Sound minds lead to sound performance

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Top harness racing trainer Geoff Dunn

Canterbury harness trainer Geoff Dunn’s luck has changed over the past couple of seasons thanks to altering the way he trains, with a focus on pastoral care as much as the physical.

By keeping horses as sound as possible, which includes some “left-field” type training, Geoff’s equine charges have been flourishing, including his two current star performers Venus Serena and Tiger Tara.

Venus Serena was ranked the country’s best juvenile filly at the end of the 2013 season, while Tiger Tara won New Zealand’s best three year old male pacer after winning the Sires’ Stakes Final at Addington last year.

“I’ve been training for 28 years but my luck has finally changed over the last couple of seasons and we’ve had a really good run.

“I changed the way I train – it’s a bit of a left-field approach, but it’s getting results. I’m also lucky enough to work with great quality stock and great customers.”

He says having good quality horses is just as important as the training. But ultimately, Geoff’s philosophy is all about keeping horses sound.

“We work our horses hard and they don’t get a lot of down time, so it’s important we’re on top of their condition. You’ve got to find out what’s going on and not let any little issues become big ones.”

Geoff does this through traditional chiropractory and not-so-traditional dowsing, where a metal pendulum is used to detect any physical issues – on humans or horses.

“Horses muck around daily in the paddock, it’s what they do, and they’re always tweaking themselves somehow. I go over every horse before they’re worked to check their condition and again afterwards – a sound horse is far better than an unsound one. And we’ve never had performers like we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons.”

He says nutrition is another key component of recent successes.

“If horses don’t get enough nutrition, they can’t perform. They need to look and feel as good as they possibly can.

Geoff is a big advocate of fibre, after he saw one particular trainer’s horses at a race course around four years ago – “they were the best looking and performing young horses I’d ever seen”.

After finding out that the trainer fed as much fibre as the horses could eat, Geoff saw an advert for Fiber Fresh feeds and decided he liked the look of it.

“Fiber Fresh has that all important quality fibre aspect which I’m a big advocate for. FiberEzy is our main feed, and the horses go so well on it – they love it and look brilliant on it too.

“I’m a massive fan – the horses eat as much as they can and it’s never negatively affected their heart rate or performance. It’s also really convenient. We feed it in bulk when we travel because it’s so easy to handle.”

Working in the West Melton stable built by his father, Geoff trained with his brother until three years ago. Now he works with his son, who is the stable foreman.

“It’s a family affair. I got the horse bug just living here all those years ago and I still enjoy it. Still working on the family property with the next generation coming through.

“It’s a tough business but it’s satisfying.”