One of Palm’s most recent students was “Mac”, a Puissance De Lune colt owned by VRC member and equestrian rider Georgia Connolly who is a childhood friend of Palm’s wife Cassie.
“He started with me in June and he’s giving me a nice feel. He’s been pretty good, took the average five or six weeks. I said to Georgia I’m not sure that he’ll be really fast, but if he’s not he’ll be quite a nice performance horse,” Palm said.
Mac, along with most of Palm’s students, was under saddle for the first time after about five days. Older ponies work closely alongside the young thoroughbreds to reassure them and help build confidence; they know their way around the tracks at Regulator and help to show the young racehorses the way forward.
“If a horse is a bit fractious or a bit hesitant it’s amazing how helpful the pony can be. I find that more often than not less is more. If I take an extra day or two to get a horse used to something they are unsure about, I usually end up about five days ahead,” he said.
Once a horse is used to being ridden under saddle, the education process moves through phases of gentle work on tracks with partners, then through barriers – slow and gradual work that builds confidence so a horse can use their speed under race conditions.
“If all is going well, they’re ready for a little practice jump out from the barriers by about the fifth week, then they can go off to their trainer. As long as they are relaxed and happy, then I’m happy. It’s all about the horse being relaxed,” he said.
Mac may not have stood out immediately as a future star, but others have. Group 1 winner Princess Jenni was always a stand-out and it seems that quality does shine through, even from a very young age.
“Some of them just want to work against you and you wonder how they’re ever going to win a race,” Palm said.
“But I definitely think the good ones show you early. You can feel the difference in them, you can feel the quality. They’re just true athletes and when you find one, well, it’s pretty exciting.”