The foundation for developing a successful sales performer and racehorse is nutrition. At Taylor Made we strive for consistent growth with as few rapid spikes as possible. In the winter, when grass is limited, we feed a custom mix sweet feed with 14% protein. This is combined with free choice hay that is primarily Timothy with some alfalfa mix. The hay's primary purpose is for fiber. As the grass becomes more plentiful and rich in the spring and early summer we lower the quantity of sweet feed and sometimes the protein level to 12%. We want to continue steady growth while avoiding obesity and hot joints (epiphysitis) which can lead to conformation problems in knees.
A good blacksmith is the unsung hero of the sales scene! Our blacksmith, Bobby Langley, is an integral part of our team. From birth he monitors our customer's foals making subtle adjustments (correction) every 14 to 28 days to keep the horse walking straight (correct). A good blacksmith works to minimize the number of corrective conformation surgeries needed and helps the ones which are needed become successful. Hoof care is a crucial part of prepping success. As the saying goes, "NO FOOT, NO HORSE". Good hoof maintenance includes picking the feet daily of debris followed by painting the sole and wall with a standard hoof dressing. Lastly, we like to massage the coronet band for one minute per foot twice a week with Corona, Contender or Reducine. Reducine is only necessary for small footed horses which need extra stimulus for growth.
From our thirty years of experience, the ability of a horse to walk in a brisk, athletic and willing manner for potential buyers can routinely have a 25 - 30% affect on price! This is not easily accomplished and takes time, patience and horsemanship. From weaning time on the entire farm team must train at every opportunity. If the horse is moving, it must be encouraged to do so with a purpose. In May of the yearling year more formal schooling begins. Yearlings need to be walked in small groups with a trainer on hand to constantly keep them on pace in an effort to develop an over stride and an athletic walk. Never allow the horse to drag behind, balk etc. without correction. Walking in a chifney bit, chain over their nose etc. will prepare them for different situations they may encounter at the sale.
Today's buyers want to see athleticism and not obesity or weakness. They do not want a "hot housed" horse with no bone and exaggerated muscle. They want weight, muscle and bone that show a glimpse of the look this horse will have when it reaches its peak on the racetrack. There are many different methods to accomplish this goal. At Taylor Made we do not use hand walking for fitness but only as a training tool. For fitness we use a sixty foot covered round pen where we exercise yearlings at a trot in both directions from ten to twenty minutes depending on the individual horses needs. The round pen has the added benefit of improving manners, showing etc. through the use of the "Advance and Retreat" method developed by Monty Roberts. We have used this for twenty years and have had great results, especially with colts that frequently needed added work to improve manners and discipline.
At Taylor Made we also have "European Style Free Walkers" in close proximity to all yearling barns. These walkers have no restraint on the yearlings head and they trot around the sixty foot circle with up to five other yearlings at the same time. We equip each yearling with a circingle and bridle with side reins to encourage good posture and a controlled gait so they use themselves properly. These walkers are incredibly efficient to get horses very fit. However, they need to be balanced with lots of hand walking. By themselves they will not teach the yearling to walk well with a handler at the sale.
Swimming is another very effective tool for prepping certain yearlings. We use swimming on horses which are difficult to get weight off of and those which have had joint or conformation problems and are not ready for the walker or round pen.
Grooming is a daily chore at Taylor Made that, when done right, is an art form. Each horse is groomed during prep on a daily basis. The general routine is being curry combed to remove shedding hair, brushed with a stiff brush to remove dirt, followed by a soft brush and rub rag to shine and train the coat. At Taylor Made we are fanatics about tails! We treat tails with baby oil and pepper spray when horses are turned out together in order to prevent chewing. We NEVER use combs in tails as they thin and pull out the hair. Hand detangling and brushing is the way to go!
During prep we hose our horses off after exercise daily but only use soap once a week. Skin disease is a dreaded enemy so wash brushes, towels and hands between grooming!
Nutrition Details: Prep ration should have a higher fat content. Beet pulp and corn oil are good fat sources. We also feed Body Builder or M.A.S.S. which contain Gamma Oryzawol. This is a natural derivative of rice bran oil that calms horse's nerves, stimulates muscle development and is good for hair coat.
Blacksmith/Hoof Care Details: Pick up rocks in field to avoid breaking up feet. Leave plenty of foot to work with leading up to the sale. Taylor Made can set the sales shoes for you if you like.
Training to Walk: Have a bucket of feed with you at the gate when you bring horses in. Giving them a bite at the gate will help them relax and focus on walking instead of dragging you to the barn in anticipation of the first bite!
Exercise: Don't overdo it. When a yearling starts to have their veins show slightly on their neck and shoulder you have done enough.
Grooming: Put a chifney in the horse's mouth while grooming. It will get them accustomed to it and desensitize their mouth to prevent being sore during long days at the sale.
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