CT: As one of the most successful breaking and training businesses in the United States, when do people begin sending their horses to Webb Carroll Training Centre?
WC: We start getting horses in September and it can go all the way through to January sometimes. It depends on whether the owners do their own breaking of the yearlings or they send them to me to do it.
CT: How important are the facilities when training young horses?
WC: We want to provide a good, level surface for every horse to train on. The track has very wide, sweeping turns to allow plenty of horses. We work the main track every two to three sets. That helps prevent injuries to the horses while training. We offer a 7/8 mile irrigated dirt track, a _ mile turf gallop and a _ mile wooded track (on the secondary farm) so that the young horses are acclimated to all different situations.
CT: You believe in sending out the two-year-olds to train in large groups, from 10 to 16 horses in a set. Why?
WC: We call it ‘close companion drills’. They all learn so much from being around each other. We try to give each horse as much of a race track atmosphere as possible. They are constantly moving around, interacting with each other so they learn to handle different situations and learn to relax. When they start out their training walking and jogging, we will often send one half of the group one direction, the other half in the other direction so that they are passing each other several times during training.
CT: In addition to getting to know all the other two-year-olds, a youngster is also broken to a lead pony (often oddly coloured) at this early stage. Explain why this is important.
WC: A pony is an important part of racing, they can relax a nervous horse. So when myself and my assistant Travis Durr start training twoyear- olds, we make sure they are accustomed to lead ponies. We start to get the two-year-olds accustomed to them early because you don’t want a fit, bug-eyed young horse who is ready for advanced training seeing some weird coloured horse for the first time. That is what they are going to see on the racetrack when they get there. If a two-year-old gets loose, you don’t want him running away from a pony that is trying to catch up to him.
CT: What is the progression of track work for two-year-olds?
WC: As mentioned before, sometimes we get horses that we break or others that are already broken. If we break them, I like a total program of about 90 days, including jogging, slow galloping and galloping. If they come to me broken, I have to measure what level the horse is at in his training so I can fit him into our program. As far as when they come out to the track each morning, they are brought out to stand in a line, quietly and relaxed. [Carroll will inspect each horse before accompanying them on their exercise]. We start with walking around the track, in both directions. Then we focus on a lot of jogging, I try to put a lot of bottom under them this way. Once they get half mile fit, dancing and prancing, the speed increases.
CT: How do you train two-year-olds to get used to a starting gate?
WC: All youngsters get a good look at the starting gate as we walk past it in the morning. Once they have the edge taken off, the horses will be walked through the open gate, following another horse. In a few weeks, the horse is stopped inside the gate, taught to stand quietly. We handle them in the gate; pat them, get them to relax. Patting them on the behind is important, then you can begin to shut the back door of the gate. Once the front door can be closed and the horse stands quietly, you can begin to open the front door and let them walk out. You also don’t want them popping out of the gate too much because you can quickly undo what we have worked hard to achieve.
CT: How long into training will a two-year-old have its first workout?
WC: Usually [after] about 90 days of galloping we let the horse do an easy 1/8th in a set of four. We then slowly go up to three furlongs and up to half a mile. By then they have had lots of foundation and lots of gallops at 1 _ miles. Also, I make sure that myself and the horse on are the same page, the horse is mature and ready for a workout and check with the owner too. We chart our breezes every week.
CT: All those detailed drills and exercises with the youngsters has worked very well for your training centre. Your latest success story is Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, that’s quite an advertisement.
WC: We train all day long so every horse gets our full attention. Our goal is to send out a sane, sound, fit, educated horse ready for the race track environment.