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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My trainer has lately been talking to me about the option of buying an former racetrack Thoroughbred horse, the CANTER is the website she mentioned. The issue I have is that I'm a male and 6'1" 190 lbs guy so I need at least a 17h horse my trainer tells me and seems like former racetrack horses are ideal budget wise. The only horse my trained has that is 17h is very up there in years and doesn't have the energy I require.

During my look I see a reoccurring advice that getting a former racetrack horse isn't the soundest of ideals and wanted to get input from a forum of horse people.

I would be training the horse under the watchful eye of my trainer who has experience but I would mostly be riding with the training ride as needed. I myself I don't know if I would categorize myself as a beginner or not since I have been riding a horse that is green to jumping and the flat work is very smooth and have been commented that I ride him better that her most advance student. I suppose I would be an intermediate rider if I had to categorize myself.

I understand that patience is key and something I fully understand and accept, I know that it could be a multiple year process. I'm looking to learn to ride and jump with a horse that is a good match for me and showing is not a priority but being the best rider I can be as a hobbyist.

Any input/advise is greatly appreciated. This would be my first horse.
 

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I myself have an OTTB as a Novice/Intermediate rider. I have been riding for 3 years and Bo is my second horse. He was green (straight off the track and into a paddock for 3 years).
He has been challenging, frustrating, amazing and everything in between. He was a complete blank slate and I have had to teach him pretty much everything except stop. He is a lazy ****** and is really hard to get moving, didn't know lateral movements, flexion, was not supple... etc. I have had to learn how to ride a horse that is completely different in temperament (he is literally the polar opposite of my other horse), which IMO has made me a better rider.

It is do able to have your first horse as a TB, but is it super important to take your time and find the right one for you. You should also have someone experienced there to help you when you need it.
 

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I just have to point out that you don't *need* a horse that's 17hh. My old BO is 6'3" (maybe 6'4") and a solid 230lbs and his favorite horse in his herd is a 15hh QH. Another guy at my old barn is 6'2" and on the heftier side of fit, and he rides a 15.1hh Arab doing endurance.

I've helped retrain a few TBs of the track and they are a challenge. Take a horse that all it's ever done in its life is run flat-out in an oval to the left, then reteach it everything...literally. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. The horse needs at least six to eight weeks (preferably longer, about three months) of time off to just be a horse and realize that life isn't all starting gates and tracks. If you don't give the horse time off and take things slow, you're more than likely going to fry its brain and have a horse who does anything it can to get out of work.

I'm not saying this will be the case, I'm just saying that you need to do a lot of research and understand what you're getting yourself into before you go buying a horse that may end up being too much for you to handle.

Personally, I would look for a horse between 15-16.2hh (easier to find) that has a decent amount of bone. An OTTB that has been reschooled properly and is a little older (around 10-years-old) would be great, if it has decent bone. All the height in the world isn't going to make up for a lack of the bone to support it. I would rather see someone taller on a short, stout horse than on a taller, light-boned horse.
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Do you know why your trainer is thinking of an OTTB for you? I got a green Percheron as my first horse, and while she was an amazing mare, I really wish I'd bought something that was already finished, or close to it. You don't realize how much your riding slips when you're spending so much time working on a green horse and don't have the chance the really focus on yourself. There are also people who don't find working with a horse much fun when they're not in the saddle. Expect weeks of downtime, letting it be a horse before even starting its new training. Then tons of groundwork. Then months of riding where every session is hard work and constant focus on your horse - then maybe you can ride it like you ride your current lesson horses (assuming they have a proper way of going). It's not an easy road, and OTTBs are preprogrammed with buttons you need them to unlearn, on top of relearning everything else.

If that hasn't scared you away... at the end of a grueling year you will have an amazing partner who responds and is molded to exactly you. While I've never owned an OTTB, I've met many and I have no doubt they're a special kind of horse. They have heart and presence you don't see often, and when they're brought back into training properly, you can capture that essence and keep it through their second career as a riding horse. It's really amazing and probably one of the most rewarding feelings you can experience. Rewarding, yes - but not easy.

Good luck! If you have the grit, patience and feel for your horse every step of the way, it doesn't matter if it's a recent OTTB or a finished trail plug. You will be successful. :)

EDITED TO ADD: Agreed that you don't need a 17hh+ horse. You may look more proportionate as per other riders, but a smaller horse can carry your weight just fine. You may want to consider a draft x TB if you want something athletic but with better bone. And they're usually taller, too!
 

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Another thing I've noticed, is that OTTBs that weren't brought along properly are more prone to catastrophic meltdowns. My best friend has a sweet OTTB gelding that she got as a 5yo, straight off the the track. She was 12 when she got him. This horse has blown up on her in the arena more times than I care to count (she tried running barrels with him). He's ran her into and through fences of all kinds, including barbed wire. His last injury, five or so years ago, tore a chunk out of his left front leg where it joins his chest, rendering him unsound for riding most of the time. My best friend tried to ride him a couple of times since the accident and he blew up completely. Now he's a herd-bound nervous wreck if he loses sight of the mare my best friend got to replace him.

Now, I'm not trying to say this will happen to you. I'm just pointing out what can happen.
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I honestly would not recommend an OTTB as a first horse. Unless the horse has been off the track for 5+ years and you've met more than 4 or 5 times, then go for it. But as stated, they can be a real challenge and very unpredictable at times. They have picked up such bad habits from the track, don't know much besides run run run and veer left.
I definitely don't want to put you off of OTTBs, I love my boy, but they are definitely not for everyone-especially beginners.
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I myself have an OTTB as a Novice/Intermediate rider. I have been riding for 3 years and Bo is my second horse. He was green (straight off the track and into a paddock for 3 years).
He has been challenging, frustrating, amazing and everything in between. He was a complete blank slate and I have had to teach him pretty much everything except stop. He is a lazy ****** and is really hard to get moving, didn't know lateral movements, flexion, was not supple... etc.
lmao he sounds like my TB mare! She was never raced though, she didn't have the heart for it so they turned her into a pasture puff until I bought her. She was a super green 3 yr old.

I bought my mare sight unseen, got a PPE, photos (conformation shots) and a video, and then I crossed my finger's, clicked my heels 3 times and prayed lol.

She has been challenging too say the least, she's smart as a whip, get's bored oh so easily, I rack my brain at times to keep her interested and focused, but I'm the proudest horsie mama in my barn and if I had to do it again I would. Don't let people turn you off the TB, they have the heart of a lion. as long as you have a good trainer to put you on the proper path, good luck :wink:
 

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My trainer has lately been talking to me about the option of buying an former racetrack Thoroughbred horse, the CANTER is the website she mentioned. The issue I have is that I'm a male and 6'1" 190 lbs guy so I need at least a 17h horse my trainer tells me and seems like former racetrack horses are ideal budget wise. The only horse my trained has that is 17h is very up there in years and doesn't have the energy I require.

During my look I see a reoccurring advice that getting a former racetrack horse isn't the soundest of ideals and wanted to get input from a forum of horse people.

I would be training the horse under the watchful eye of my trainer who has experience but I would mostly be riding with the training ride as needed. I myself I don't know if I would categorize myself as a beginner or not since I have been riding a horse that is green to jumping and the flat work is very smooth and have been commented that I ride him better that her most advance student. I suppose I would be an intermediate rider if I had to categorize myself.

I understand that patience is key and something I fully understand and accept, I know that it could be a multiple year process. I'm looking to learn to ride and jump with a horse that is a good match for me and showing is not a priority but being the best rider I can be as a hobbyist.

Any input/advise is greatly appreciated. This would be my first horse.
I would not normally advise anyone to purchase a OTTB as a first horse, but you seem like you understand how much work this is going to be, and you are going to be working with a trainer. My question to you is this-IF the horse you choose to purchase were to turn out to be a lot more horse than you expected, do you have the budget to have the horse trained professionally for a few months until it had the miles it needed to match up a bit more closely with your experience?

Most of those horses have never really learned to be horses, so they seem to fit in an entirely different view of what horse life is supposed to be like. Many even with a break to pasture after racing, never really fully settle into just being a horse.

I've owned OTTB and even with a trainer, there were some very challenging days. I think those horses turned out to be the horses I learned the most from, but could have done without had I realized some of the issues I would have to face.
 

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I'd be cautious. I know OTTBs can seem really appealing, they're attractive, athletic horses that often go quite cheaply and many people on a tight budget buy them. However, it's something you should enter into cautiously. While their purchase price is cheap, their upkeep can tend to be quite pricey, with them being known as one of the hardest keeping breeds. In addition, it's estimated that up to 90% of them come off the track with ulcers or digestive difficulties, some will rectify themselves with a good, high forage diet, others may need treatments. Besides that there are possible injuries, many haven't spent a lot of time out in a paddock so IMO they tend to be a little more injury prone than other horses.

I'd also caution against getting a 17hh horse. Not that there is anything wrong with tall horses, but not sure they're the best choice for a first horse. It will cost more to feed, rugs can be more expensive, standard stables and yards can be too small, and the standard horse float often caters to horses up to 16.2hh. Resale might be more difficult. You're tall, but I don't think you need a 17hh horse. Many westerns are tall, strong men who easily ride 15hh horses. TBs are often built finer, I look fine on a 15hh QH or a 17hh TB, just because the TB is much narrower (i'm 5'7).

On top of this, a lot of OTTBs have issues. They're hot headed and difficult. There are plenty of good OTTBs out there, some that might even be suitable for a first horse owner, but these are ones with a lot of experience and training. An straight off the track one, it's not something I reccomend.

I have an OTTB at the moment and I often find myself wish I just had a green 3 or 4 year old that was properly started, had basic work, level headed. It's just so much easier working with a "blank canvas" of a horse, compared to dealing with all the race stuff. I'm surprised your trainer wants you to get an OTTB.
 

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I would start by doing a TON of research on OTTBs. Read as much as you can about them. Then go out to CANTER a few times and spend some time around them. If you decided to get one, I'd work with a trainer who has OTTB experience. Don't expect it to be like hopping on a young horse who needs more training. OTTBs have already been trained, just not in any kind of way you would want them to be. They have to be RE-trained, which can be more of a challenge that just starting a young horse.

Perfect example... ground manners. In my experience (with my own OTTB and from boarding at a facility that constantly takes in CANTER horses), most race horses aren't taught much about them. The answer to a bull headed, pushy horse in the racing community is a stud chain, or worse. You might have to spend some time teaching an OTTB about what is acceptable behavior with things like walking to the pasture on a lead line, or walking through a gate without bolting through it. It's part of the process.

I learned all of this the hard way. I adopted an OTTB without knowing a thing about them. All I knew was the horse I looked at seemed pretty level headed, fairly easy to ride, and he was cheap. All of his little OTTB personality traits and old racetrack habits showed up a little while later. I treated him like every other slow poke, dead broke horse I had ever ridden, I didn't think I had to keep working with him. He got a little restless and started acting like a monster for no apparent reason, so I decided to do some research and get some outside help. Once I understood where he was coming from and what I was doing wrong, everything made so much more sense and things got a lot better between us.

My OTTB is the best horse I have ever had. I love his fiery personality. Most of the time, he is ready to go and will do anything I ask of him. Sometimes, he has other ideas and he can be pretty stubborn. Honestly, though, I wouldn't have it any other way. I love how independent he is. If I give him just a little space to express himself, he will give me everything he has in return.

Just do your homework, use common sense, and don't let the price tag determine which horse is right for you. Thoroughbreds are amazing and if you decide to take on an OTTB, I wish you the best of luck!
 

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I would start by doing a TON of research on OTTBs. Read as much as you can about them. Then go out to CANTER a few times and spend some time around them. If you decided to get one, I'd work with a trainer who has OTTB experience. Don't expect it to be like hopping on a young horse who needs more training. OTTBs have already been trained, just not in any kind of way you would want them to be. They have to be RE-trained, which can be more of a challenge that just starting a young horse.

Perfect example... ground manners. In my experience (with my own OTTB and from boarding at a facility that constantly takes in CANTER horses), most race horses aren't taught much about them. The answer to a bull headed, pushy horse in the racing community is a stud chain, or worse. You might have to spend some time teaching an OTTB about what is acceptable behavior with things like walking to the pasture on a lead line, or walking through a gate without bolting through it. It's part of the process.

I learned all of this the hard way. I adopted an OTTB without knowing a thing about them. All I knew was the horse I looked at seemed pretty level headed, fairly easy to ride, and he was cheap. All of his little OTTB personality traits and old racetrack habits showed up a little while later. I treated him like every other slow poke, dead broke horse I had ever ridden, I didn't think I had to keep working with him. He got a little restless and started acting like a monster for no apparent reason, so I decided to do some research and get some outside help. Once I understood where he was coming from and what I was doing wrong, everything made so much more sense and things got a lot better between us.

My OTTB is the best horse I have ever had. I love his fiery personality. Most of the time, he is ready to go and will do anything I ask of him. Sometimes, he has other ideas and he can be pretty stubborn. Honestly, though, I wouldn't have it any other way. I love how independent he is. If I give him just a little space to express himself, he will give me everything he has in return.

Just do your homework, use common sense, and don't let the price tag determine which horse is right for you. Thoroughbreds are amazing and if you decide to take on an OTTB, I wish you the best of luck!
I've helped retrain OTTBs (as I mentioned before) and I brought along my gelding (draft cross) from a basically unhandled 2yo. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that bringing my gelding along has been MUCH easier than even the easiest of the OTTBs I've helped retrain.
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Everyone has given wonderful advice.

OTTBs are interesting animals. Some are wonderful, some are nutcases. I would look for one with a good mind and good health above all. See the horse handled. Any nervous ticks? Any habits? Anything that could point to an unwilling partner, I would probably pass and keep looking.

Vet check, vet check, vet check. Seen so many unsound horses come off the track locally and heard so many stories that I can't emphasize enough how important this is.

You could post pictures here too, so we can give you a second opinion.

Where are you located? We might even be able to help you look!
 

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Can't add much to the above posts as I agree that for a first horse an OTTB is to say the least a challenge. In my distant youth I used to rehab them into hunters and can tell you it's a lot of patience and work. I would like to ask the OP what his goals are with riding? What discipline are you doing? Hunter, jumper, eventing, weekend trail riding? These things should factor into the decision whether or not an OTTB would be suitable. Buying a horse that is unsuited to your goals is one sure path to failure in my book.
 

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I didn't wade through all of the posts but just some thoughts. Barring this last horse, all but one were OTTBs (my first was a Morgan/Welsh cross) but these were all older and retrained animals. OTTBs can turn into the best riding horse you have ever had or the worst nightmare. If retrained properly, ie being allowed to come down off the track mentality with turnout time etc, and essentially taken back to foal basics regarding being taught ground manners and being brought along slowly, they can turn into the sweetest and most companionable horses. What has to be remembered is that they have been on rocket fuel for horse feed, have been trained since they were extremely young, had limited turnout and socialization, either with humans (other than their training staff) or other horses.

Due to the young age in which they are raced (and thus have to begin their training), OTTBs can come off track indicated as being "sound" but with hidden issues. To some trainers as long as the horse isn't lame it is sound when in actuality you have a start of tendon issues, splints, possible navicular changes that are more advanced for the younger age (TBs are notorious for having bad feet) or some other issue. A vet pre-purchase with full radiographs and probable MRI of some sort (some magnetic imagery of tendns/ligaments) would be critical if the horse is intended for any, what I refer to as active, sporthorse use.

Also, some TBs are built more solidly than others. Some have a pencil thin bone structure that makes me cringe when I see them as jumpers/hunters. Others have a larger bone structure that to me is more acceptable for the more demanding styles of work.

I found my most recent horse after calling on over 30 and looking at 18. It takes time but TAKE the time to find the right horse..as I was told when I was getting frustrated, the right one is out there..don't take the easy way out by looking at price (even though obviously that is a consideration) and quick availability (horses coming off track are plentiful) and take the time needed to really evaluate a potential.
 

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I absolutely love OTTB's! I may never own anything else actually! They are whole other type of ball game though! Generally I wouldn't recommend one right off the track for a first horse, but it all depends on the horse you choose. Some come off the track full of attitude and fire and just want to run, and some come off, give a big sigh of relief, and immediately love the slower pace of life. You really have to have the help of someone who has a great eye and lots of experience and *really* knows thoroughbreds. Even then, it still can be a crapshoot. Either way, you have a long road ahead of you and a LOT of previous training to undo.

I'm just curious why your trainer suggested an OTTB? There are a ton of other horses that may be suitable for you as well, personally I wouldn't be limiting yourself just yet. Does your trainer have a lot of experience with OTTB's? If it were me, unless my trainer had a lot of experience specifically picking up OTTB's and retraining them right off the track, I probably wouldn't consider it. Trying to do that and turn them right into a suitable first horse for someone is even harder. Not impossible, mind you, but very difficult. They do require at least a couple months of "let down" time, some CANTER horses may have already have been off the track for a bit, which is a plus. And then you have to start the retraining process pretty much from scratch. Like others mentioned, digestive problems and ulcers are extremely common, and are expensive to diagnose and treat. Lots of time they have been pumped full of steroids and that takes months to fully leave the horse's system. Often they are very body sore and tight everywhere, and may require extensive time off and chiropractic work. Hooves are generally a mess, and you may end up having to rehab for that as well. Many are hard keepers that will require a special diet and extra feed, so that's another expense to be aware of. They are not sort of a "get on and go" type of horse in the majority of cases.

You don't necessarily need a 17hh horse, what you need to be looking for is a horse with a larger barrel to take up your leg. You could have the tallest horse in the world, but if they are small barreled, you'll still look large and out of place on them. So that should be more of a priority than just looking for "tall".

Someone brought up a good point that if you do go the OTTB route, you have to factor in what you're going to do if the horse requires several months of professional training along the way. The cheaper price tag can easily escalate into several thousand dollars extra spent just in the first year. They are not "easy" horses by any means, but if you put in the work and stick it out, it is incredibly rewarding! With OTTB's it more about the journey, it may take a lot longer to get there than with a different horse, but if you click with a thoroughbred, they are incredibly loyal and have the hugest hearts! They have an amazing work ethic, and will try their absolute hardest for you.

I wouldn't totally rule it out, but I wouldn't limit yourself either. You are definitely ahead of the game and doing the right thing by doing lots of research and exploring your options before you jump in:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for all the advise, certainly a lot to sink in and evaluate. Trying to avoid a rash decision and not let emotions run rampant. To answer a few questions:

I really don't know why my trainer insists on a 17h horse besides that a big horse will be more 'forgiving' what with my weight n all. Thoroughbred and Warmblood are the breeds she insists on getting when we have the talks about what horse I should get when the day arrives.

I ride English saddle, goal is Jumpers possibely Cross Country but that needs a bit of research and I would imagine I would need to get into Jumpers first before considering getting into Cross Country.

I understand that saying an OTTB is a lot of work is an understatement. While I do have the determination, dedication, and commitment I wonder if my jumping skills need to be more developed before tackling on a project such as this. Just when I got to a level of 7 jump courses I got in a lease agreement with my trainer where we got a new horse that was green to jumping back in April and I haven't really jumped since then and jump skills have worsened because of lack of jumping. I wonder if my lack of jumping skills will be a severe issue and should develop that first before considering an OTTB.

A few questions that has arisen are
1. Do vet checks catch all or at least can reliably spot the majority of potential health problems? And how much additional costs could this lead to?
2. How much additional cost could an OTTB be for training? Sounds like having an OTTB have additional training factors than a green horse.
3. Are there any book recommendations?
4. Is it doable for an novice/intermediate rider to train a OTTB under the watchful eye of a trainer with hacking being the only thing not done under supervision?

I really like what I hear about an OTTB. Something that will be severe work, potential downtime, but the most rewarding kind of work. Perhaps I should focus on developing skills first. I just don't want to get into something that I'm way over my head in and that I need to further develop my riding skills first.

SorrelHorse, I live about 25 miles NE of Houston, TX.
 

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I agree with the previous posters. OTTB often make wonderful, talented mounts! But I firmly believe only an experienced rider should attempt to bring them into a new career, for the safety & mental health of both rider & horse.

OTTB's need several months to a year or more to wind down after racing, and they should be restarted as if they'd never been handled or ridden. This takes a very experienced trainer, IMO. This is a whole different ball game then starting your average horse.

Long-term soundness is a definite consideration. Run young and hard, you have a very good chance of getting a horse who will require extra maintanance through the years.
 

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As a caveat to my previous post, I did not look at the CANTER website before replying. I am familiar with two race horse rehabs in Texas who take the horses, turn them out for several months, then have a pro trainer restart them. You then adopt a horse who has the basics and is ready to be furthered in it's training. If that is similar to CANTER, it may be a possible fit since you are closely working with your trainer. Provided you can handle the potential expense of soundness issues - which could include daily supplements, potential time off for lameness, potential for pricey injections to maintain soundness.

The two organizations I am speaking of are Remember Me Retired Racehorse Program, and LOPE (Lone Star Outreach to Place Ex Racers.) Both of these will be upfront about any bone chips, hoof issues, etc, although a PPE is not a bad idea for any horse you intend to jump.

Good luck finding your horse!
 

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I ride English saddle, goal is Jumpers possibely Cross Country but that needs a bit of research and I would imagine I would need to get into Jumpers first before considering getting into Cross Country.
IMO, get yourself a well broke packer type as your first horse and concentrate on learning to ride properly and get a solid foundation at jumping. Once you get that down, then consider buying an OTTB. Seriously, I have qualms about a trainer that is insistent you buy a green horse at this stage in your riding. Remember, the saying "green on green = black and blue" is out there for a reason.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
As a caveat to my previous post, I did not look at the CANTER website before replying. I am familiar with two race horse rehabs in Texas who take the horses, turn them out for several months, then have a pro trainer restart them. You then adopt a horse who has the basics and is ready to be furthered in it's training. If that is similar to CANTER, it may be a possible fit since you are closely working with your trainer. Provided you can handle the potential expense of soundness issues - which could include daily supplements, potential time off for lameness, potential for pricey injections to maintain soundness.

The two organizations I am speaking of are Remember Me Retired Racehorse Program, and LOPE (Lone Star Outreach to Place Ex Racers.) Both of these will be upfront about any bone chips, hoof issues, etc, although a PPE is not a bad idea for any horse you intend to jump.

Good luck finding your horse!
Thanks for the info. Certainly will look up on em since the Canter listings were all out of state.
 
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