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Running Down a Dream
Bob Carson takes new owners from sales ring to turnout
written by Bob Carson

Chapter 7 - Daily Routine
'The Letter'
By Wayne Carson Thompson - The Box Tops, #1 in 1975

Photo Source: Wikipedia

February 12, 2011

Hello All,

Every trainer has a slightly different style.  When we decided to race in PA (primarily because the purses in PA are much more lucrative than in Ohio) we chose Marty Wollam because his training farm straddles the PA/Ohio border. I simply walked up to Marty at a horse sale a few years ago and asked if he was taking on any new horses. 

Marty has built a reputation over four decades as a solid, no-nonsense horseman. Marty is a quiet professional. He will answer every question. His answers are simple and clear, but for the most part, he lets your horse do the talking. This is probably a good policy.

Marty has a lot of horses in his care, (more than 40) and is very busy, very hands-on. Although he has a very capable assistant in Al Manke and a fine staff, Marty jogs horses each morning and races most evenings. It’s a grueling schedule and, as owners, we try not to be intrusive. 

A few months after we had our first horse with Marty, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter in the mail. In the letter he took the time to explain his training style. It was helpful and I think you will find it interesting. 

Hello Bob,

I don’t think I have ever taken the time to explain how and why I train horses the way I do.

In the case of 2-year-olds, I think it is very important to put a solid foundation under them before asking them to go full tilt.  That is why I jog them daily for three months before starting to time their miles. This is not to say I never ask the 2-year-olds for speed during this time, but I never ask them to go fast for more than an eighth or a quarter of a mile.

I think the 2-year-olds need to develop their muscles, coordination, lung capacity, and their mental attitude during this time.  Many of them are still growing and all of them have a lot of maturing to do during this time. I don’t like to put a lot of stress on them nor do I like to make them use their joints hard during the time they are growing and maturing.

In late February and on into March, I begin a training schedule. I train two times each week and jog the other four days.  I try to give at least two days of jogging between training trips. For the first several months, training consists of jogging at about a 3:30 clip for a mile and a half or two miles and then turning the right way on the track and going a timed training trip.  Over this period I drop the time the horses train about four to six seconds per week.  The weather and the track conditions have a lot to do with the speeds I go. I don’t worry so much about time.  The conditioning is the important thing during this time as well as developing the mental attitude of the 2-year-olds.

Once I am training in the low 2:30’s, I will start adding another training trip, the second trip being the faster of the two miles.  I think this also builds their physical condition, stamina, and in many cases really changes a horse’s attitude.  Many times the horses will become much more aggressive once we start training two trips. I then give the horses a break the next day. They rest in the stall or if the weather is nice we turn them out in a paddock.  I train twice a week and will train fast one time then back off a little the next. Like all athletes, the horses need to develop the ability to go fast for a long period.  I use the slower days to teach them how to race. I leave the first eighth pretty good, then switch position some in the middle and then brush the last eighth so they know to race to the wire and beyond.

I know that time is an important measure of the progress a 2-year-old is making. The first question I am asked by many at this time of the year is how much have you been with your horse (how fast have they gone).  I don’t think that is important at all. If they are training well, good-gaited, behaving properly, then I am confident they are on schedule.  Most horses can go fast.  The key is when do they reach their limit of speed and stamina. I can’t make a horse go fast; I can only develop the natural ability the horse has. If I don’t have the proper conditioning under a horse and he goes out and goes a very fast mile, the chances of him injuring himself are much greater than if he is in proper condition. The conditioning also will show several weeks into the the racing career of the horse. My experience has shown that the horses stay sound longer with good conditioning under them.

I train the 3-year-olds the same way, but I only spend the first thirty days jogging before I start going timed training miles. I also bring the times down faster and instead of going one trip, I go what is called a double header (two trips). Here I jog a mile and a half and turn and go a training trip around 2:40 to 2:50. I then jog the horse back around slow, then turn and go the faster mile.  I feel this really adds to the horse’s wind and stamina. Once I have trained a double header in 2:25, I then add another training trip which then becomes the faster training mile. I train twice a week and one training trip is faster and one is slower but both are equally important training miles.
I hope I did not ramble too much and gave you a better understanding of how and why I train the way I do.


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Editor's Note: The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.

Bob Carson
Hoof Beats Magazine About the Author
Bob Carson's award-winning freelance writing has appeared in more than two dozen national publications. He is a steady contributor to Trot Magazine, The United States Trotting Association and Timeline Magazine. After more than 200 magazine articles and stories, his first novel, The Voyage of Mess (humor) was released in 2009. In 2005 he produced the documentary film, Touching Home (Minor League Baseball). In 2006 he received the Hervey Award for Journalistic Excellence and Best of Ohio Fiction awards. He has published Minor Trips (Minor League Baseball) since 1991. Bob Carson has owned harness horses for more than a decade, including a stint as a weekend trainer. He lives in Strongsville, Ohio, with his wife, Sue, and daughter, Katie.
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