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Mon, 2016-07-11 06:50

The First Week at Home with an Off-The-Track Thoroughbred

Introducing an off-the-track thoroughbred to the cross-ties. Photo courtesy of Natalie Hollis.

The Young and Future Event Horse article series is being provided through a partnership between Mythic Landing Enterprises, LLC., and the USEA.

Natalie Hollis is the co-owner and trainer at Destination Farm located in the heart of the Area II eventing. Hollis has competed through the Advanced level and currently has horses and students competing at all levels. Hollis and the team at Destination Farm specialize in bringing youngsters from their first ride under saddle, to their first event and beyond. Their methodical and patient approach allows them to produce not only their own horses to take up the ranks but also sale projects that go on to lucky owners that have a well-trained and sensible animal to progress with.

When looking for a potential upper-level horse or project, Hollis and her team will start by visiting a local race track to check out horses that are ready for a new career. When evaluating Thoroughbreds, Hollis is generally looking at horses that could participate in the Future and Young Event Horse programs, ages 3 to 5-years-old, but will also stay open minded to a striking 2-or 6-year-old.

“Typically we don’t get to sit on the Thoroughbreds when we go to the track, so good conformation is essential. I really like a short coupled and uphill type because usually these horses will have a nice canter that is easy to jump out of. It’s also important to evaluate their feet. If they don’t have good feet at the moment, make sure they have the potential to grow out. Finally, when they’re jogging out, I want to see them trot in a straight line, without any paddling,” Hollis describes.

Once it is decided that they have found a horse that shows potential that they would like to work with, Hollis has them vetted at the track and shortly thereafter picked up to bring back to their farm.

Hollis continues, “The first thing we do is pull their shoes and give their feet a week or two to grow. From there, we’ll turn them out in small paddock by themselves.” Hollis likes to get them used to just the idea of being turned out first before introducing the idea of being turned out with other horses.

Over the next day or so Hollis will begin introducing the horse to the barn. “I’ll hand walk them around the barn and let them get adjusted to their new surroundings. Most of them have never seen an indoor before so we’ll spend some time in there as well.”

Day three is typically the day that the horses get introduced to cross-ties. “Usually race horses are tied in their stalls so they’ve never experienced cross-ties before. Since we do all our tacking, vet checks, farrier appointments and so on in the cross-ties, this is a must learn for our horses,” Hollis explains.

To start this process Hollis will have a helper hold a lead rope in front of the horse while the cross-ties are attached. If the horse gets antsy, the helper will be able to help direct the horse to where they need to stand and offer reassurance. Hollis also likes to do this the first few times while the barn isn’t busy or exciting so you can guarantee a positive experience.

With horses, not everything will always go to plan, especially during the first week. Hollis explains that generally with Thoroughbreds, after a few days of turnout they settle right in. Sometimes there can be a horse that’s too playful, so picking a perfect turnout match will be especially important. Hollis emphasizes that it’s important to remember that they may get beat up a little bit at first in the field, but they must learn how to socially interact.

Depending on the horse’s age, experience and temperament, Hollis will give them anywhere from a week to a few of months to adjust before starting to work with them under saddle. Some are ready to go start their new career right away and others need more time to let their feet grow and put weight on. She stresses that you need to treat every horse as an individual and be sure to ask a respected trainer for his or her advice if you’re starting this process for the first time!

To learn more about Natalie and her program, please visit


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