Horse Training

SPECIAL TRAININGBeth and Tamay training Ben and Kippy

There is a protocol for training off track thoroughbreds at QHTR.

These thoroughbreds need special training to transition to their new environment. Training for the races is different from the training they will now receive Ben and Kippy, early morning gallop in a new program.

Before training for new careers these are some of the issues that will need to be addressed: attitude adjustment, trust, temperament, muscle development, use of bits, different training commands, heavier riders, different saddles and stirrup lengths, freedom of a paddock, and a new feeding program.

When the off track  thoroughbred is acclimated to their new home, they will be better prepared to train for new careers, new types of competitions, and lots of other adventures.

Horse training at QHTR is multifaceted:Little Filly, ground work

  • Ground Work
  • Trail Riding
  • Dressage
  • Stadium Jumping
  • Cross Country
  • Eventing

Ground Work

The concept of ground work and the use of lead line training is to help the horse focus and develop rapport with the rider/trainer. Doing lunging exercises also warms the horse, stretching muscles before  going on trail rides or practicing  jumps.

Trail  Riding

A major goal at Queen of Hearts Thoroughbred Retirement is to have a trail system circling the property with three levels of difficulty. The different levels will be marked with color coded horseshoes. The trails provide a way for horses to stay fit and respond to new commands and experiences. These trails are not open to the public, but are for training only.

We are in the process of adding new trails, some longer than others. One main trail will go along the road for the length of the property.

Another set of trails follows the rock walls that are lined with tall ferns. The rock walls meander into the woods and section off the areas creating easy trails to follow and trails that are more challenging.

One trail goes down to the stream, crosses it, and continues  upwards to the top of the mountain.  At the top of the mountain there is a beautiful  moss clearing where you can rest your horse, have a picnic, and view the White Mountains.

The trails need to be cleared of  rocks, fallen branches and trees.  Muddy ruts have to be filled in and leveled.  Tree branches need to be trimmed to a high level so riders do not get thrown off their horse.  Some trees and their roots need to be removed.  Trail markers need painting, and trails have to be marked.

Each year we are making  progress but we need a lot of help. If you would like to volunteer – Contact Us 


Dressage is a French term, which means training. It is a highly skilled form of riding performed in exhibition and in competition.

Riders often use dressage as a way of  improving a horse’s performance.  Training a horse in dressage develops skills in  obedience, strength, flexibility, accuracy and balance. These skills translate to other areas such as trail riding, stadium jumping and eventing.

Dressage helps the horse and rider communicate with each other resulting in a balanced, harmonious team. When you watch a dressage exhibition you will notice the communication between horse and rider becomes so subtle that the horse seems to be performing on its own without any input from the rider.

Before Training

Dressage training needs some preparation.  An excited horse is not able to learn.  This is where ground work exercises can help teach a horse to stay relaxed and focused in any circumstance and from any outside influences. When you prepare a horse before training, the horse will listen to the trainer and learn more effectively.

The warm-up can use cavaletti  to strengthen the hind-legs and muscles.  Cavaletti work is a motivation for horses.
Some canter work can also be  part of the warm up.

Training and Competing

Horses and riders of all ages take part in dressage competitions.
Kippy dressage testJudges look for certain qualities in horse and rider, including accuracy, energy, relaxation, consistency, rhythm, tempo, balance.

There are different dressage equitation transitions and skills you can follow to begin your training:

Free walk
Transitions from one gait to the next
Transitions from walk to halt and halt to walk
Transitions from  trot to walk and back to trot
Change of direction across the diagonal or in half circle at walk or trot

Lendon Gray promoted the concept of dressage equitation classes and now there are medal classes and finals sponsored by the USEF/USDF. Read More. . .
Dressage is one of the few equestrian sports that is an Olympic event. It is also the fastest growing equestrian sport in the country.

Stadium Jumping

Stadium jumping tests the technical jumping skills of the horse and rider, including suppleness, obedience, fitness and athleticism. There are usually 12–20 fences set up in a ring. These fences are often brightly colored and consist of Cori jumping cross countryelements that can be knocked down, unlike cross country obstacles

Cross Country

Cross country equestrian jumping is an endurance test that forms one of the three phases of the sport of eventing. It may also be a competition in its own right, known as hunter trials or simply cross country.

The object of the endurance test is to prove the speed, endurance and jumping ability of the true cross country horse when he is well trained and brought to the peak of conditioning.  At the same time, it demonstrates the rider’s knowledge and experience.


Eventing  (also known as horse trials) is an equestrian triathlon where a single horse and rider combination compete against other combinations across the three disciplines of dressage, cross country, and show or stadium jumping.  All three events can be completed in one day (dressage, followed by show jumping and then cross country).

Dressage Phase
The dressage phase (held first) consists of an exact sequence of movements ridden in an enclosed arena usually 20×40 m. The test is judged by one or more judges who are looking for balance, rhythm, suppleness, and most importantly, obedience of the horse and its harmony with the rider. The challenge is to demonstrate that a supremely fit horse, capable of completing the cross country phase on time, also has the training to perform in a graceful, relaxed and precise manner.

Please note that dressage work is the basis of all the other phases and disciplines within the sport of eventing because it develops the strength and balance that allow a horse to compete in cross country and show jumping competently.

Cross-country Phase
Cross country jump - NormThe next phase, cross country, requires both horse and rider to be in excellent physical shape and to be brave and trusting of each other. This phase consists of approximately 12–20 fences (lower levels), or 30–40 at the higher levels, placed on a long outdoor circuit. These fences consist of very solidly built natural objects (logs, stone walls, etc.) as well as various obstacles such as ponds and streams, ditches, drops and banks, and combinations based on objects that would commonly occur in the countryside. Speed is also a factor, with the rider required to cross the finish line within a certain time frame.

Crossing the finish line after the optimum time results in penalties for each second over.  For every “disobedience” (refusal or run-out of a jump) a horse and rider incur on course, penalties will be added to their dressage score. After four disobediences altogether or three disobediences at one fence the pair is eliminated, meaning they can no longer participate in the competition. A horse and rider pair can also be eliminated for going off course, for example missing a fence.

If the horses shoulder and hind-quarter touch the ground, mandatory retirement is taken and they are not allowed to participate further in the competition. If the rider falls off the horse they are eliminated. However, in the US this rule is currently Kippy stadium jumpingbeing revised for the Novice level and below. The penalties on cross country are weighted severely relative to the other phases of competition to emphasize the importance of courage, endurance and athleticism. Fitness is required as the time allowed will require a strong canter at the lower levels, all the way to a strong gallop at the higher events.

Stadium jumping Phase
Stadium or show jumping is the final phase of eventing competition and tests the technical jumping skills of the horse and rider, including suppleness, obedience, fitness and athleticism. In this phase, 12–20 fences are set up in a ring.

These fences are typically brightly colored and consist of elements that can be knocked down, unlike cross country obstacles. This phase is also timed, with penalties being given for every second over the required time. In addition to normal jumping skills, eventing show jumping tests the fitness and stamina of the horse and rider, generally being held after the cross-country phase.