Race Horse Training
Trainer Russell Harris shares his inside secrets for creating a good gate horse.
April 14, 2014
From The American Quarter Horse Racing Journal
Working the horse-racing gates can be a dangerous job, but renowned trainer Russell Harris works with his young racehorses to make the process a little safer.
Gate training begins with familiarizing the horse with the gate. This includes letting the horse have a good look at the gate, then walking him through repeatedly.
Russell says his key to creating a good gate horse is patience.
He keeps these seven steps in mind when training young horses to start on the racetrack:
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- Russell ensures his horses are thoroughly conditioned to the gate before they start in a race.
- He also takes the process slowly. Russell lets a solid month go by before he begins shutting the horses in the stalls.
- Once his horses are comfortable with that, he opens the gates by hand and lets the horse walk out.
- Additionally, he never tries to force his horses to break out of the gate. Instead, he teaches them to follow the doors.
- Russell never uses a whip to get a horse out of the gate. Instead, he and his assistants will work on the gate more often until the horse is following those doors.
- If Russell has an older horse with gate anxiety, he’ll start at square one.
- Typically, Russell says he doesn’t use flipping halters on his horses, unless he gets a horse from somebody else that he doesn’t have enough time to fix before the horse has to hit the racetrack again.
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And once the horse is trained for his job and ready to go, the gate crew is ready and waiting to help the horse do his best.
“Those guys do a good job, and if you have a problem, say, from the last time he ran, or he has got a little history, you’ll refresh the starter’s memory or he’ll refresh yours,” Russell says. “Most of them are real good about working with you – you’re going up there as a team, trying to figure it out.”