Thought I would throw this up here since it's been an ongoing problem for me, training-wise.
The training center here only has a 1/2 mile track. The surface leaves much to be desired.
You can walk out there and be calf deep by the rail, step 2-3 feet over and the track is fast. It's uneven as can be.
My string is all barefoot. I have a wonderfully talented filly "Ladybug" who was sent to me this summer as a 3 year old. She had been in training last year, was doing great and then had an accident and hurt her shoulder. So she was off and rehabbing for a year. The owner had seen a story in Bloodhorse Magazine about a win I had with another "problem" horse (at odds of 66-1, which is food for another post another day) and tracked my number down through the racing office.
He says he's got this filly they would like to give another try and asks me about my training methods. Which I tell him. So then we talk about trivial stuff such as dayrate (sarcasm intended) and he tells me that he'll call me back and let me know if he is going to bring her to me.
I didn't hold my breath. As a trainer, people tell ya all the time- "Oh, I'm sending you a horse". If I held my breath every time someone tells me that, I'd be blue in the face. Permanently.
I went about my business and at around 5 pm in the afternoon, I got another call from this gentleman.
"I'm going to bring her to you."
"Great, when did you have in mind?"
"Well, I'll be there tonight- late, but tonight."
Wow! Holy Moly, talk about scrambling to get another stall ready!
In any case, Ladybug has been here since and is doing great. One of the things I was told about her was that she had a lot of foot issues and problems last year. My response of "don't worry, you brought her to the right trainer" didn't elicit much confidence at the time.
The next day, I checked out her feet. Other than flare all around her toes and quarters, I couldn't find anything wrong with them. I whipped out my rasp and got rid off the flare.
Lady has rock solid hooves, I've never even seen her take an ouchy step on gravel or asphalt, even at a jog.
So now here I have this extremely well bred filly in my barn, who has a ton of speed and talent and after conditioning for 2-3 months is ready for her first official work.
Did I mention the terrible track surface at our training center? I wasn't about to work her there. So off we went to Churchill Downs.
When you ship in to train, unless you bring a rider with you, you may or may not have good luck finding one to get on your horse. I happened to be the only ship-in trainer that day and eventually, after having been stood up by a jockey's agent who has a bug boy on his client list, asked the security guard at the gate to page any available freelance rider to come to the receiving barn.
About 10 minutes later, this guy shows up. He looks clean, smells sober and talks like civilized person, so tell him about my filly, what it is I am looking for with her and some of her habits, etc.
He follows instructions well, takes her out there and gives her a nice, solid 3F work from the gate.
When he comes back, he tells me "Wow, I've been on some nice horses, and this one here, this is a RACEHORSE!"
This of course is music to my ears- hearing from someone else something that you already knew about your horse as a trainer, is absolutely one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment you can experience.
Throughout the conversation, he asks whether I will have some shoes on her next time I bring her back.
If you guys don't already know this, the backside of the racetrack is one of the places where you will constantly hear: "Horses can't run without shoes. They have no traction. Their feet can't stand up to the pounding. Their hooves will wear away from the sandy surface."
Believe me, I have heard them all.
I come from a background of having restored founder for a few years before getting my trainer's license. I trim my own horses. I probably know more about feet than any 20 people put together on the backside of any racetrack.
When I hear stuff like that, I just walk away. There is no point in having a discussion with someone about something they obviously have no clue about. Years ago I used to waste my breath and get into these "but it's better for them to be barefoot" conversations, not anymore.
I don't have the time to educate every ignoramus out there. The internet is a wonderful thing.
Look it up, read up on it, then come talk to me.
So, back to the story at hand, I basically told the guy that I probably would not have shoes on her next time, either. No problem, he says, he'd love to get on her again.
So the following week, we ship in for a 4F work. We're also supposed to get Lady's gate card.
So first, the guy isn't answering his phone in the morning when I call to make sure he'll meet us there. Then when he does show up, he's late. Tom, the gentleman who hauls us in for training, takes one look at him and rolls his eyes, then tells me, the guy is a chicken and he's not going to do what you ask him to. Oh, and that he looks like he had a rough night.
Great. Well, let's give him the benefit of the doubt.
Lady's owner is there for this work. We're all really looking forward to this second work.
She goes out there, breaks well from the gate and works.
Not the way I expected. Not the way even Tom expected. We sort of looked at each other and both went- hmm, that didn't look like her running style.
Well, of course it didn't. He was holding her. Wouldn't let her have her run. Never once gave her her head all the way. Pulls her up after the work instead of letting her gallop out like I asked and comes back to the barn.
"Um, she got a little tired, so I pulled her up. She seemed like she ran out of breath."
Excuse me? Out of breath? This filly trains 3.5 miles everyday except for Sundays, and you're telling me a half a mile and she ran out of breath?
Ok, benefit of the doubt and all, but the nagging little thought kept rearing itself in my head: He's afraid because she has no shoes on. I say nothing and we part company.
I think to myself, well, maybe she had a bad day, which after that work and not being able to run the way she really wanted to, she actually did. The poor girl was downright depressed.
We go home, spirits dulled a bit by not having our expectations fullfilled but that's racing, you move on to another day and try again.
A couple of days later, I ship in with two others of my string, both barefoot, for their first works.
Again, the guy is late. Matter of fact, he is so late that I end up putting someone else on the first horse. Unfortunately, this filly (The Spicemeister) is one of those very stubborn babies who will only do something if she thinks it was HER idea. Apparently this guy, who had tried to cover up his late night with a bottle by overuse of cologne, somehow couldn't figure out the instructions he was given. Matter of fact, both Tom and I kept looking around the track from the clocker's tower to see where she was and never saw her. Neither did the clocker. No official time.
Getting back to the barn, we see he is already back with her. She isn't breathing like she even jogged. "I just couldn't get her to go".
Gee, thanks a bunch.
Then the rider from the last two works shows up and gets on the gelding. This boy we know can run. He's one of those ADHD personalities who won't walk straight to save his life, head turning this way and that, looking at this and that, looking anywhere but where he is going. But when it comes to running, you better watch out. He LOVES to compete. He absolutely does not like another horse passing him.
So the guy gets on him, I say nothing about the fact that he has no shoes on.
He goes out there and starts warming him up. I'm in the clocker's tower talking to the clocker.
He passes the 1/8 pole. No increase in speed.
Ok, maybe he wants to REALLY warm him up, right?
He proceeds to gallop past us for the second time, at which point now the clocker is leaning out of the window yelling: "Ok, right here- let him go! Switch his leads! Hell, do SOMETHING!!!"
Amazing. No work, no time. The guy comes back and tells me some story about well, he couldn't find his feet. He really needs shoes on. It's a really deep track out there.
I'm gritting my teeth, trying to refrain from making a caustic comment.
He goes on his way. Good riddence, I say. No point in arguing, I just won't use the guy again.
Tom is laughing. "I told you he is a chicken s@#%".
Yea yea, coulda shoulda woulda. Hindsight is 20/20.
What gets me about everyone one of these riders is that they will all say the same thing- can't find traction, can't run hard, etc etc. Thing about that is that 99.9% of them have NEVER, not once, EVER galloped a horse barefoot at a racetrack. They simply repeat what they have heard. Clueless.
So, yes, everyone is an expert at the backside.