Retraining Thoroughbreds Takes Time and Patience

Hi Elizabeth,
Hi, how are you? Hope all is well on your end, just a quick note to let you know Shaman (Little Silic)  is doing great. We have been very busy and he has earned himself a brand new saddle, I ended up buying the Stubben Genesis Deluxe with the Biomex, and just like you said, Stubben makes a great saddle. It is so comfortable and I love it!!


Little Silic has put on weight and filled out since he was a Prospect Horse For Sale on the Bits & Bytes Farm Web site in 2007.

I am attaching a pic of my baby he looks much better than he did coming from the racetrack, it definitely takes a little time to see the changes occur, you will be happy to hear I am finally back in the saddle after the last two years of medical issues. He is so great. He is getting so good, that I am close to not being able to lunge him before riding. He gets it — he’s incredibly smart, even when he’s feeling good. He respects the cues and knows his job.

He has become VERY lazy in the ring, I think I have to work harder than he does to get him forward, the ground work was and has been the most important foundation of our relationship. I sometimes feel so impatient about wanting to just ride him, but over the last two years he has really taught me a lot.

I never thought I would love a Thoroughbred this much — having always ridden Quarter Horses. Now, I have a much more open mind and he has certainly changed the my perception of what the breed is truly about. I think you need a lot of patience with them, yes they are sensitive, but WOW when you channel it all into the job or work they do, it’s incredible how loyal and smart they are. I don’t “think” I got lucky, I KNOW I did. Just because a horse, any horse, gets a little forward does not mean they are “crazy” and it’s really unfair to the breed to place that stigma associated upon them.


Little Silic with his mom Barbara and her good friend and vet. They get by with a little help from their friends.

When Shaman eventually goes forward, I remind myself that I am riding an athlete and they are not born knowing how to succumb to all the cues to stop, slow down etc., so I am very happy I am taking it slow with him. Slow and steady seems to have brought us really far in terms of him doing transitions at all gaits, my vet and very close friend, best summed it up by saying “They all have to learn to walk before they learn to run”. He has also been a great resource in Shaman’s training. Then there are those in the neighborhood who say “What are you nuts, you bought an OTTB from the Internet?”. I say, yes, very proudly as their horse is dancing in circles and Shaman stands there like a gentleman.

Don’t get me wrong, it did not happen overnight, but for anyone thinking of buying one of these beautiful creatures, it will take a great deal of patience and commitment but the payoff is priceless. I wish I had more property to get another one, and another one, and another one………………………I am addicted to the lightness underneath me, I feel like I am on the clouds drifting in the sky………..funny thing is now when I ride any other horse, they all feel really heavy on the forehand. Go figure.

A good friend came to ride Shaman after she admitted she too was concerned for me fearing that I bought a crazy horse. Well….she could not believe how much we have accomplished, I had to tell her three times to get off of him and let him up for air !! She would not stop cantering on him. She nicknamed him “SNAILBOY”. She said I made him into a snail, I replied by saying “that’s the difference in riding a controlled collected canter on a Thoroughbred and careening around the ring in circles on a Quarter Horse”. We both laughed — she owns a Quarter Horse.

Shaman has just learned his canter leads, and consistently gets them every time when asked. This too I taught him fro the ground first. He learned a lot on the ground first. He was really off balance in the beginning. I think what Shaman and I learned the most over the last two years is that WE respect each other, respect works both ways, and we are a team.

I got quite a chill down my spine when my friend was riding him and he was looking for me at every canter depart, down every long side — he did what she asked but was truly seeking me out for the leadership. Even when she was leading him away his head was bent far around to try to see where I was going.

Thank you my friend Elizabeth, for never turning your back on us, and for making a difference in both of our lives, I think he’s pretty happy, I know I am. I will send you more pics with his new saddle.


NOTE FROM ELIZABETH:  It is not easy going against the popular myths about off-the-track Thoroughbreds. Your friends think you are crazy, and then when they ride your horse, they are jealous and want one for themselves! A big part of owning an OTTB is bonding with it during the training and taking joy as he learns new skills and looks to you as the leader. There are no short cuts in training. Put in the time and you will be greatly rewarded with a well trained and very loving partner.