Training OTTB: How long does it take?

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Training OTTB: How long does it take?

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  • How long to wait before retraining an ottb
  • How long train ottb jump

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    12-03-2009, 07:19 AM
Training OTTB: How long does it take?

Hello Everyone,

My friend is interested in purchasing a 2-3yo OTTB and wants to try to retrain it herself to ride English (w/t/c/j and show). (She has some experience training.)

How long would it take to retrain the average TB from the track, of this age, with a quiet nature-if she worked with the horse 6 days a week?

What would you suggest she look for when she goes to see the filly, that will help her predict the horses ability to be successful in these future endeavors?

Lastly, do you know of any methods that are more suitable for training an OTTB?

Here is a link to the site with pics of the horses she is interested in:
Filly 1
Filly 2

Thank you for your advice!

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    12-03-2009, 01:59 PM
Hi there. How long retraining would take depends on several factors: what discipline she wants to focus on, what level she wants to compete at, and of course, the temperament of the horse involved. Part of what she'll be up against is that a racehorse's power comes primarily from their shoulders, so the horse won't naturally want to engage it's hindquarters and come into the bridle. Also, she'll have to teach the horse about standard stop/go cues as opposed to racetrack cues which are different. I'd reccomend a lot of transitions and flatwork before she even thinks about teaching jumping. I'm not able to give you a definite time frame for how long it will take, but I think it's safe to say it won't be a short process because not only will she have to train, she'll have to untrain the things she doesn't want. If I had to guess, I'd say maybe one to two years to get the horse going well for unrated and schooling shows, and maybe three to four years for the upper division shows, but again, it depends on the horse) Also, the horse should have a lay-up after it gets off the track just to decompress and be a horse (it'll make her job much easier) and that can be from six months to a year if the horse she's thinking of hasn't had a lay up yet.

Now, things to look for in an OTTB. Basically, you'd want everything you'd want in any other horse. You want to know that the horse will be able to do what you want physically (conformation and soundness) and you'd want to know that it could do it mentally (temperament and work ethic). You'd also probably want a horse that did the basic things, like leading and picking up feet, well.

Hope that helps a bit. Sorry I couldn't be more specific, but that's horses, you know?
    12-03-2009, 02:54 PM
The good thing about racehorses is that they probably don't buck. Your friends skill as a trainer will have much to do with how long it takes. I think it's safe to say that any horse should have about a year of training before it sees a jump. A horse should be able to do all the basic dressage movements before you try to jump them. It's very important to be able to adjust stride and change leads ect. Ect. Before you start going over fences. The horse will already know how to w/t/c but will need a little work to be acceptable in the show ring. I disagree with turning the horse out for a year to 'be a horse'. Maybe a month but a year is a waste of time.
    12-03-2009, 03:27 PM
As someome with experience with OTTB's--your friend is probably going to have a hard time finding a quiet natured TB. They are trained to run, and run hard...and not much else (at least that was the case at the farm I worked at). They need very experienced trainers who know how to handle their emotional and physical needs. From my experience, retraining an OTTB different than training any other horse. Your friend should try to find a trainer who has experience with OTTB's to work with her and the horse.

Your friend should keep in mind that not all OTTB's can be jumped or ridden much. Track injuries are all too common, and they can affect the horse's ability to work. It would be a VERY good idea to have a veterinarian check out the soundness of the horse prior to purchase.
    12-03-2009, 03:32 PM
It's not a waste of time if it eases up the training. I've retrained a couple of horses with stressful backgrounds, including OTTB's and I stand by what I said about a longer layup. The longer the horse had off (within reason--not like 15yrs, obvioulsy) the easier they were to retrain. The one's with a month were far more fractious and had a lot more opinions about what was and wasn't expected of them than the ones that had a longer layup. Obviously not a scientific experiment, since every horse has it's own personality, but there is definitely a correlation. I think it helps them forget their old job to some degree and move onto the new thing.
    12-03-2009, 05:02 PM
Hi there!
Welcome to the Horse Forum.
Many have said some great things.
I went and checked out the blood lines of both these horses both are good~the first has a bit better pedigree. But, pedigree is not everything.
Many OTTB's no mater the pedigree can turn out to make great horses for many diciplines.
Lots of things here I agree with. I agree with Kevin about not turning the horse out for a year. Maybe a short time or have the horse out to pasture 24/7 and worked with on a regular basis with a person experienced with OTTB's, because as someone else has aalready stated the "track training" is different and some things do need to be cahnged.
One thing to keep in mind is if these horses have not been out of training for long then they are pretty fit already and by turning them out for a year and not doing anything with them, that fitness is not going to be there anymore.
Years ago when I took OTTB's from the track, I got them started on a rountine quickly. This was of course if there was no injury involved in the reason for leaving the track. Depending on the horse I usually could them going in about 9 months to a year. Sometimes a bit longer to start them over cross rails. All were set with a good foundation of flat work and basic dressage before ever started on cross rails. Sometimes it can get tricky with the ground work and re-training if the horse is a bit older. It just depends on the horse.
By getting them into a regular work program with an experienced person this will help them to keep a good routine.
One thing I would want to know is complete history if you can get it. Don't forget that just because someone tells you something does not mean it is accurate or truthful Always get the PPE!
Some OTTBs do have some nasty habbits but many do not. I think to ask "how long" this process will take is a bit much. Reaosn I say this is I feel it is dependent on the horse and trainer.
This is a big investment. If your friend is looking for a horse to have undersaddle fairly quickly maybe she/he may want to find one that has already been started. If the person is partial to an OTTB there are many around she/he might find that are already to the point in their training, they will be ready for showing in the spring or summer.

I am sure that you will get lots of information here.
Hope that your friend figures it all out.
    12-03-2009, 05:20 PM
Like others have said, it depends on a bunch of factors. You've gotten some great advice so far.

At 2 or 3, I would take things slow, no need to rush.

As for the jumping thing, my coach tends to has some of them going over small cross rails (more of a 'speed bump' than a legitimate jump) as soon as they master calm, forward and straight. For a few of the horses, she got them in on a Sunday and they trotted their first cross rail on a Thursday.

Of course, there was no legitimate jumping until the horse fully understood what was going on vis a vis flat work. This was just an intro of "this is a jump (kind of). They AREN"T a big deal".
    12-03-2009, 05:21 PM
My horse was retired from racing in November 2006. He spent two months as a pasture puff before my trainer bought him in January. She started him under saddle the day after he arrived. With 1 hour of training, 6 days a week, he was doing W/T/C, leg yield, shoulder-fore, haunches-in and jumping low verticals. My OTTB is a -1 on a temperment scale of 1 to 10. He's as easy going as they come. I'm sure the progress varies from horse to horse. If you get a calm one who seems to like all the attention, I don't see any reason not to start them right away. If the horse is more high strung, then some pasture time may be in order.
    12-03-2009, 07:41 PM
It honestly depends on the temperament and the intelligence of your horse, as well as your training goals. I have an OTTB, nine years on the track but my only training goals are to get him trail ready and used to regular riding without the need for speed, lol. I might train him in a specific discipline later just for fun. I've had my gelding for five months next week, and he's successfully learned how to w/t/c on cue from the ground and w/t in the saddle, he knows how to neck rein and he understands leg cues.

Kevin, I read the first line of your post and LAUGHED. My guy definitely knows how to buck. Although not continuously, sometimes once is all it takes, lol.
    12-03-2009, 11:44 PM

I want to thank everyone for sharing such great advice. I love the members in this forum. They really put their heart and soul in everything! :)

It was interesting to hear all of the good things associated with OTTBs.
However it does sound like you should be very experienced with this type of retrain. Maybe my friend can work with an experienced trainer for guidance.

I think that my friend would like to do the training with the understanding that she would have a "project" on her hands. She told me that she wanted to retrain and help find them a fresh start. So, in otherwords, training for the experience, the bonding, and opportunity to do good.

I am sure that I will have more questions! Thanks again!

Take care,


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