We know that we have many horse lovers visiting our site and following Jo on Facebook. We thought our supporters would be interested in seeing how Jo takes a new, unridden horse and turns it into a successful racehorse (we hope!)
So for the next 12 months we will be following 'Jimmy's Journey' here. We will be giving you lots of pictures and links to videos showing the boy's progress.
Jo takes up the story:
Jimmy arrived with us on after a short journey from a stud in Somerset. We bought him because we liked his breeding and he looked very much like a chaser in the making. Here is on his arrival at the yard.
Whilst he was very well looked after at the stud, Jimmy had had very little handling. We soon discovered that Jimmy was a big raw 3 year old, who was very scared of any sudden movements and any touching around his body.
So Jo began his journey slowly, teaching him to lunge from the voice first.
Jimmy had his first lunge today. Once he worked it out, he was very accommodating. He's quite a sharp horse, who knows his own size, so we set some boundaries this morning. As soon as he knew what personal space was and humans were not to be mown down, he was great. There's a lot going on here and he's just going to take time to settle. It was definitely the right thing to start teaching him to lunge; it took his mind off the 'On no! I'm in a different place and there are horses everywhere' , to 'oh aren't I a good boy, I rather like using my brain.'
Next he was introduced to a roller, which goes round the horse's middle, mimicking a girth. Jimmy took huge exception to the roller, and turned himself inside out, bronking and rearing. However, he accepted it in the end and was a very good boy. Sometimes, you have to just allow them to find their feet and accept they're going to react differently. As long as they keep moving forward, it's fine.
Jo made a judgement call and put the roller on in the school, so if he went, he had space to deal with it. Horses for courses with starting them. Each and every one is different and requires different handling. With patience and kindness, Jimmy soon got used to the feeling of the roller, but still put his back up everyday when it was done up.
Jo decided he needed to be desensitised and her and Kenny spent lots of time, just touching him everywhere with the saddle pads, flapping his tack about and generally patting and chatting to him. We love this horse, but in the wrong hands, he would kill himself and someone else. He is one of the most reactive, scared horses we have dealt with. So we taking our time and not getting into a fight with him.
Jimmy will get all the time he needs to trust us. He is improving each day, and he's kind, but his flight instinct is massive.
We don't agree with starting horses too young, but it's very important to desensitise from a young age. A horse, Jimmy's size and build at 3, is big and more of a challenge. Nothing we can't manage, just much more time and skill needed. He'll get there. Today was a big improvement, and believe me, he will not be having anyone on him until we deem it safe and the right time for him, too.
It never pays to start a horse without teaching it to relax with movement and noise. That is exactly the reason we do move around patting and flapping the pads, it's a choice and deliberate.
The first day with a saddle and stirrups banging. He was a legend, still girthy when it touched his belly, but we did it nice and slowly so he didn't catch a fright. He responded to our calmness and confidence with him. Its not the words, it's the sound and the tone.
Following this everyday Jo held Jimmy and got Kenny to jump around next to him, flapping the stirrups, and bouncing up above his eyeline.
Once he was relaxed with the saddle and stirrups another rein was introduced, to teach Jimmy to steer and long rein, he learnt this very quickly and was soon "driving" round the outdoor school and yard.
Jo actually rode upside Jimmy with Kenny leading him, so he could get used to a rider being above his eyeline, a lot of horses take fright at this, he was wary at first but Claude helped him to relax!
The next step was laying Kenny over the saddle, at first Jo just took all of Ken's weight (who needs a gym!) and then once he was sure, we laid Ken over the saddle and walked Jimmy round. He was very unsure and was rather on the edge of panic a couple of times but soon got used to it.
They then did this in the indoor school, again because it was different Jimmy was reactive, slightly scared but he now trusted Jo and Kenny to do what they needed to and gradually he improved and relaxed.
Jimmy has been growing in confidence and learning to enjoy himself. He used to be scared stiff of the hose but now he loves it.
Nearly there! We wanted to get Jimmy used to the mounting block. It took nearly 10 minutes to get him near it with no-one on it, but in time we got @kendall__rose standing above him. We so nearly threw a leg over him. Any day now!
And then today this happened and he was such a good boy.
Well done to Jimmy and well done, @kendall__rose, for trusting me and riding him so well. Horses tell us when they are ready, and he told us today. We are under no illusions. There will still be wobbles, but go Jimmy!
And there were wobbles. Yesterday Jimmy decided he wasn't in the mood and misbehaved. So we started again today and he was back to being with us.Yesterday, the wind started just after @kendall__rose got on him and definitely gave him a fright.
Today, we added a hood for him, and it seems to have helped. He does go over bent and try to run a bit still, but Ken can half halt, and he comes back. Yesterday, he wasn't having it.
Not for one minute do I expect he's sorted; it would be dangerous to think that. So, small steps and repetition is what we'll continue to do.
Well, Jimmy is definitely a horse with character! It's one step forward and three-quarters of a step backwards at the moment!
Yesterday, he was like a horse who had never had a rider on. There was no wind,
no stimulus to spark him, he just lost his brain. We did get him going OK on the lunge with Ken up, and I thought I had worked round his temper, and believe me, it was temper. We let him off the lunge, and as soon as he knew I couldn't help Ken, he went to go again.
I stopped before he hurt anyone.
We did put him on a Bute trial to see if there was something we were missing, causing him pain (vets instructions) and have had his back checked. I meditated on him all day and night, just thinking about what I was missing.
So this morning, when I woke up, I decided to put him in the turnout cage on the dreadfully wet ground and a pair of blinkers.
He had to concentrate on keeping his balance walking and trotting rather than running and reacting.
We then took him in the school and lunged him with the blinkers, then I threw Ken up.
The best he's been yet, he tried to plant but we kept sending him forward both Ken and I, finally he realised life was easier to just relax. Ken said he was a completely different horse, even to the one we had Tuesday.
Let's see if he meditates all night and decides on another way round our cunning!
and some days we owners get to realise just how good Kenny and Jo are...
Two new exciting things for Jimmy today
He had his first go on the vibrating floor. All our horses have a session before they're ridden. The floor has pulsed electrical magnetic energy through it, which helps healing times with any injuries.
The vibrating part gets the blood flowing and muscles warmed up. The hood goes underneath the bridle and blinkers over the top. It has rubber inserts in neoprene ears and helps cancel out noise, it is brilliant for reactive horses.
Then he went for a little walk. We've never seen Kenny look so happy riding in the rain.
Jimmy has a new friend, Claude. Today, Claude showed Jimmy the outdoor school and then talk him for a walk down the track.
Jimmy is getting to be a completely different horse. Today he had half cup blinkers and was so much more relaxed. He had his first canter in the outdoor school -and even trotted over some poles!
Jimmy's first day on the gallops!
Jimmy working with Claude on the round gallop. Not quite time to look at the fixtures, but excellent progress.