Balancing nature and nurture key to success

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Lance Noble with his super mare Viadana

Passion and heart are what drive horse trainer Lance Noble to be at the top of his game, nurtured from a young age by world-class mentors.

The Matamata trainer’s passion for horses began at an early age, spending time at family stables in Wellington with his uncle John Carter, who trained 1964 Melbourne Cup winner Polo Prince. Joining the Waikato Equine Cadets in 1985, Lance was mentored by industry stalwart Jim Gibbs for the next 12 years and then went on to travel the world working with horses and their trainers, before returning to New Zealand.

Now owner of Lance Noble Racing with his wife Leigh, Lance has around 40 horses in training at any one time, with clients from throughout the country and overseas.

Lance’s current prize pupil and the most successful horse he has produced, Viadana, won two Group One races last season, including the WFA Fillies and Mares race at the Fiber Fresh Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes in Te Aroha. The now retired Annie Higgins has been another of Lance’s top performers.

But as many well know, nothing is guaranteed in the racing world.

“You’ve always got to be looking forward – you can’t rest on what you did last year. It’s all about having patience and looking at developing new horses coming through. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s a real pleasure to see when clients’ horses do well.”

Lance says Viadana was a “ratbag” in her early days, taking a while to mature both mentally and physically before coming into her own.

“Horses are like teenagers, some mature later than others. It all comes down to assessing talent early on, being honest with clients and staff about the animals’ potential, and then seeing the plan through. That’s really where passion and tenacity come in.”

Lance says training successful horses is about finding the perfect balance between explosiveness and controllability. He acknowledges that it’s a bit of a contradiction, wanting a horse to be as powerful and fast as possible while still maintaining control, but one which can be well managed through diet.

“We want our race horses to be explosive and full of energy, but you’ve also got to be able to maintain control. One way to do that is by feeding the right levels of nutrients and energy for the best possible performance.

“Quality fibre is hugely important, as if diets are too heavily starch-based, horses can develop stomach ulcers and other digestive problems, which lead to behavioural issues as well. We have been using FiberProtect from Fiber Fresh for the past 10 years to mix with our oats and grain to provide that nutritional balance and bulk required for optimal health and performance.”

Lance says by feeding high nutritional fibre in the form of Lucerne (alfalfa) contained in FiberProtect, his horses hold their weight and condition well throughout their development. As a moist feed, it also reduces dust and respiratory issues in the stable as well.

“When horses are younger, you want to feed them more. But when they get closer to racing condition, they need to be fitter and trimmer in order to be able to run faster. Feeding Fiber Fresh allows that to happen. It also provides energy without heating horses up and keeps the balance between energy and control in check.”