OTTB retraining, what's it like?
   

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OTTB retraining, what's it like?

This is a discussion on OTTB retraining, what's it like? within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category
  • Can i retrain an ottb
  • Retraining the ottb

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  • 1 Post By MyBoyPuck

 
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    01-19-2012, 05:51 PM
  #1
Weanling
OTTB retraining, what's it like?

I'm thinking about adopting an OTTB. He is 9 years old and hasn't been ridden in 2 years due to being neglected by the original person that adopted him. I was talking to the woman fostering him and she said that he was never 'restarted' after he left the track. I know every horse is different but I was just wondering what the general procedure is to re-start them in training to be a 'normal' horse and not a racehorse? He has been very calm and inquisitive with me, not shown any fear or aggression about anything. Also, is there anything that I can be doing with him right now that will help the transition? Oh I should mention, he was neglected as far as being turned out into a lot and not fed or had his teeth done. So he was several hundred pounds underweight and had numerous absesses in his front hooves. He is still slightly underweight and all the absesses in his feet have 'blown out' so he's just growing out healthy hooves and is not yet rideable. I groom him, pick his feet, bathe him, lead him down the driveway and back. But now he is getting better, his feet don't bother him too much, so I wanted to start working with him on SOMETHING
     
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    01-19-2012, 06:11 PM
  #2
Trained
Maybe start doing some in hand work with him. Work him in a bridle from the ground. It's amazing what you can get done at the walk. You can get him used to contact in a non-threatening manner, leg yeild, shoulder-fore and get him using his back properly from day one. It gives them a great concept of bend and outside rein since you stand on his "inside" when doing the exercises. There's a good book called "Right from the start" for in hand exercises. I'm sure there are others, but I haven't read them. The big caveat with in hand work is, never let them go backwards. If they do not understand what you want and start to back up, always circle to continue forward movement.

The big thing with TBs is it not overface them. Think linear. Teach him A before B, then C and so on. Throwing an entire new concept at them only invites frustation. If you ask for a little and do it patiently and consistently, they will give you a lot in return. TBs are fabulous to work with...at least the sane ones. Sounds like yours is a good one since you say he's curious.
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    01-19-2012, 06:16 PM
  #3
Teen Forum Moderator
Honestly, in a horse that's been off of the track for as long as he has, I'd just start him like an unbroken colt. Take it slow and be cautious, and get a trainer.

While you're waiting for his feet to grow out you can do some simple things that he'll of missed out as a young one, since he was trained to race. Teach him to yield to pressure at the nose, poll, either shoulder, girth, and hindquarters. Teach him to back up on command and to flex his neck (also known as carrot stretches.) Tack him up and lead him around with a bit in his mouth.

Once his feet have grown out, start lunging him lightly. Teach him to listen to voice commands such as 'woah, walk, trot, canter, change (directions).' Once he has all of these down, it should be safe to start his training under saddle because you'll of already taught him vocals, so you can start by asking him to do things with your voice and reinforcing it with a light squeeze of your legs, until he's just moving off of your legs. If he gets nervouse, you'll have a second form of control over him as well. Having learned to give to pressure will teach him to wait for your aids, and to move away from your leg and seat as well.

Above ALL of this though, GET A TRAINER. OTTBs can be dangerous to work with even if they seem docile, if you aren't experienced with working with them.
     
    01-19-2012, 07:00 PM
  #4
Trained
On top of the other suggestions, I highly recommend having a chiro or similar, come and give him a once over. You want to eliminate any possible sources of discomfort before starting work with him.

As Endiku said, I would be treating as though he is unstarted. Remembering that the breaking process on the track is often not thorough, as long as the horse will run fast, and stop reasonably well at the end of a race, they're sweet.

He won't understand how to move off the leg either. Treat him like a breaker. Lots of groundwork, getting him to give to pressure first by yielding his body, then introducing a bit and getting him giving through the jaw. Voice aids on the lunge will be very helpful to you once in the saddle. I want a horse to be like butter on the ground, before I will get on its back.

I will also second the request to get a trainer. If you've never worked with an ottb, it will be a steep learning curve. Though you will treat him as though he is unstarted, he will also have some ingrained habits from his days on the track that may or may not crop up through the re-education process, and you need to be ready to deal with these issues.
     
    01-19-2012, 07:30 PM
  #5
Weanling
They have a trainer that will work with him once he can do more but for now I want to just do what I can. The other day I brought him out some new treats and he really liked them. He is not normally a treat guy so it was cool that he liked them. Just out of curiosity I started jogging across the pasture with one in my hand and he trotted along right behind me. It's the first time I've seen him do more than a walk so I was over the moon. He seems to be getting better quickly and I enjoy being around him so whatever I can do with him I want to
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    01-19-2012, 07:30 PM
  #6
Foal
Tons of ground work- the horse you have on the ground is the horse you will ride. I've had the, ahem, pleasure of retraining dozens of OTTBs and no 2 experiences have been the same. MyBoyPuck is absolutely right that you need to teach him one thing at a time. TBs are super smart, but they get frustrated when too much is thrown at them at one time. They tend to learn rather quickly, so it does make retraining easier than a lot of other horses.


I cannot stress how much voice commands will be useful with an OTTB. Being on the track, they are used to having to go fast, fast, fast, and that's it. They are not taught walk, trot, canter, and they are not taught ground manners, at least not for the most part. If your horse panics, pulling on the reins and making a big fuss will only make the situation worse. Voice commands will help if this happens.

The biggest tool you will need is patience-tons of it. OTTBs can be totally frustrating, but they can also be the best horses you will know. I have an OTTB and while he's quite nutty at times, I wouldn't trade him for the world. Just go slow, and above all...have fun!
     
    01-20-2012, 12:54 AM
  #7
Foal
Just hop on and ride!! No but seriously, don't be too put off by people saying how insane they can be. Some you really can do this with. But since you are only doing groundwork now, here's some suggestions....

I don't know why Puck says to never let them back up. In fact, backing up in hand I believe is VERY important for an OTTB to learn. Because most OTTBs don't know how to back up, and it's not their natural instinct. Everything they have ever known is FORWARD FORWARD FORWARD. So you really need to work on STOP-BACK-SLOW. Teach him to back and whoa on voice and hand motions. Teach him to longe, NOT running around in circles longing, but teach him how to walk and whoa first, then trot, then very far down the road, to canter. Most OTTB's don't understand leg signals, but they are also smart and sensitive, so they will usually pick up on them quick. Practice moving him over with your hand or point of a brush.

You can also work on teaching him to give to contact. OTTBs are taught to lean into contact. You can put a soft bit in his mouth and put side reins on him, very loose at first, then gradually tighten them (although don't ever make them "tight). You're not trying to put him in a frame and crank his head down, so don't even worry about it. Let him figure it out for himself, even if it means him running around with his nose in the air for awhile. You can also practice just holding one rein and pulling his head to the side and holding it until he gives, then release immediately (dont pull him tight, just enough for him to want to "give"). This will be huge in later training.

When you get on, I HIGHLY suggest having somebody there holding the horse, because OTTB's aren't trained to stand still for mounting, most riders are put on while the horse is still walking. This will be good low key practice as well. Practice mounting and dismounting without going anywhere until he is good and quiet with standing still. You might have to take baby steps with this, as you don't want to just force him to stand. He might be confused at first. Which leads to the biggest point about OTTBs...

As several people mentioned, OTTB first reaction is to either run or blow up. They don't handle pressure well and can get frustrated quickly. Take everything in baby steps, lots of praise. Never make them feel "trapped". If they are starting to get really upset, sometimes it's ok to just let them go forward. That's their happy place. Go forward, move away from whatever is frustrating them, and come back to it later.

Just go through the basics, acting like he's an unbroke colt that doesn't know anything. You will find most things he knows just fine, and you will find the holes that need to be filled in. All 4 of my personal OTTBs were pretty much jump on and go ride. And they did awesome, but down the road those little "holes" that were missed showed up when you start to do any real training. Don't be intimidated, most OTTBs are not nearly as difficult to retrain as people think, especially one that's already had his downtime. Just be aware he might have a little extra spunk now that he's getting some good nutrition. Sounds like he will be a good boy.

And lots of trail rides
     
    01-20-2012, 08:30 AM
  #8
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by rottenweiler    
I'm thinking about adopting an OTTB. He is 9 years old and hasn't been ridden in 2 years due to being neglected by the original person that adopted him. I was talking to the woman fostering him and she said that he was never 'restarted' after he left the track. I know every horse is different but I was just wondering what the general procedure is to re-start them in training to be a 'normal' horse and not a racehorse? He has been very calm and inquisitive with me, not shown any fear or aggression about anything. Also, is there anything that I can be doing with him right now that will help the transition? Oh I should mention, he was neglected as far as being turned out into a lot and not fed or had his teeth done. So he was several hundred pounds underweight and had numerous absesses in his front hooves. He is still slightly underweight and all the absesses in his feet have 'blown out' so he's just growing out healthy hooves and is not yet rideable. I groom him, pick his feet, bathe him, lead him down the driveway and back. But now he is getting better, his feet don't bother him too much, so I wanted to start working with him on SOMETHING
I personally own an OTTB and she is a wonderful horse. I have had her since the day after thanksgiving of this past year (2011) and she has learned a lot while I have had her. I bought a book called "Beyond the Track" it is about retraining the OTTB and is a great book to purchase. I bought mine off of amazon.com and it wasn't expensive. You will learn a lot about training your OTTB with this book.
I do agree to take it one step at a time with him and please don't mount him till you and he are ready. He will let you know when he is ready and since you haven't had him that long, it might be awhile. I learned the hard way with mine, LOL.
I won't use a bit in her mouth because I choose natural horsemanship. I work with Hannah everyday and she is a good horse. Remember they never had a chance to be a horse and enjoy the pleasures in life that your others horses have. All they know is a paddock and racing. Give him time to be a horse out in pasture first, maybe a month or so before you actually really start anything with him. I would also get him use to you calling him and let him come to you. I use treats with mine and it works every time, she now comes without treats. I spend as much time as I can with my OTTB so she is use to me and not others.
If you have any questions, you can also email me and I will be happy to answer anything that I can.
Good luck with him and enjoy him!
:)
     
    01-20-2012, 08:37 AM
  #9
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mstar    
When you get on, I HIGHLY suggest having somebody there holding the horse, because OTTB's aren't trained to stand still for mounting, most riders are put on while the horse is still walking.
Very important point, and something that most riders don't consider a priority in their training. It irks me when I see a horse moving forward before the rider has even sat in the saddle and then the rider isn't paying attention to where the horse is going because they are trying to get their stirrups and gather their reins. It's dangerous, so spend the extra time practicing this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mstar    
If they are starting to get really upset, sometimes it's ok to just let them go forward. That's their happy place.
Yes! This is probably the #1 problem most people have with OTTBs. Racehorses are trained to keep moving and then they are smacked for slowing. Charlie (my OTTB) always needs to be moving, especially when he's nervous. If I try to make him stand still, that will cause an explosion. So I let him go forward, but I also make him work-half passes, shoulder in/out, haunches in/out, serpentines, circles, figure-8s, etc. It gets his mind focused and loosens him up.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mstar    
And lots of trail rides
Definitely agree. Trail rides are some of the best training rides because they are more low-key than arena work. They are also better for conditioning a poorly muscled horse, and good for desensitizing. Just make sure you go with a calmer horse the first few times.
     
    01-20-2012, 09:34 AM
  #10
Yearling
Everyone has given you wonderful advice :) Just want to be another voice chiming in that ground work is of such great importance.
     

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