We caught up with three time RRP Thoroughbred Makeover champion Lindsey Partridge to learn about her horsemanship and training practices with off-track Thoroughbreds. Partridge may be best known for her Florida-bred retired Thoroughbred racehorse Here Comes Adri who accompanied her into her hotel in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s the versatility of Partridge’s off-track Thoroughbred mounts that caught our attention. There is much to be learned from Partridge’s commitment to connect mentally and emotionally with her horses opening up their ability to conquer so many disciplines- notably without normal tools of control and restraint like bridles.
TAN: Tell us a little about your farm and business:
LP: I run an equestrian facility with my husband and team in Pontypool, Ontario called Partridge Horse Hill. It’s been an evolving labour of love. When we purchased it there was just a barn and run in shelter. Now are property has an indoor ring, brand new shelters, new safe fencing everywhere (we have the flex fencing from System Fencing), a round pen, outdoor lit ring, many obstacles, and more. We have a few different coaches that work at our facility and teach summer camps, toddler programs, riding lessons, birthday parties, horse training and more.
The training technique I founded in 2015 is Harmony Horsemanship. I really had to think about how I work with horses and organize the information into exercises that others can learn and understand. The premise of Harmony Horsemanship is to understand yourself, your horse and the language that connects you. A key piece of Harmony Horsemanship is to learn how to establish a partnership by moving together before starting to train or teach your horse anything – this part of the Harmony Training Continuum is called finding a calm connection.
TAN: When did you start training horses?
LP: I’ve been training horses since I was 16 years old. People at the farm I boarded at liked what I was doing with my horse and asked for help. That evolved over the years and I ended up helping training horses from many different breeds and backgrounds including taming wild mustangs, working with gaited breeds, off the track Thoroughbreds, quarter horses, rescues, warm-bloods, draft crosses, and more.
Growing up I mostly competed in the jumper ring and enjoyed trail riding – so a lot of my training involved jumping and confidence building for trails/jumping. I also competed in English/Western pleasure, hunter, speed events (barrel racing, pole bending, down & back), showmanship, and trail for a couple years and won the Open Charlie’s Pride Memorial Award for versatility for two years in a row as a teenager.
TAN: How did you fall in love with horses?
LP: My love for horses began when my older sister brought me to March Break horse camp. After that we rode in lessons together and I became hooked. Interestingly my first pony I fell in love with was named Peanut. That pony was a saint and I have so many good memories – I now have a Peanut of my very own (she came with the name). After that Dusty and Blue were too senior horses that taught me a lot. My sister moved on to swimming, but I stuck with horses and have never looked back since. My parents bought me my first horse when I was 13yrs old – a bay Quarter Horse gelding named Mission. He was a horse that taught me a lot and boosted my confidence.
TAN: How did you start retraining OTTBs?
LP: I came across OTTBs when I was helping others with their horses, but I purchased my first two OTTBs from auction when I was in high school. I retrained them for hunter/jumper and then found them new homes with students. During university I would do some retraining of OTTBs as a way to keep riding without needing to own a horse personally. Then, in my last year of university, I bought myself two chestnut Thoroughbred mares. Both of them ended up be talented jumpers.
When the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover happened in 2015, I decided to take on OTTB ownership again with my competition mounts.
TAN: What do you look for in a Thoroughbred?
LP: When I am choosing an OTTB I care most about soundness and their ability to do the future job I am interested in. Race horses are elite athletes and it is common for them to sustain injuries or have some muscle soreness/tightness. Many injuries can be successfully healed and rehabbed with the horse able to do many different types of jobs. It is important to know what the injuries are, what rehabilitation has been done, and what further conditioning, healing, or treatment is needed for the horse to be ready in starting a second career.
I don’t look at the horse’s temperament because I find that many OTTBs change after they have been allowed time to rest and learn a new job. When I went to pick up Trivia Time for example, she was rearing and kicking out. She definitely looked like a wild one, but I brought her home. A few months later we were riding bridle-less and now I am competing with her in bridle-less jumpers and extreme cowboy racing.
TAN: What are three common practices of horse training that you avoid?
LP: It seems that there is a lot of advice out and usually it is based on people’s experience. My experience has been that if you can connect with a horse’s mind, it is so much easier to train their body. Meaning that if you can get a horse calm and trusting of you, then it is so much easier to teach them about collection, jumping, trail, or whatever it is that you want to teach their body to do.
For that reason I would recommend NOT doing…
• Giving the horse time off with no human interaction. Although down time is nice for horses, I think it helps reduce anxiety and stress in horses when humans keep interacting with them in positive ways. This could be gentle liberty work, hand walking, or even just grooming and basic tasks. Having these good experiences with humans and can help the horse enjoy being with their new human, feel less stressed about what is expected of them and where they are, and help them develop an attachment to a human and not just other horses.
• Lunging. Lunging a horse to work on their physique can be one of the most disconnecting tasks for a horse – especially lunging in side reins where the horse doesn’t have the freedom to stretch or bend right/left when needed. Although lunging can have many physical benefits, I encourage you to connect with the horse’s mind first. If you are going to lunge, then try Interactive Lunging.
• Obsessing about their weight. Racehorses are lean running athletes. They have very little fat on their bodies and a lot of lean muscle. When they stop galloping they are going to drop a lot of muscle, but they won’t yet have the fat and are going to look skinny. However if you try to pack on the weight immediately you can make the horse highly energetic and prone to digestive upsets. I feed my horses unlimited first cut hay, free choice harvest salt, free choice loose minerals, and access to clean water. This way they can get the essential nutrients they needs. Then I add daily grain for some extra protein, fat, and fibre while they transition and are in work – but not to the point of over feeding grain that they have stomach upsets, or get overly energetic. They also get the Omega Alpha Biotic 8 and Gastra Fx to help them get the most out of their grain and keep their digestive tract healthy. I find after a year my OTTBs can stay healthy and a bit pudgy on just hay and free choice salt and minerals. Only my performance horses get daily grain.
TAN: What are your top three tips for retraining an OTTB?
1. Get them healthy. First and foremost is to start getting them to their healthy best self. For my OTTBs I suspect of ulcers or are sensitive to touch on their bellies I give them Regenerex-EQ. We do their teeth, pull their racing shoes and start barefoot trims to allow their hooves to grown and soles to toughen (sometimes I need to use Scoot Boots until their hooves improve), start massage and chiropractic care as needed, and use the Accuhorsemat to improve their backs.
2. Start calm connection work. These are the exercises from the Harmony Training Continuum that focus on moving together to establish trust, passive leadership, and partnership. The same way that horses in a new space would travel together like a school of fish would move together. This will help the horse feel relaxed when working with their new human partner and will better be able to focus and learn.
3. Get equipment fits. It is so important to check your equipment for the right fit. I typically start all of my horses bit-less in the Fusion Halter to get them back into work so I can stay out of their mouth for awhile and they learn that what we are doing now is so different. I find Thoroughbreds can be sensitive so I look for equipment that keeps the horse’s comfort in mind. I use ThinLine saddle pads for their impact protection and cotton breathability. I use the Tapestry Comfort Girth because I find it makes a difference on how my horse’s move and receive the girth. I protect their legs with impact protection boots during training sessions with poles or obstacles so I can keep their confidence high.
TAN: Tell us about your favorite OTTBs:
LP: My Thoroughbreds that I compete in freestyle at the Thoroughbred Makeover definitely have a special place in my heart because of all the hours and experiences we have shared together.
• Soar was my first in 2015 and won the America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred title. She is definitely a special horse and has gone on to star in two films and a football commercial. I don’t have the time to personally keep up on her training, but one of my students part board’s her and takes weekly lessons with her. It is so great to see what they accomplish and what a talented jumper Kahleesi is.
• Trivia Time is my dual champion from 2016 that won both Trail and Freestyle. That is a moment I will never forget and a freestyle routine that will probably be remembered for ever- riding bareback and bridle-less with the big 50ft tarp that covers us at the end while she lies down. I am very excited to be focusing on her again competing bridle-less in both jumpers and extreme cowboy racing. She is definitely an incredible partner that I trust so much.
• Bowdrie – my 2017 makeover horse that finished 2nd in both Trail and Freestyle. He is such a neat horse that is so trainable and knows a ton of tricks. His freestyle routine was also pretty memorable with the big blue tarp but also balloons. He is such a sweetie and right now we are trying him out for our lesson program. I am hoping that he connects well with one of my students.
• Of my other OTTBs, The Bowie Van (Little) is proving to be an amazing lesson horse and will always be a superstar winning the 2017 Trail competition with 15yr old student Franny, and Here Comes Adri (Blizz) will forever be remembered as the horse in the hotel.
TAN: What’s ahead for you in 2018?
LP: This year I am not competing in the Thoroughbred Makeover. I decided to focus on the horses I already have and improve our skills together. My goal is to qualify for Worlds in Extreme Cowboy with Trivia Time (riding bridle-less), Dreamer (riding in a bit), and Peanut (riding in a bitless Fusion halter).
I am also dabbling in a few jumper shows with Trivia Time riding bridle-less. So far we did our first competition in 0.9m and finished reserve champion. We have a couple more jumper shows planned and I’m excited to raise the bar.
TAN: How can we follow your progress?
LP: Anyone interested in Harmony Horsemanship can check out www.HarmonyHorsemanship.ca or interested in my facility can check out www.PartridgeHorseHill.com
I post free videos on my Harmony Horsemanship YouTube channel and you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook with @lindseyphh or @harmonyhorsemanshiptm