There are numerous things to consider in the months following the purchase of a yearling at auction. Your yearling purchase is much like a lump of clay waiting to be moulded. Before your new horse, hopefully, heads to the racetrack as a 2-year-old, here are some tips for owners and trainers I believe will come in handy.
The day after the purchase of your yearling
It is important to make arrangements with your veterinarian or bloodstock agent to check the horse again the day after a sale. You want to make sure he is as sound as he was before the sale. If he is not sound (and you have not shipped him off the sales grounds yet), you can address that with the sales office who will contact the seller for any possible recourse. Once you ship your purchase off the grounds, the sale is final.
You also want to ensure the yearling is not a cribber (habit of sucking in air while biting down on fences or stall doors), although this is often announced when the horse is in the sales ring.
Many trainers find that cribbing is an undesirable habit as it is destructive and can cause a horse to not eat or lead to other health problems such as colic.
If you find out the next day he is a cribber and you have not taken him off the sales grounds you can make a case to return the horse.
Choosing a training centre for your youngster
Before you make your purchase, make sure that you have selected a quality training centre to send your yearling. Once the horse arrives, the process of breaking to saddle, bridle and rider will begin almost immediately.
The best way to choose your training centre is word of mouth. Find out from trainers where they have sent their horses and whether they have been happy with the results. Did the horse come in fit and with good (riding) manners?
Make a point of visiting your new purchase once a month once he arrives at a farm and watch and learn as he makes his way through the stages of breaking. If the farm has a training track, then he can stay there until he is ready to come to the racetrack as 2-year-old.
For owners, it is important that both the farm manager and/or trainer (that you eventually select to train your horse) feel that you and your horse are an important part of its operation. You want to be sure they will be hands on throughout the horse’s career.
Selecting a trainer for your young racehorse
If you hired a bloodstock agent to buy your yearling then you can hold off selecting a trainer until your horse is closer to arriving at the track. There is no advantage of choosing a trainer right away as a lot can happen in the intervening time and most trainers will have a stall at the track for any 2-year-old they want to train.
Once you hire a trainer, it is a good idea to express IN WRITING what your expectations are as far as communication and your own input in the horse’s career. This includes how you will communicate with the trainer — phoning, texting or email — and how often.
In my opinion, there is just one qualification for choosing a trainer for your horse: honesty.
Starting your yearling
The training centre is responsible for preparing your yearling to race, including the fundamentals like steering in both directions. Training shouldn’t entail going around in an arena, the same direction. If the weather allows, use a field or trails. Do some figure-eights and present new aspects of the riding experience each day.
It is preferable for the young horse to have a lot of exposure to other horses. At first, training might be jogging and galloping alongside one or two others, but later stages of training should include a number of horses. This situation better prepares them for training at the track in the morning with horses travelling in various directions.
He needs to be taught all aspects of riding and horsemanship, including manners and obedience. It is those things that will be beneficial for the horse his entire career.
Young horses should be training in a slow and steady manner. Build up their work slowly to the point it looks like they have done something.
For trainers, at any time when you think the horse is not mentally or physically handling the early workload, don’t be afraid to give him a break for a couple of months. At this early level, there is no harm in stopping training completely as it won’t take much time to get him going again.
I have mentioned previously in this space that I don’t believe in giving yearlings-turning-2-year-olds a break from training in the winter unless it is necessary. Slow and steady jogging for a month can be followed by a light canter. Monitor the horse’s appetite as his work increases, it will increase the more he does.
You want a complete package when you send your horse into the racetrack for the first time so that he will be ready for the frenetic atmosphere of the backstretch.