Can he start eventing lessons yet, or too thin?

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Can he start eventing lessons yet, or too thin?

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    08-23-2010, 12:35 AM
Exclamation Can he start eventing lessons yet, or too thin?

My one thoroughbred gelding I bought as an eventing prospect a month and a half ago; he's a leggy 16.2hh chestnut gelding who has amazing potential. He's only 5 years old and hasn't been off the track for more than 5 months. He's the calmest Thoroughbred I've ever ridden, though. He is a bit unbalanced, but I'm hoping lessons can help with that.

I'm a Western rider of thirteen years (been riding since birth, literally) who switched over to English in April, after buying my other Thoroughbred. I've had only a few professional lessons, one from my one TB's trainer (she was a steeplechase jockey in England and now retrains OTTBs) and a few from my aunt, whom I visited in Colorado (they own a reining ranch, my uncle is into the reining but my aunt does mostly english riding). I want to get eventing lessons because that's what I've always wanted to do, and now I have the horse for it.

My question is, however, do I weight until he puts more weight on? He's thin from being off-track, and I'm trying to get his weight up by 2 feedings daily of 6lbs of Nutrena Prime and corn oil, but I just don't think he's gaining weight. I'll post pictures tomorrow of when he got here and now, but I don't know if he would be okay to start eventing lessons in the next month. Any help appreciated!
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    08-23-2010, 01:17 AM
With an OTTB re-training as an eventer, you want to make sure they are super sound in mind and body, so you're right to be concerned about starting too early. If he is not putting on weight, it might be that he still has not adjusted to his new TBs have had a lot of stress on them since way too early in their lives, and often in environments where they are no more than a number in a stall, so they often need a lot of time off to just relax before they can start re-training, otherwise they just get too stressed and don't do as well, sometimes staying unnaturally nervous all of their working lives.

So wait until he is in top physical condition and seems to be all settled and ready to work before you start re-training him. That doesn't mean you can't work him, just be really easy and do a ton of short groundwork sessions, teaching him that his feelings are important to you and start trying to erase the "track habits" they often have (whip shyness, pacing, weaving, refusing to stand tied, etc.).

Natural horsemanship is a great way to go with any horse, especially a stressed one...I am a huge fan of Monty Roberts' methods, they really WORK and teach your horse to fully trust you in one half-hour session, just by talking to the horse with body language...his website is and the book that explains it is The Man Who Listens To Horses.

Pasture time is also a great way to help him re-cooperate, if you have a small acreage you can put him on for as long as your land allows. If you don't have any pasture, though, rely mosly on hay to help him get his weight is much better for his digestive system to have more hay and less grain instead of just adding on more grain. You can try adding some alfalfa hay if it doesn't make him is very rich in calcium and works wonders for underweight horses.

If you do have to feed grain, though, I would go for a feed with a high percentage of oats in it, even just pure oats...they are the most natural feed for a horse, and the hulls make the horse actually have to chew it instead of just gulping it down, which could cause choke. The corn oil is a good idea, though...that will help his digestion, his coat and his weight. :)

So I'm sorry as that turned out to be really long...I just am not a big fan of the racing buisness and love to see people giving these young horses another chance at another life, often a much better one. I hope that helped somewhat, and keep us updated on how your guy is doing! :)
    08-23-2010, 01:50 AM
Thanks for the advice. Our horses are on pasture almost every day for a good three/four hours. The full-size horses get 2 flakes of hay (not alfalfa, timothy) each, plus their grain. The vet says I really need to keep him with the 12 lbs of grain a day.

As for stress, this is the calmest OTTB I've ever been around lol. He stands for anything, ground ties, rarely spooks....he's settled in great and doesn't crib or weave.

So I should wait until he puts more weight on, you think?
    08-23-2010, 06:05 PM
I know my OTTB was so calm when I first rode her. So we bought her and brought her home a month later, during that month her weight had decreased considerably. The first thing we did was start putting weight on. I was riding her lightly when she was still thin and a couple months later she put on a lot more weight. By spring she was a lovely size and her size came a very moody mare.

Because of her poor condition before, she did not have the energy or will to rebel or show any spunk. After gaining some pounds out popped this horse who had way to much additude.

In conclusion, like hrsrdr said, make sure he has a sound MIND and BODY. Sometimes when they are so skinny their true colours don't show.

Hope this helped.
    08-23-2010, 06:54 PM
I would wait for awhile still until you really start working him, at LEAST until he has all his weight back...light rides and groundwork are fine, but SallyBaby has a good point that you can't really tell whether they're settled or not if you don't wait to see if there's any difference. I honestly don't know why your vet would say to keep him on that much grain...that is an incredible amount of concentrates for any horse, much more one that isn't being worked much. We feed a max of 3 lbs of grain to our horses (Omelene 200 for my new TB, oats for the other two) per day, the rest hay, and if they seem to be losing weight the first thing we change is the hay. Hay and grass are just way better for horses' digestive systems, which are designed to hold a lot of fiber. Also, they can get stomach ulcers if you give them too much grain, because a horse's stomach is meant to be nearly always somewhat full, always digesting small meals, and grain digests fast so their stomachs empty faster, thus increasing acid wear on the stomach wall and causing ulcers. Another reason alfalfa hay is helps prevent ulcers even more than regular hay/grass. I would put him on maybe 3 flakes timothy hay twice a day, add some alfalfa or alfalfa mix hay if you can, plus pasture, and start decreasing his grain. I think your vet is probably advising you not to decrease his grain because he is underweight anyway, but 12 lbs is really a very extreme amount.

But aside from the feed...We are just about to buy a thoroughbred who has had kind of a rough life, starting out as a steeplechaser and then moving on to compete for a year at an event barn. He is whip-shy and very spooky in unfamiliar environments, and his loungeing training seems to be really messed up. He is doing so much better with lots of quality grooming time each day, plus rides and lots of praise every time he does something right. That will probably help your boy, too, to settle reason he might be having a hard time keeping weight is that he is stressed. Horses are very brave and often don't show their true emotions, but although he behaves calm, your horse might be a nervous wreck inside. It will help him gain security and confidence in you if you spend extra time grooming each day, plus a light ride and/or some groundwork with lots of praise every time he is good. Always ALWAYS be very patient with him. Not only will he gain condition faster and be able to start eventing training sooner, but you will also both progress faster if he trusts you. Of course, I don't know your horse, so this is just a guess, but I tend to think he is more stressed than he seems right now.

Hope this helps.
    08-23-2010, 07:53 PM
Kind of along the same lines Sally Baby said, I would lightly work this horse if only to establish good communication just in case that calm demeanor is due to him being a bit underweight. The last thing you need going into fall is TB who is untrained under saddle and suddenly starting to feel good. If nothing else, get on and walk around to get him understanding steering, flexion, brakes. I've never met a TB who didn't want a job, so he'd probably enjoy having something to do.
    08-23-2010, 09:27 PM
So true, MyBoyPuck! :) When we first tried out Sprite, he seemed to be the calmest TB int he world; not a great mover, but extremely quiet and willing. Then we took him home for a trial period and put shoes on him...TOTALLY DIFFERENT HORSE! Turns out, the only reason he was at first a quiet, cute little horse was because his feet hurt! He is actually a HUGE mover and very ambitious jumper...he improved so much it's almost unbelievable! So of course I'm not saying that every horse is going to be that way, but don't underestimate how much health can affect a horse's attitude. Sounds like I'm not the only one that's happened to...just be careful. I think MyBoyPuck gave some great advice. :)
    08-27-2010, 09:41 PM
I've known a ton of horses like that, and I can just tell this horse will not turn out that way. That's not a concern of mine, really.

Thanks all for the advice! I think I'll condition and beef him up during this fall and winter so in spring, we're ready for lessons.
    08-27-2010, 10:47 PM
OK, if you're sure. Keep us updated on your progress.
    08-29-2010, 01:05 PM
Originally Posted by equiniphile    
Thanks for the advice. Our horses are on pasture almost every day for a good three/four hours. The full-size horses get 2 flakes of hay (not alfalfa, timothy) each, plus their grain. The vet says I really need to keep him with the 12 lbs of grain a day.

As for stress, this is the calmest OTTB I've ever been around lol. He stands for anything, ground ties, rarely spooks....he's settled in great and doesn't crib or weave.

So I should wait until he puts more weight on, you think?
I have a super hard keeper OTTB as well, also 5 mo. Off the track (and also a 16.2-16.3 hand chestnut LOL). He gets: 15 lbs of Nutrena Safe Choice split over 3 meals (5 lbs a meal), 9-12 lbs of alfalfa pellats (split between 3 meals), and 1.5 lbs of BOSS (Black Oil Sunflower Seeds) My boy didn't gain weigh on beet pulp, weigh builder, corn oil, or rice bran. In fact, he continued to loose while on all of those things. We found out he has an ulcer.

Most (as high as 95%) OTTBs have ulcers. They lead a VERY stressful life, and aren't allowed to forrage all day long like horses are supposed to so they devlop ulcers. My boy spent 3 months on zantac and is doing great now. He's still gaining slowly, but he is gaining. Ask the vet about an ulcer...he might be able to help you (my vet said to take 30 pills of Zantac 150 a day...10 pills 3 x's a day). I crush it and add to his feed.

Also, for his hay alfalfa is the best thing for an ulcer. Its a long stem hay and sits in the gut longer helping to absorb the stomach acids and aleviate the pain of the ulcer.

My boy is only just now really getting any work, and we're taking it slowly. He's super calm like yours (my 6 yr old beginner rider daughter rides him) but I'm still taking it slowly so as not to stress him.

GL with your endeavors!

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