Training Racehorses on the Trails - Beyond The Rail

Updated: Sep 3, 2019


Photo provided by Ashley Massengale

Ashley Massengale had been retraining OTTBs for six-years when she came across a horse that had no desire to be a riding horse. He had an injury that deemed him unable to race, but his heart wanted nothing else but to run. Ashley rehabbed him and then got to training him in the hills and trails. By the time she was finished with him, he could gallop thirteen miles and not be tired.


She knew she couldn’t keep him away from the racetrack so she raced him herself. He won again on his fourth start. It was a success story that changed the way Ashley Massengale thought about rehabbing racehorses.


“We [saw] the positive side of building stamina to build a stronger race horse. Balancing a horse to correctly use himself so he doesn’t break down,” Ashley explained. “When the body utilizes every inch properly they don’t wear out because everything is working efficiently”.


That success has led Ashley to train, balance, and condition racehorses for about four years now.


Ashley’s knowledge of horses runs deep. Her father and his partner owned a band of roughly 30 broodmares and 2 stallions. She grew up training Cutting horses and has a heavy background in breaking and training young horses. In addition to that, Ashley is from a family of chiropractors and massage therapists and is a trained massage therapist herself!


Her daily routine is rigorous, but helps many racehorses to improve their health and fitness levels.


“In the mornings I’ll go through and typically cold laser everyone’s backs so they’re loose and feeling good. Sometimes I load up a couple horses and we check out new places but I also have nice trails here at my house. My normal day is 7.5 miles and we can do that in about 40 minutes,” Ashely explained. “Then they cool down and hot walk while under saddle. By the time they’re back to the barn they get hosed and fed then I’ll go through and spot laser areas I felt needed attention - stifles, hocks, shoulder, etc.”


“I’m also a trained massage therapist so in my evenings I do body work and typically don’t get in the house until well after dark. I spend many hours with each horse and learn basically everything about them,” Ashley continued.


This routine keeps the horses under Ashley’s care happy and healthy. The constant change in scenery keeps them stimulated and they still get to do what they love - run and compete. “We fuel that competitiveness,” said Ashely.


Ashley doesn’t believe in the old school method of injecting and simply giving a horse time off and then retiring them if the horse doesn’t win when it returns. She believes that there is too much tunnel vision when training horses and that trainers need to look beyond the problem to find it’s source.


“I love when they send me a horse with an ‘ankle issue’ but in reality the problem is in the hind end and the horse is just over using that one leg.”


“I find the source, fix it, strengthen the under used and alleviate the over used areas so now the horse is balanced and running correctly,” Ashely explained. “Then we start building stamina and strength that they never knew they had. When they get entered into a mile race, that’s a cake walk to what they’ve been doing.”


“When the body isn’t conditioned for stamina and in the stretch they run out of juice, it starts pulling oxygen from lower extremities to protect the heart and lungs,” she continued. “Then you see blown tendons, broken ankles etc. Why not train 6 miles so 1 mile is easy?”


Ashley Massengale’s training methods are refreshing to see. It challenges other trainers and owners to think deeper about the rehabilitation and conditioning of their injured or out of luck racehorses. Her methods keep the horses in her care happy, healthy, and ready to win.


“I’m very passionate about what I do: I’m really hoping with all the new rules being placed on the racing industry it opens people’s eyes - we need to take a more forward thinking approach to how we treat these athletes.” - Ashley Massengale, Beyond The Rail


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