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Hi,

I'm looking for some more advice, I took over care of this ex racer although she didn't make it all the way as she wasn't faster enough and the owner just neglected her.

She is a really beautiful horse, she can be so loving and like affection. She handles well, a pleasure to groom and generally take care of. But she gets so worked up in environments that are different and this obviously becomes a problem when out for a ride. She makes a ride very difficult as she just wants to do that half trot/walk or sidepass out of excitement.

She responds so well to left and right lateral reins, and working on halting. And when she is around her normal yard area she is a pleasure but otherwise she just gets worked up. Even when she goes out with her buddies its still the same.

She is also a little head shy, but that is improving. But major issue is unbridling where she always throw her head high as possible making trying to remove it nicely. I have been working on suggests but slow going.

I started her on the supplements I read about to help calm horses, changed her feed to no grain and even treated her for ulcers just in case too. But still same worked up issue presents as we go for rides away from normal area.

I have even tried slowly increasing further and further to see if doing environment changes over time help but no joy.

My question is, will she ever lose that firey, worked up, excitable issue that comes from riding in unfamiliar areas or when shes just excited in general?
 

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Some horses never loose that "lookiness," but it can be managed. My friend's Arab gelding is a naturally looky horse and can get worked up over something seemingly small. She does lots of circling and other exercises on the trail to keep his mind engaged with her and not constantly looking for the next potential danger. It also helps some to ride with a calm horse who doesn't react when your horse gets her dandier up.

May I ask, how do you react when she gets looky and flighty?
 

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There are several OTTBs at the barn where I ride, and I lease a 9 year-old OTTB mare. Trail riding is all I do on her, unless there is something specific my instructor wants me to work on. (I started jumping her over cavalettis under supervision before heading out tackling logs and trees on my own.)

Spookiness and nervousness: It may be part personality, part a matter of putting miles on her and exposing her to stuff. I chase after deer in the field with my horse when we rouse them by accident.

Energy: Do some arena work. What helped with my horse is to control her speed by taking her into a circle whenever she speeds up, and allowing her to straighten out as soon as she relaxes. As with all horse training, timing of the release is important so she makes the connection.

Head-shy: That's a standard approach-and-retreat desensitization issue. Show her she's got nothing to fear from your hands. Who knows what they did to her at her racing stable.

She's been bred and trained to run. If you can't offer her the opportunity to blow off some steam now and then, you'll always have an edgy horse on your hands. My horse walks out on the trail on a loose rein. After the first trot or so, she'll look for opportunities to go fast. I allow her to run any and all uphill portions of the trail that are reasonably safe, and she knows that running downhill is a big no-no in my book. Keeping her at a trot requires work, but I have been known to trot her across an open field on a loose rein recently. I also go specifically to fields where she can open up and tire out a little. With such a trail ride, the last quarter mile to the barn is usually on the buckle again. She needs about 5-10 min after the "hot" phase of the ride to calm down again.

You should consider riding an OTTB on the trail exciting cardio-vascular exercise, not R&R. And no, she probably won't lose that, judging from riding a 30 year-old OTTB at the barn once or twice in the field.
 

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Regarding the head shy issue. Be sure that the bit isn't banging her teeth as you bring it down. Also, it may not have been you that banged her teeth, but at some point someone did, so now she gets defensive. It may just take time to show her that it's not always going to hurt to be unbridled.
 

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Hiya, How long have you had her? How old is she? What (OT) training has she had, if any? What is your training experience? Are you working with a trainer? How long has it been that she's been off grain, on supps? What IS her diet? What supps? What ulcer treatment & how long was she on that? Has saddle fit, teeth, bit etc been checked out? And what is her living environment/management like?

I suspect it's mostly because she's a 'green' horse who has had little experience outside tracklife. If she's been fed grain since stopping racing, that will also effect her moods, being 'high octane'. And yes, nutrition being out of whack is also a common cause of overly 'nervous' behaviour. Particularly, too high potassium is known to make horses 'crazy' - which can well be if she's been on 'high octane' racing diet - and too low magnesium - very commonly low in many diets anyway, but more is needed for horses on high-carb diets and also if they're stressed, whether physically or mentally.
 

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You should consider riding an OTTB on the trail exciting cardio-vascular exercise, not R&R. And no, she probably won't lose that, judging from riding a 30 year-old OTTB at the barn once or twice in the field.
I agree with @mmshiro. There are some quite mellow OTTBs out there, but many have an excitable personality as you describe. With age, experience and proper handling it will improve, but how much it improves depends from horse to horse.

For example, my friend has an OTTB that is 13, and she has had her a couple of years. This horse was passed on several times due to other people giving up on her excitability. My friend has given the horse many experiences and considers her a great ride now. In the beginning, she spooked more violently and got very worked up. Now she gets worked up but at a more manageable level, as long as my friend provides frequent canters and gallops. Her spooking is less frequent. But she will never be a horse for a beginner rider, or for a person who wants to sit and not pay attention. Probably in her 20s she will have longer periods of relaxation during rides. She does relax, listens, and is obedient. She also gets excited about wanting to run at times. She is a good horse, but typical for the hotter type OTTBs, which is why people use them for eventing and other very athletic pursuits.

Anything that is training related such as accepting the bridle, grooming, responding to the aids; those can all be expected to improve. Excitability is more related to personality than training, and will only improve as much as the horse's personality allows, even if you give the horse good training and many experiences. People who ride excitable horses learn what will help each particular horse burn off some energy without boiling over and losing their patience completely. Sometimes that means you must circle or spend time trotting around an area instead of walking quietly. Is it "worth it?" It seems that people either value this type of horse for their athleticism or they don't. So that depends on you.
 
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