Training my first OTTB

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Training my first OTTB

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  • 1 Post By Merlot

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    12-08-2012, 08:44 AM
Training my first OTTB

Hey guys, I'm going to be buying and retraining an ottb as a project before I go off to University. I have about 3 years of experience with green horses and 5 years with difficult ones, but I've never worked with an ottb or unbroke horse. The horse I just finished working with was a very green ottb when I got her, but still had some training under saddle(even if it wasn't quality). I will be going to the track with either my coach or her old coach, who both know racing inside and out as well as buying an ottb for eventing. My coach has been working with OTTBs for 10-15 years, and I am going to get her help as well as ask her to start him with training board for the first month, but I thought I'd ask your opinion if you have any tips or ideas.
My plan so far is to give it about two weeks rest before I do any work with him, make sure he has good manners on the ground and in the crossties, then do twoish weeks of lunging and groundwork, then probably a month of training board before I start riding him full time(this part depends on the horse of course). What do you all think?

Note- Most people at my barn have worked with tbs and ottbs and as I said, my coach has had them for years so I will have help and will listen to them for whatever they say
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    12-08-2012, 09:16 PM
Hi SkyeMac,
I spent many years retraining/rehabbing OTTbs and here are some thing I learned along the way.
1. I always turn an OTTb out to pasture for 6 MONTHS before restarting. This is because you never know WHAT the trainers have pumped into these poor horses systems and also it helps to have a 'let down' period for the horse to just be a horse, lose the intense level of fitness and grow mentally and physically - remember these horses are start when they are just 18 months old.
2. During this time I make sure I get them nutritionally balanced with top quality minerals/vitamins and SALT (Vital if they are on green grass). You would be amazed at how many of these horses come in with major nutritional deficits that make them behave in strange ways most people attritbute to 'just being a OTTb'.
3. I check their mouths for any damage - these days I ride all my horses in a Dr Cooks bitless bridle which they go beautifully in or if you prefer a bit use a MYLER snaffle. These bits are the best and kindest bits I have ever seen particularly for these horses who very often have very bruised roofs of their mouths due to hard hands in a plain snaffle.
4. Always remember that Tbs are the most SENSITIVE horses. Be gentle and CALM at all times.
5. If they aren't doing what you want them to do it is more than likely that they just don't understand what it is you want.

It's wonderful you are going to give one of these fabulous, loyal and intelligent animals a home. Love him/her to bits and they'll return it 10 fold.
Hope this helps
canteringhearts likes this.
    12-08-2012, 09:28 PM
Merlot said everything quite well. My tip: focus on little details and take pride in little accomplishments.

I owned my OTTB mare for two and a half months before losing her unexpectedly to an illness, but I can honestly say that she was the best horse I had ever met and we forged such a strong bond within the period of time. She has me hooked on them.
    12-08-2012, 10:58 PM
Originally Posted by Merlot    
3. I check their mouths for any damage - these days I ride all my horses in a Dr Cooks bitless bridle which they go beautifully in or if you prefer a bit use a MYLER snaffle. These bits are the best and kindest bits I have ever seen particularly for these horses who very often have very bruised roofs of their mouths due to hard hands in a plain snaffle.
Thanks Merlot!

I've looked into bitless bridles, but I'm not sure if I should start in a bitless and switch once they're more relaxed, or if I should start with a bit and be more "touch and go". I event, so I need to get him in a bit at some point, but I've looked into starting the training with a bitless, and wondering if it might help me work with him more at the beginning instead of my coach all the time. I've never used them but I've seen them at the Royal Agricultural Fair here in Ontario and the information the guy at the booth gave me was intriguing.

Can you tell me some more information on the myler snaffle vs loose ring snaffle vs french link? Although I am experienced with horses I've never had to look into bits much, the ones I train and ride work well in loose ring french links for the most part and I use a 3 ring/elevator bit for cross country as Allie was hard mouthed. My friend uses a dee ring comfort myler with her ottb turned training level eventer and I love how it works with him but he's a wonderful horse to ride regardless of the bit. The people I know usually start with a loose ring snaffle and change depending on the horse's reaction to it. How do you find the horses work with the myler compared to traditional snaffles?
Thanks for the awesome answer!
    12-08-2012, 11:09 PM
Im currently starting my second ex racers. My first was a thoroughbred and this one is a quarter horse. One thing I think is EXTREMELY vital is when you do ANYTHING with him making him think. They have two sides... the thinking side and the racing side. The thinking side licks his lips, has a more relaxed body position, lower headset, and isnt always wanting to take off. The racing side of his brain makes his head high, spookier, jumpier, tighter lips, bunched up body posture. And remember that the brain is a muscle. The more he thinks and uses his thinking side the more he uses it when he's facing something spooky or exciting.

That being said I ALWAYS begin my ex racers in a roundpen. I get a relaxed body position and I ask them to change directions OVER AND OVER. They start to realize that you are asking them to think and when theyre getting calm and not hot headed ask them to come into you. Go from there =3
    12-08-2012, 11:41 PM
Originally Posted by SkyeMac    
Thanks Merlot!

Can you tell me some more information on the myler snaffle vs loose ring snaffle vs french link?
Hi Skyemac,
I love the Mylers as at no time do they jam up into the roof of the horses mouth. Horses go beautifully in them as they are soft and comfortable.
Tbs tend to have quite a low 'roof' to their mouths and I have seen some with very bruised 'mouth roofs' where they can not tolerate any bit. I do not use French links EVER on a Tb as they are quite thick bits and can bruise the roof easily particularly if the horse has the combination of thick tongue and low roof.
You see any pressure on an ordinary snaffle bit and the JOINT goes straight up and into the roof of the mouth. This is one of the reasons I get so upset at people who use grackle nosebands to keep the horses mouth shut. I believe that horses who open their mouths while being ridden are simply trying to get away from the pain caused by this action.

I am a firm believer that if a horse is doing some kind of 'evasive action', he has good reason and we need to find out why rather than try to 'fix it' with cruel add-ons. (Lecture over sorry - can't help myself )

I know there will be people on here that will get into me about it all being in the riders hands and to a certain extent this is true HOWEVER most of us do not have perfectly soft hands at all times especially in extreme circumstances that can happen and I would much rather know that if I have to take up the reins for any reasons in no way am I going to hurt my horse.
I would use a loose ring Myler comfort snaffle if I could not use my bitless bridle.

Hope this helps

eventing, off the track, thoroughbred

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