The cost of training is $1350 per month, or $45 per day. Horses are generally ridden 5 days per week, though it may be more or less depending on the needs of the horse. Our program is different for every single horse in our care, but most fit into one of the following categories:
Starting Young Horses
We don’t like to brag about how quickly our young horses progress, because we don’t want to be in a hurry, but we don’t mind bragging that we are really, really good at it. We are lucky to have a quiet setting, a very experienced ground person, tactful riders, and even an outstanding lead pony to help with the tougher ones. We start them indoors with no distractions, move them outdoors when they are trotting under saddle with some basic understanding of leg and rein aids, get them on the trails early, and canter when they are ready.
We can send them home after a month, two months, or keep them here longer and get them well on their way to their new career. If they are heading to the racetrack we make a point of instilling bravery, building a base of fitness on hills, and working in groups. Our training is more diversified than what is found at most Thoroughbred training centers.
We have trained horses for four different dressage judges, many dressage riders, and many owners who believe that their horses are best suited to a career in dressage. Michelle takes great pride in her ability to get every horse that comes to us moving actively forward and solidly on the aids, whether they are destined for the race track, the hunt field, the hunter ring, eventing, or dressage competition. We also do well with dressage horses who have started to sour and lose interest. We get them out on the trails, gallop them, and do a bit of “field dressage” to remind them of the joy of forward movement without sacrificing the connection that allows them to perform in the arena. We mix that with traditional work in the arena to ensure that the enthusiasm carries over to the place where it is needed.
As with all of our training, we strongly encourage owners to ride under our supervision before they take their horses home. Lessons are worked into the training program whenever possible.
Resolving Jumping Issues
We highly recommend introducing young horses to jumping with experienced and tactful riders. Our young horses rarely learn to rush fences, stop, or run out. Yours should also never learn these tricks, but don’t feel too guilty about it when they do. It happens.
We find that most horses (although not all) will adapt their jumping style to the balance and tact of their rider. When they learn to canter in balance and jump from a regular rhythm bad habits disappear. We school horses over logs on the trail, all kinds of fences in our jump field, and show jumps in the arena. We set up whatever we think they need and adhere to the principle that success builds confidence. Fear, anxiety, and tension are the enemies of success, and we go to great lengths to ask only what our horses understand.
Read more at "Free Jumping Fun" article by Steuart published in Practical Horseman explaining in detail how we free jump our horses.
Trail Work & Foxhunting
All of our horses spend time on the trails and in open fields at Dodon. There is something about a good long hack that settles a horse (and a rider) like nothing else. When the scenery changes constantly while the horse’s body is working in a regular rhythm at walk, trot, or canter, the newness of things begins to matter less. We want our horses alert to their surroundings, but also comfortable within them. We are lucky to have streams, hills, over 300 acres of woods, a power line, and open fields to work in.
Horses destined to be field hunters must lead, follow, gallop, and stand. We tailor our rides to those needs. Trail horses need all of that and exposure. All horses, however, should be trained to respond to their rider’s basic aids, so even a young foxhunter or trail horse in our program will do work in the ring to establish communication.
Moving Up a Level
In the sport of eventing, moving from one level to the next can be overwhelming, especially when it’s the first time for the horse and the rider. Over the last twenty years, Steuart has moved so many horses and riders from their first event to Beginner Novice, Novice, Training, or Preliminary that he has a clear and usually accurate sense of what issues need to be resolved, and when to make the move.
When a horse and rider come to us for training together we combine lessons, training rides, and days when the horse and rider are on their own. We tailor the program to get the job done.
Racehorses for Second Careers
Steuart Pittman is nationally known for his educational work about the training of retired racehorses. He created the charitable organization, Retired Racehorse Project, and gives clinics and demos on the topic throughout the country. More than half of the horses in training at Dodon are Thoroughbreds who raced. We take them fresh off the track or work with them later in life, but we are successful with them because we love them and owe them most of what we are as trainers.
Some of our clients are racing owners who want to ensure that their horses are launched in second careers with professional training and end up being sold rather than given away to uncertain futures. Some people actually buy an ex-racehorse as an investment and a good deed. We train the horse for them and sell it so that they can enjoy watching the process and have money to go do it again.
Most of the ex-racehorses we train are recently purchased or adopted by people who intend to keep the horse for themselves. We help to make the transition from race horse to sport horse and work with the owner to get them on the path to where they want to go.
Training for Sale
Many of our horses in training are offered for sale during their stays here at Dodon. As the seller's agent, we will advertise the horse for sale on a variety of websites such as Dreamhorse.com, equine.com, retiredracehorseproject.org, our Facebook page and others, as well as arrange for buyer visits and rides. While not required, we highly recommend providing us with the horse's most recent radiographs - especially if they are coming from the race track. This way we know what issues may come up in a pre-purchase exam and having a set of recent x-rays for comparison can be highly useful. At minimum for horses coming off the track, we suggest x-rays of all 4 fetlock joints.
**Because we get a lot of horses from high-traffic areas such as racetracks and sale barns, we request that all horses be vaccinated for Strangles prior to arrival (or be vaccinated by us on arrival)**