day in a new environment, Chocolate Jade (Choco) was confronted by two border collies, two excited boys, Alpacas and a gorgeous 17hh thoroughbred and he settled in amazingly well. He just took everything in his stride, nothing seemed to faze him. The boys thought he was a pony when he came off the float (as they are so used to our other giant) and wanted to lead him, feed him, and cuddle him.
They used his lead rope as a skipping rope while it was still attached to his halter on his head and literally threw hay at him and he didn't spook, he just stood there. So by the end of day one, it was clear that he had passed the children test. And to this day, the boys continue to lead him to the paddock, load him on the float, brush him, change his covers, feed him and have the occasional ride.
He has a wonderful temperament. In the first 6 weeks I rode Choco in many different environments. From bush riding in the Macedon Ranges to country road riding (with rubbish trucks going past) to Adult Riding classes and dressage lessons in an indoor arena. We rode in torrential rain (not by choice!), windy conditions and had horses taking off in front of us and he literally didn't put a foot wrong.
He took a little time to adjust to a new environment in some instances, but once he had he was relatively relaxed. All my experienced horse friends, as was I, were very impressed with how he handled himself. He passed the second test.
I have focussed our efforts on dressage but mixing it up by riding in the bush and paddock (changing the setting). To begin with, Choco was unbalanced and very stiff, particularly on the right rein with head in the air, was short in his stride with uneven paces and didn't always want to move forward.
For the last six months, I have been working with Regina Banninger. I have a weekly lesson and her approach with Choco was to take care of his issues of a very tight hindquarter and back. She explains why we do specific exercises and takes a lot of care of the horses conformation and ability.
We discuss work on the ground to help with his issues as well as diet and supplements. We made the decision to take things slowly due to his young age, lack of experience and my need to gain confidence and build his trust.
We initially spent a lot of time walking and trotting and a little cantering. We focused on getting leg response and looking for a light contact, while getting him to think forward and find his balance and rhythm with the aim to get him more supple. We didn't worry so much about his head. In this early stage he was sometimes showing for a few strides how nice he will be to ride when he lets go of the back and is able to push from behind.
Outside the arena, I spent a lot of time walking and trotting on a long rein to stretch him out. We then began working on exercises to move away from the leg at a walk, leg yielding and shoulder in on a circle. We encouraged more forward movement in the trot and worked on the trot canter transitions to build strength. We also worked on my aids to get the correct canter lead. Outside the arena I continued the exercises and a lot of trail riding.
As time has progressed we have increased the amount of trot, while still working on the fundamentals. Choco has begun using his hindquarters properly and his stride is improving nicely. He is moving forward more willingly. We have increased the canter work and his right canter lead in particular has improved. Outside the arena I have been reinforcing what was learnt in the lesson while still working on a long rein in the paddock/bush to stretch out and increase fitness.
With competition in mind we are now working on key elements within level 4 dressage tests - upward and downward transitions, correct bend through all paces and continuing to ensure he is coming from behind to get the suppleness. The contact gets more steady too.
Choco is willing and has surprised us on how quickly he has picked things up. He now responds to the aids, shows willingness to stretch and uses his body more efficiently. We still have a long way to go and he does tell you in his own way when he has had enough. But he is an absolute pleasure. I can take him anywhere and enjoy our rides together.
The whole family is enjoying the horses. The boys have begun to having riding lessons in the school holidays and my husband has been reading about horsemanship and is very eager to start his own horse ownership journey. As a confident beginner he has just started riding lessons so we may have another horse in the paddock in the not so distant future. Everyone participates in feeding and looking after the horses and Choco is very much part of the family.