When yearlings enter sales preparation at Bhima Thoroughbreds, they also enter into a routine that will stay the same until they ship to the sale complex.
“Horses are a creature of habit, just like humans,” said Melissa Jordan, Bhima’s Yearling Manager. “So, by trying to keep things simple and the same daily, both horse and staff know what to expect. This keeps everyone happy. After a few weeks in prep the horse knows when it’s feed time, when it’s yard time and when it’s work time. You see them start to thrive and enjoy life. This then allows you to get the best out of them.”
The day starts at 6.00 a.m. for Bhima yearlings when they go to the walker for half an hour. This is their first exercise of the day and one that helps them focus on the rest of the day. Their walker time allows them to get out any pent up energy they have after a night in the boxes.
Once the horses have spent their allotted time on the walker, they head out to the paddocks for two hours. The biggest benefit to turn out isn’t for the humans but for the mental and physical well-being of the horses.
Once they have time outside, it’s back to focusing on the day’s prep routine with the horses getting groomed and any potential treatments being performed. While the horses enjoy the session, it also plays an important part in the health of the horse’s coat and muscles.
“Grooming as often as possible is not only to remove the hair, it also helps to create healthy skin and stimulates blood flow which helps with muscle development,” Jordan explained. “Horses are shampooed at least once a week. If it has been hot or there are early morning parades, they will be hosed off to remove dirt and sweat.”
Most days the yearlings will then be shown off to potential buyers during the daily parade times with people stopping by in the late morning or early afternoon to look at any horses Bhima has in prep at that time. Horses and staff then get to relax while the staff goes to lunch after parades are done before afternoon tasks begin.
This starts with the horses being hand walked for half an hour. As both horses and humans get fitter, the time is lengthened to keep up with the added fitness of the yearlings after a few weeks of a structured fitness program.
“Things change as prep evolves,” Jordan said. “Some horses feed may increase/decrease or stay the same as they develop. Walker times and speeds increase as the horses develop fitness and strength and afternoon hand walks become longer once the staff become fitter as well.”
At 4.00 p.m. it’s time to wrap up for the day with horses rugged and fed their dinner before the staff heads home for the night. However this is another thing that slighty changes as the horses get farther into prep and used to the routine.
“Things become quicker to complete as prep continues, with the horse becoming more aware of their surroundings and understanding what’s happening each day,” she said. “Most days run the same hour-by-hour but there are still other things that require attention out on the farm with other yearlings. So, some days are allocated to this.”
After 10 weeks in this schedule during the on-farm prep, the yearlings have to learn a new routine once they get to the sale grounds. While the yearlings can still anticipate being fed at the same time every morning, that is the only thing that is the same as their life on the farm.
“Once the horse hits the sale complex, a whole new routine is formed,” Jordan said. “About the only thing that stays the same is the morning feed time. We all know that there is always someone wanting to look at yearlings late, so rugging and feeding in the afternoon is done once things settle down. This could be different each day but we try to complete by 4.30 p.m. as by then the staff and horse are ready for some peace and quiet.”
While prep season includes long days and sometimes stressful situations, Jordan has a mantra she lives by for both her horses and employees to get the best out of everyone and make sure her yearlings are prepared to perfection.
‘Happy Staff, Happy Horse.’ ‘Happy Horse, Happy Staff.’
“For me this is a key requirement to get the best out of any horse in preparation.”