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How to Train an OTTB On the Flat for Three-Day Eventing

Submitted by member: Laura

I have just acquired a really nice young 5-year-old Off the Track Thoroughbred.  He is an athletic jumper and a really nice mover. My goals lie in the eventing world, and I have a question about how to start training him on the flat, being that dressage is a part of his future. Lately I have been hearing and reading a lot about more simple non-clashing aids, especially on young green uneducated horses. My background on the flat lies with the dressage training system and I am thinking now that this system may be confusing to my horse at this stage. Can you advise me on this please?

Answer by Jim Wofford

I love OTTB’s, but think we have to understand the Thoroughbred temperament to train them well. Instead of doing any dressage with him, I would first spend several months training him as if he were going to make his living as a green working hunter. I mean that he should walk, trot, and canter quietly on long/loose reins, taking his leads calmly and accurately, and trotting and cantering small gymnastics and mini-courses without speeding up.

Once you have him settled down, it will be time to introduce him to turns on the forehand and leg-yielding, which are the foundational exercises we use to introduce our horses to the magic of the inside leg to outside rein connection. The modern dressage “Training Scale” is quite correct, and I refer to it often in my teaching, but for TB’s I want you to go back to the historical precepts…”Calm, forward, straight.” How long will this take? I can’t say. But in situations like this, remind yourself that you always have to have more time than your horse. Good luck.

Video Recommendations:

Fundamentals of Flatwork Basic

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The first of the series, this video outlines a simple, progressive method of flatwork for all jumping disciplines. It focuses on the training of a young or inexperienced horse with the aim to achieve obedience to light rein and leg aids, and assumes the rider is familiar with the proper techniques of riding and jumping. But you do not have to be a highly experienced or seasoned rider because Bernie’s strategies are clear, straight-forward, classic and timeless. The Basic level highlights his favorite exercises that can be incorporated into anyone’s training program.
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Fundamentals of Flatwork - Part 2 - Intermediate - Bernie Traurig

Fundamentals of Flatwork – Part 2 – Intermediate
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If you have the Basic level down, you and your horse are ready for more of Bernie’s proven supplemental training techniques. In the Intermediate level, you’ll learn how to put the polish on your performance by blending these potent methods into your everyday training program. You will learn how to build on the fluency with which you and your horse have come to communicate. For most horses, mastering this level will be sufficient to perform well in any show ring.
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Bernie Traurig demystifies, clarifies and modernizes rein aids and their direct application in the show ring in this video, the first of a two part series. Youʼll learn the proper technique of each rein aid as well as the appropriate circumstances to apply them. By mastering rein aids and using them in conjunction with leg aids, youʼll have a powerful tool at your disposal, resulting in a superior performance.

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Controls Of The Horse Part Two – Leg Aids
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Bernie illustrates, for all the basic jumping disciplines, the significance of the correct position & timing of leg aids as a powerful blend with the rein aids. Teaching independent and prompt responsiveness to leg aids will result in clear, effective communication with your horse when used in conjunction with the rein aids for ultimate control in the ring.

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Jim Wofford

James C. (Jim) Wofford, 71, was born and raised on a horse farm in Milford, Kansas. He is a graduate of Culver Military Academy, and the School of Business at the University of Colorado (B.S. Bus. Admin. ’69). Wofford, a 3-time Olympian, has spent his life with horses, and is one of the best-known Eventing trainers in the world today. In 2000, Wofford was listed by the Chronicle of the Horse as one of the “50 Most Influential Horseman” of the 20th century, and in January of 2012, he was awarded the Jimmy A. Williams Trophy for Lifetime Achievement, horse sports’ highest honor. A Hall of Fame member of both the United States Eventing Association and Culver Military Academy, Wofford trains at his farm in Upperville, Va., and travels extensively, teaching and giving clinics.

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