How We Train Our Horses  
 

How do you train both your National Hunt and Flat horses?

“Our main aim is to have the horses fit, healthy, happy, sound and very well educated in all they do which can only lead one way - to success”.

Fit:

The horses receive plenty of work with a lengthy build up, that is varied work tailored to each horse.  We are lucky enough to have access to over 1,000 acres of farmland that has a variety of grassland banks, valleys, steep banks and lovely downland turf gallops.  The varied routine also stimulates them mentally so they are not doing the same thing day in day out.  I like to have the horses fit to enable them to win races but I am conscious on not having them unnecessarily ‘light’.  Muscle tone, strength and stamina are equally important and the varied routine gives them the best of both worlds.  I like all the horses to be trained in a French bungee, allowing a low head carriage therefore developing strong back muscles and hindquarters.  We try to get horses used to changing diagonals when trotting and have an even use of leads when cantering.  Being fluid in their bodies is important and knowing what their bodies can do.  When working on the local all-weather, I always time my horses and keep records.

   
Healthy: 

All horses are isolated on arrival and fully assessed to make sure they have no underlying problems before entering the main racing yard and being ridden.  This is a perfect chance to check their blood for any ailments, take a worm egg count and worm if necessary; and given a general ‘health check’ be it by the dentist, chiropractor etc.  Many of a horse’s problems are found at this initial screening and addressed before being ridden and having their bodies put under added pressure.  As soon as they have the all clear, they move into the main racing yard.  I like to turn out the horses as much as possible so I’m not just aiming for a healthy body but a healthy mind as well.  Ad-lib forage is fed whilst in the stable to maintain a healthy gut function.  The stabling is also incredibly airy and well ventilated.  We use Baileys horse feed and I speak to the nutritionalists there very often to get the balance right for each horse.

   
Happy:

A varied routine seems to keep most horses happy and access to the paddocks helps too.  The horses are generally turned out in two herds: all the geldings together and all the fillies together.  I like the herd mentality and giving them an opportunity to socialise together.  Coupled with this, horses are stabled in a large American style barn where every horse can see the whole yard; helping them settle very well.  None of the doors have anti-weave grills and I’m sure it is due to the layout of the barn.  The staff are encouraged to congratulate the horses in their work when they have done well.

Sound: Be it barefoot or with correct shoeing soundness is of the utmost importance to enable me to train a horse successfully. 
   
Well Educated:

I like all the National Hunt horses to receive plenty of grid work when schooling which allows them to make the mistakes at home and improve at home.  Learning to fiddle and get themselves out of trouble at home can only help them when under pressure in a race.  Nearly all horses get their eye in before they run.  To date we have had over 60 runners without a faller over jumps .


Gerard Tumelty doing grid work on Red Not Blue

 

It is well known that Simon trains and runs some of his horses without shoes, although not all horses are barefoot and at the moment the string is 50/50.  Why does he do this?

“My reasons for this are because we see too many horses break down and when this happens I have always wanted to know why.  All too often it is down to the foot and there is no truer saying than no foot, no horse.  I feel that prolonged shoeing of the horse can, in some cases, make the hoof migrate forwards, becoming too long in the toe and having under-run heels.  All of this puts more strain on the tendons and ligaments.  Being barefoot enables the horses’ hoof to function naturally and it is much easier to keep their balance right and have weight bearing heels in the correct place and not under-run.  However, some horses do not take to being barefoot be it physically or due to time and I am aware of the responsibilities of the trainer to the owner to see their horse running.  I assess every horse that comes into the yard with my farrier, and after discussion with the owner, we make a decision on whether to use shoes - be it just in front or all round – or we give barefoot a go.  Nothing is set is stone.”