February and March have been particularly busy months at Abbey Thoroughbreds. Healthy rainfalls in January and February have produced lush paddocks and the horses are revelling in an abundance of quality grass to supplement their feeding programs. Jim has been busy educating Abbey Thoroughbreds’ horses, helping to educate our foals and yearlings, and attacking any weeds with his customary zeal (and trusty hoe).
This hands on approach to handling our foals and yearlings not only makes the walk-on, breaking-in and yearling sale process much easier, but gives the future trainer a really strong base to build on when the breaking, training and racing process gets into full swing.
Jim reckons that he started riding trackwork when he was as young as 10 years old. Of course, “real” horsemen didn’t wear vests or skull caps then. He rode in several amateur races, and reckons he had 5 rides for 4 wins. The fifth horse ran last after bucking the entire course. At last count he has trained over 870 winners. We haven’t been able to check these stats, so we will have to believe him. He stopped counting after his youngest son, Stephen Gleeson, largely took over the training side of the business about 9 years ago. He only trains now for a small group of friends and long term clients, some of which he has had for over 30 years.
Jim has been passing on his extensive knowledge of handling horses to the rest of our team for many years now. His principal mantra is that when it comes to handling young horses, “no d*!kheads should be allowed anywhere near them”. He handles foals regularly from a young age, having proved the more handling the better for good results later in life. By “groundwork”, Jim means extensive handling including brushing, grooming, hosing down, leading, tying up, rugging, stabling, etc. Foals even need to be taught to be tied up in a safe environment in order to become sensible and safe to deal with. “Mouthing” a horse and getting them used to a bit in their mouths from a young age results in a much easier breaking-in process.
Two very important factors in the handling process are horse safety and discipline.
Ensuring the physical safety of young horses is very important. Young foals and yearlings are very easily frightened and their in-built flight instincts are very strong. If a foal is frightened and cannot flee, it often rears on its’ hind legs as a means of escape. This is very dangerous. Foals with panicked legs can easily topple over and seriously harm themselves. Jim believes that 90% of ‘damaged’ horses are the result of human mistakes and some accidents can result in permanent damage which will affect a horse’s ability for its whole life. He always uses a tail-rope to ensure that horses stay on their feet.
Jim also believes that discipline (and how it is administered) is a very important factor in achieving a well-educated horse. He never hits a horse when he is on the ground. This will terrify a horse and they will lose trust forever. Knowing when to discipline and when not to is vital. Horses need to develop trust over time and understand that people will not hurt them.
This building of trust is also a strong part of the breaking-in process. Jim is shown here breaking in a yearling half-sister to Beautiful Romance, by Mutawaajid. Stephen Gleeson trained Beautiful Romance (by Beautiful Crown) to win 7 races (from 1100m to 1750m) and place an additional 8 times from 41 starts. She is now retired and in foal to Dane Shadow. Steve has had a lot of success with the progeny of Beautiful Crown having also trained Top Crown for 14 of his 15 wins, which we believe to be the highest number won by any of Beautiful Crown’s offspring to date.
Abbey Thoroughbred’s also have our own Beautiful Crown yearling (out of La Petite Coquette), in the upcoming Scone Select Yearling sale on Sunday May 19th 2013. He will be offered along with a lovely Tale Of The Cat colt, but more on this later. It all means no rest for Jim!
If you are interested in talking with us about agisting your mare or racehorse, and educating your horse, please call Melanie on 0407 803 746.