Breaking In with Blair


High profile Australasian eventer Blair Richardson and his wife, Australian Olympic representative Nikki Richardson, are applying skills acquired during a lifetime with elite performance horses to future athletes of a different kind.

The couple is enjoying the challenge of providing a solid foundation for future racetrack stars at their well-appointed Vantage Hill property in the heart of Scone. They break and pre-train thoroughbreds for a growing number of prominent studs, breeders and owners.

Blair applies the same rigorous principles to thoroughbreds destined to race as he does to his own performance horses, because he says a well-educated racehorse should display the same attributes as a performance horse.

``They should be moving forward accepting the bit confidently, balanced and relaxed in a range of environments, happily working in company or alone, and accepting an even, steady contact,'' Blair says.

Every horse's diet is individually assessed and closely monitored. Blair works closely with Mitavite nutritionists to ensure horses receive the optimum feed for their growth and energy output.

Horses sent to Vantage Hill for critical early education are fully shod and assessed by an equine dentist.

``What we don't want is a horse developing resistance or bad habits because of an undiagnosed problem in their mouth,'' Blair explains.

Blair is very particular about minimizing injuries and all horses wear protective boots. ``From day one until they day they leave, they are educated in boots which offer protection if something goes wrong and support the developing fetlock joint,'' he says.

The next step is work in the Capricorn Soiltex arena—surfaced preferred at leading equestrian establishments globally.

``Once they are nice and balanced we take them down across the creek and to the paddock where our track is located. Ducks often fly up as they cross the water and they learn not to be startled. It is a great natural environment and they enjoy cantering out in company in the open.''

``When they are well-accustomed to cantering with other horses, we start their barrier education, in their final week.

``They become confident going in and out of them, using an experienced lead horse to start with.''

As their preparation progresses, horses are ridden in very light Bates Wintec jump saddles featuring CAIR panels and custom-fitted gullets for a good fit. The saddles are similar to a traditional exercise pad and enable a forward riding position.

Vantage Hill boasts two highly-experienced young horsewomen as full time grooms and work riders—both compete at Two Star level.

``I am not into gadgets at all with my hoses, and never have been—it is about hand to leg contact, whether it is a horse being trained for an International event or for a future racehorse,'' Blair says.

Blair does not hesitate to take horses for a swim in the pool at nearby Scone Racecourse if he believes they will benefit from it.

``I am very conscious that at this stage, all owners are keen to know how their horse is going, and I am on the phone constantly with updates,'' he adds.

``Of course we are keen to take horses back, once they are broken in, for pre-training too.''

Vantage Hill is a well-established pre-training centre.

Phone Blair on 0427 225 352 to give your horse the Vantage Hill advantage.