Re training off the track thoroughbreds? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 48 Old 02-03-2011, 02:07 PM Thread Starter
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Red face Re training off the track thoroughbreds?

I'm interested in getting an OTTB and training it... if it goes well, I'd like to start doing it regularly. I love thoroughbreds, I want a project, and if it helps them too, why not?

I'm a little apprehensive though. I'm married and I have responsibilities in life. I have the time for a project, but I don't want to take on something psychotic that's going to seriously injure me, and that's how some people make OTTBs sound. I have years and years of riding experience, but I'd still only say I'm an intermediate rider. I have the skill, I just lack the guts to feel justified in saying I'm an advanced rider.

I plan on taking weekly lessons, and I also thought about purchasing this book to help
I guess what I want to hear is that I'll be fine and go for it. "Just take it slow" or something like that. But I'm open to hear anything, so I'm looking forward to hear what everyone has to say. Advice, stories, pictures... everything and anything is welcome!
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post #2 of 48 Old 02-03-2011, 02:25 PM
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Not all off the track thoroughbreds are crazy. Actually a lot of them are pretty normal horses. I can't even count the amount of OTTBs I've ridden, but all of them were very smart, athletic and willing to please.

Many of them are pretty hot and can be skittish, but that just comes with the breed. I actually think hot horses are easier to work with. Obviously you need to pick a horse that is right for you.

You'll have a lot of fun working with them...good luck.
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post #3 of 48 Old 02-03-2011, 03:10 PM
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Buy the book. I read it last week. It has plenty of good info for anyone with a horse. I bought it out of curiosity about race horses, not a desire to get one. I thought it was worth the money regardless, and still do.

I wouldn't get serious about it without reading the book. There are dozens of variables to think about, and you can read about them in detail there.
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post #4 of 48 Old 02-03-2011, 06:21 PM
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For starters, that book is fantastic. It will go a long way with helping you with an OTTB. Yes, some TB's can be high strung, but the majority I have known over the years were all big puppy dogs. I can only think of one that I would have classified as dangerous.

I think part of the high strung thing comes from people who get them and just assume they can hop on and start riding which just doesn't work with a former track horse. If you have common sense, can be clear in your communication and patient, you'll do fine with most OTTB's. I've noticed from the forum in particular, that horses who have Mr. Prospector in their blood lines all tend to have good minds. On the flip side, I would avoid any with Storm Cat in their lines. Breeding does seem to play into personality a bit. Good luck in your search. TB's are the best! The good ones will walk through fire for you.

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post #5 of 48 Old 02-03-2011, 10:56 PM
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I also have retrained many OTTBs and OTQHs and did not find very many that were neurotic unless they were crazy on the track before I got them. It really helps if you get one from a trainer and not from an auction or a rescue. Then, You can find out if they have lameness problems or were just too slow. Obviously, the slow ones are better. But, you can also get one once in a while that sulls and instead of trying to run but be slow it is a horse that refuses to try. Those horses usually refuse to do anything else, as well. They just never developed a good 'work ethic' and are not willing. Willing but too slow is what you want.
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post #6 of 48 Old 02-03-2011, 11:19 PM
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My first horse was an OTTB. I bought him just 9 months ago. Let's say he is one slowest horses I have ever ridden.

Of course I have ridden some skiddish and hot headed ones. It also depends on how they were brought up at the track and the way you train them.

I bought my guy, just turned 4 and very green but I did not get him straight of the track. He had minimal work done but pretty clueless still. I ride him in spurs half the time haha ! He has his days where he gets a little worked up but if you know how to deal with it, you can work with it. He is slow and sometimes lazy but tries his heart out for me.

The majority of them are really great horses to work with and they love to work !
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post #7 of 48 Old 02-03-2011, 11:25 PM
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I've found the only thing that makes you be able to say, with confidence, "I'm an advanced rider" is to ride lots of horses at different stages of training. And many miles in the saddle doesn't hurt! My advice is that before you take the plunge, you should realize what riding a green horse (which is usually what a OTTB usually feels like at first) really entails. Usually there is someone at local barn that will allow you to ride their horse (these people always seem to find me anyway). I've found that in my area, they are lots of horses and not very many riders. Some horses in the barns around me only get ridden once or twice a year...weird when you consider how expensive it can be to keep horses!
The lady that I bought my horse from thought she wanted a project, and decided to get a young horse. She lasted 6 months before she realized that it wasn't her cup of tea, and she really would prefer a trained mount. That doesn't mean anything bad...we all got into this because it was fun and the trick is to keep it that way.
But there are lots of horses out there, and lots of good ones get pulled off the track simply because they don't have the drive to run. Some are crazy but it sounds like you have the experience to weed them out. Several of my friends have ex-racers, or TBs out of racing lines, that simply didn't work out on the track. Of these, only my mom's mare is what I'd call crazy, but that's how my mom likes them. Someone has to love the unloveables of the world, right?

Bottom line, the only way to say "I'm an advanced rider" is to get lots of miles, perferably under different mounts. However, I've gotten more confidence and more skill in working with green horses (only the last couple of years) than in the decade of riding "trained" horses. And training any animal, particualrly horses, always teaches you things about yourself that you never realized.
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post #8 of 48 Old 02-04-2011, 04:18 AM
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Certainly look into it. Just be prepared to look around for a while to find something with a decent temperament. If you want to make any money out of re-educating ottbs, you'll have to have a good eye at picking a good quality and well conformed horse that will have the ability to be a performance horse in a few years.

With ottbs, it's a matter of patience. I won't touch one until it's been spelled for AT LEAST 3 months, in a paddock, no rugging etc. and in with a bunch of other horses. I want an ottb to learn how to be a 'real' horse again and also to 'let down' - get all of the high protein racing feeds out of it's system.
From then it's a matter of building trust, teaching it the basic 'stop go and turn' aids and away you go. Just keep in mind that taking one fresh ott is very much like re-breaking. Many ottb's are not broken overly well, they do not know what leg means and have been trained to lean on the bridle to get the rider to hold them up in balance while they run flat out.

Also know that from the horses I have owned an worked with, it's the TB's that when they get nervous about something, many will go into a full panic attack, where their brain literally leaves their head and all you can do is sit quietly and let the horse work it out. Just something to keep in mind - you have to be very patient with them!

In saying that, I've had a couple of genuinely lovely ottbs, my new wb gelding is probably a nervier, spookier horse than my ottb!
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post #9 of 48 Old 02-04-2011, 05:30 AM
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Originally Posted by ErikaLynn View Post
Not all off the track thoroughbreds are crazy. Actually a lot of them are pretty normal horses. I can't even count the amount of OTTBs I've ridden, but all of them were very smart, athletic and willing to please.

Many of them are pretty hot and can be skittish, but that just comes with the breed. I actually think hot horses are easier to work with. Obviously you need to pick a horse that is right for you.

You'll have a lot of fun working with them...good luck.
I agree with you 100% I have 2, there a challenge but so rewarding!

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post #10 of 48 Old 02-04-2011, 09:36 AM
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Puck - you beat me to it in explaining that OTTB's aren't necessarily high strung! Usually I find that their misbehaviour is as a result of not understanding what you want and then becoming frustrated. Just try to be clear and consistent with them - the love people and they aim to please so just make it easy for them to do the right thing and they will try their heart out for you!

I started riding TB's (on the track and off the track) when I was 16, over 12 years ago. Once you have been doing it for a few years and ridden a couple hundred, you find they are surprisingly similar! But a better riding companion you couldn't ask for.

Here's a couple tips for both looking for them and beginning with them that I wrote on another thread ages ago, just added a few extra things in:

-When you are looking at an OTTB, soundness is a real issue, especially with respect to leg/tendon/ligament damage. Vet checks are great but if you can't have a vet look at the horse, take someone experienced with you to look for soundness issues, old injuries, freedom of movement and conformational advice.

-Once they have finished racing, turn them out in a good pasture and give them a few months 'let down' period. They are fed some pretty potent supplements so it is always a good idea to let everything work it's way out of their system before you begin working with them. The key is good quality hay and roughage and plenty of it. Also, being at the track can be a very high stress environment for a horse so a bit of time off is always a good thing.

-When you bring them back into work, treat them like a green broke horse, sure they are fine to ride but they need to be completely re-educated to establish three even, balanced gaits. If it takes a month, great that is really quick, if it takes six months, don't worry the extra time spent in the beginning will serve you well in the future.

-Don't rush their training, just because they pick things up quickly doesn't necessarily mean that the basics are firmly entrenched in their mind. Be prepared for a one sided horse with dodgy brakes! They have only learnt how to do one thing - go really fast in one direction and....eventually.....stop. Lots and lots of work on the basics to teach them all the shades of grey in between flat out and stop.

-Get their teeth checked. Although some trainers are very good about regular dentistry they are few and far between. Most OTTB's will be 4-8 years old when they finish racing and many have never seen a dentist in their whole life.

-Be prepared that a couple of visits from the chiropractor may be warranted. Any OTTB that I have bought for myself has needed chiropractic work and benefited immensely as a result.

-Introduce new diets slowly and be ready for them to possibly drop some weight when they come off the track as you adjust them to a new diet. A racehorse diet contains far more calories than what the average horse is fed, again good quality roughage is key. Have your feed analyzed if you can and measure it by weight rather than volume.

-Before you take them out to compete, take them to a show without entering them in any events and see how they handle the atmosphere. Most OTTB's think they are back at the track when they see all the horses, trailers and commotion so taking them out without the stress of competing is a good way to ease them into competition life.

Lastly, be prepared that every time you are working with them you are training them, make sure that it is a step in the right direction and not the wrong direction! It will take time for them to understand the things you are teaching them. I love nothing more than working with OTTB's, it is truly rewarding. However, I love spending inordinant amounts of time working on simple things like transitions, flexion and stretching. If you want to be able to jump on and go for a ride then OTTB's aren't a good option in the early days. Not saying that this is what you want, just giving you a heads up that there is a long road of training ahead before you can do simple things that some people take for granted!

Good luck!

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