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View Full Version : REtraining the ex-racehorse....TIPS PLZ!



midwestrocket
Aug. 9, 2009, 10:11 AM
Okay..so here is the deal. I have dealt with babies before but this is a different beast...the ex racehorse! My friend just got this freebie off the track a few months ago and I have some questions on how to help her handle this simple minded racehorse.... he is very calm and sweet, but everyone that I have spoken to thus far says to work him in small spaces because our riding ring is going to remind him of the track. He doesn't run away with you. He might get alittle jumpy at an orange cone or a smell in the air but nothing major. He does like to toss his head a bit...but he is just being ridden a plane jane training snaffle! I can't fathom how that can be agitating?! So...with all that said...is there anything out of the box I can do to get him brain off the track and into everyday flatwork???

Vitriolic
Aug. 9, 2009, 10:27 AM
I would not bore him with too much ring work, especially at first. You don't mention how long he was at the track, but he is likely used to something like walking to a track, trotting for a mile, then galloping a mile and a half. He will likely resent transitions because he isn't used to them. Not all do, but many racehorses get hacked lots too. I have been run off less with racehorses who are used to galloping in a controlled fashion, than with ponies or unraced horses who "lose it" with the surge of adrenalin they get sometimes in an open field. I don't want to say too much as I have no idea what this individual is like. The vast majority of racehorses I have ridden are safe to hack. Stick to walk and jog if you aren't comfortable.

Another thing I have found, is a horse who has always been ridden at tracks or training center is used to being ridden with lots of other horses around. They can be very lonesome and insecure by themselves at first. If you have no one to ride with, even seeing others outside might help. Racehorses are broke. Give him a little credit, while trying to understand what his training would have to lack. :) Good luck.

caryledee
Aug. 9, 2009, 10:30 AM
First of all, have his teeth checked if you haven't done so. I get a lot of horses off the track and most of them are in desparate need of a float.

What I basically do is get to know them on the ground a bit and see what their personalities are like. There might be no need to worry about starting in a round pen. I don't have anything but a large paddock available to me and that works fine. I lunge them first with tack on and see how they react. If they have a good mind, they may jump a little at the saddle flaps or weight of the saddle, but they settle down quickly. Next I teach them to stand still for mounting. If they are fine with that, I just start riding them...usually walk and trot for a few days, getting them used to leg pressure and bending and just taking it easy. If they get quick and want to run, I work circles, serpentines, transitions. The one thing you need to keep in mind is that many of them have been taught to run on the bit, and that pulling harder will make them go faster. Always give and take on the reins and remember to stay relaxed in your seat and back and this will keep them calm as well.

Good luck!

ottb dressage
Aug. 9, 2009, 10:44 AM
you may want to read the book beyond the track by anna morgan ford. you can order off of amazon. it leads you step by step in the retraining process. it also explains the mind of an off the track tb, how they lived on the track and some of the various mechanical issues off the track tb may come with. you did not mention who you train with. you can do the work on your own if you have empathy and commonsense and are a tactful rider. however, you may want to hook up with a local event rider. event riders tend to have some good experience working with and competing an ottb. they can help you set up a conditioning program and can teach you the skills to understand the mind and body of an ottb. they are a lovely animal and you are in a position where you can really help a horse go on to have a successful new career. take advantage of this really unique educational opportunity you have in front of you. if you do things the right way you won't regret your decision to retrain an ottb, but doing things the right way with an ottb is not quick and requires patience, tact and empathy and a willingness to learn how this horse lived in his life as a racehorse.

good luck.

merrygoround
Aug. 9, 2009, 10:57 AM
Having worked with many, I would treat him just as I would any other just backed horse. I wouldn't worry about riding him in a ring, they do walk and jog on the track , besides galloping. ;)

He will tell you what he knows and understands. As far as the head tossing, be aware that most riders on the track are very quiet steady riders, who use little hand.

I have found most of these horses to be quite "bombproof" as they have seen and heard all sorts of things in their track life.

So go slow and listen to him.

midwestrocket
Aug. 9, 2009, 02:28 PM
ottd dresage I will definately forward your suggestion of that book. sounds promising! And He came off the track as a 5.5 year old and is 6 now. So the teeth floating may actually be an issue that I'm pretty sure has probably not even been thought about by this owner. This is her first project horse and her mouth is definately bigger than the skill she talks about....having seen her ride I really hope her intentions of seeking out a trainer are true because Lord know she is not capable of doing this all the way alone. sweet girl, nice horse, they both just need time.

RougeEmpire
Aug. 9, 2009, 02:51 PM
The biggest mistake people make with an OTTB is to jump into a fantasy world of "fire breathing black stallion like race horse"! Ive trained plenty of off the track horses including TBs, Standardbreds, Arabs, Quarter Horses and even Apps. Unless they ARE racing it's not really a race horse. The key is to approach the horse just like ANY green broke horse. Honestly most of them are pretty darn broke coming off the track, they have all three solid gaits, steer, stop and go. Most don't breath fire and most fine minds that are just fine once they are OFF the grain. If you can get the horse on an all hay diet (Oat, Alfalfa and Timothy combo) it can make a world of difference in reducing the energy.

People really do seem to get worked up mentally and emotionally when it comes to Off The Track Horses, and there is no reason to do so. Its just another young green horse, very few of them are wackos or fire breathers. It's extremely rare to have one that grabs the bit and runs hell bent for leather at the drop of a hat. Most race horses have good minds but are made nuts by the FEEDING programs and over confinement. By changing to a regular feeding program, giving lots of social turnout and treating them like ANY OTHER HORSE you will end up a "normal" horse.

BasqueMom
Aug. 9, 2009, 03:25 PM
Check out www.exracers.com and their forum. Good bunch of folks with lots of experience.

You've got some good advice here. Have two OTTB's and they are just horses first. The most loyal, great work ethics, brave and sensible, at least my two are. The one who raced
for 5 years would take you through the gates of H____ if you asked him. The one who
raced once and didn't as much time at the track does see the occasional bogieman.

Linny
Aug. 9, 2009, 07:32 PM
"Beyond the Track" is a great book, it explains alot about how horses live and train at the track so you can understand the training your horse already has.

Don't forget, track horses pull harder when you tug on the reins, so don't do that! :) It's the number one reason why people thing OTTB's are crazy. There was a time when almost every horse at a normal show and/or training and lesson barn was an OTTB. They are very versatile and quick studies. They do like the have a job.

Race horses that have spend most of their lives at track have seen cars and trucks, front loaders, huge vans and crowds, lots of other horses and an assortment of other livestock like chickens and goats. They are used to a routine that rarely changes. Many have not seen some of the things more associated with farm life, like tractors or flower gardens or colorful plastic childrens toys. They might not have seen basketball hoops or mounting blacks (riders on the track are given a leg up.) Standing to mount is a new lesson for most OTTB's. Again, another cause for retrainers to start off on the wrong foot. They think the horse is a fire breathing dragon because it's dancing and circling while you mount. It's never had to stand for mounting!

Good luck.

inmotion
Aug. 9, 2009, 08:16 PM
The mounting block issue is the easest to overlook and the biggest mistake. Personally, I have this theory that once horses.....even ottb's....learn they can relax and all this riding stuff is no big deal and maybe actually fun.....they become relaxed and it IS no big deal.....and IS fun.

Yeah, I believe in trainers......especially for the nervous nellie kinda riders.....that's what upsets the horses......knowing the rider is worried and anticipating something terrible....so they are expecting something terrible.......some may flip their heads...like we count to stay calm......check teeth though......

Riley0522
Aug. 9, 2009, 08:20 PM
I don't have any advice other than what was offered, but I noticed in your post you said he tosses his head being ridden in a "plain jane training snaffle." I know some people who refer to a French Link as a "training snaffle", so I just wanted to say that my 15 y/o OTTB HATES double jointed bits. I tried a few times, and he just tossed his head the entire ride. They definitely don't see them on the track :)

Good luck to your friend and her new partner!

Soldier06
Aug. 9, 2009, 09:00 PM
The biggest mistake people make with an OTTB is to jump into a fantasy world of "fire breathing black stallion like race horse"! Ive trained plenty of off the track horses including TBs, Standardbreds, Arabs, Quarter Horses and even Apps. Unless they ARE racing it's not really a race horse. The key is to approach the horse just like ANY green broke horse. Honestly most of them are pretty darn broke coming off the track, they have all three solid gaits, steer, stop and go. Most don't breath fire and most fine minds that are just fine once they are OFF the grain. If you can get the horse on an all hay diet (Oat, Alfalfa and Timothy combo) it can make a world of difference in reducing the energy.

People really do seem to get worked up mentally and emotionally when it comes to Off The Track Horses, and there is no reason to do so. Its just another young green horse, very few of them are wackos or fire breathers. It's extremely rare to have one that grabs the bit and runs hell bent for leather at the drop of a hat. Most race horses have good minds but are made nuts by the FEEDING programs and over confinement. By changing to a regular feeding program, giving lots of social turnout and treating them like ANY OTHER HORSE you will end up a "normal" horse.

Brilliant! Hit the nail on the head, they are only as crazy as you will let them be. Mine is probably the most bombproof animal, except with my old trainer, who was always expecting him to spook, so he did. :lol:

Mine eats grain, gets t/o, and ridden daily. He has some quirks that are directly track related, but is far far far from a crazy wild animal. You can't lead him w/o a chain, but he lived his first 7 years of his life with a chain, either over his nose or a lip chain, to HIM a chain is normal, same way as a regular lead is normal to our other 2 horses. He's a hot, sensitive horse but that is his nature vs something from the track.

He is probably the safest horse to gallop on, because that's all he does; gallop. There are no leaps and twists and when you say "whoa" he stops. :)


He's a good boy, and I've learned a lot from him. :)

ETA- Mine HATES double jointed bits, bitting him was a hard task. His mouth was a MESS when he came off, lots of hooks. The mounting block was never an issue, probably because I had no idea it would have been one, sometimes ignorance is bliss. ;)

Barnfairy
Aug. 9, 2009, 11:38 PM
Remember that it is a horse first, and that all horses are individuals. What works for one may or may not work for another, regardless of whether or not the horse came off the track.

That said, there are definitely some things you want to be aware of when restarting a newly off track TB.

I will third the recommendation for Beyond the Track: Retraining the Thoroughbred from Racehorse to Riding Horse (http://www.exclusivelyequine.com/ViewProduct.aspx?productID=B26-1933(BHP)). It is very thorough and the advice is sound.

Also, there are some good basic tips here: Before you buy a thoroughbred off the track you should know... (http://web.archive.org/web/20040416192846/http://horsecare.stablemade.com/_articles/tb_off_track.htm)

Time is your friend. Don't rush things, and know that some horses benefit from a goodly let down period to decompress and get back to being a horse.

Let go. Make sure there is no unconscious clutching on the horse's mouth; soft hands are as important if not more so than the type of bit used.

Good luck, and enjoy!

foundationmare
Aug. 11, 2009, 12:43 PM
I have not read her book, but I am eager to do so.

As luck would have, I'm attending a fund-raising event tomorrow for Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program where she will be the guest of honor! Maybe the books will be offered for sale there.

Cool, huh!?

goingplaces
Aug. 11, 2009, 01:02 PM
I see that you are located in Baltimore, if your friend is as well, then she should contact Steuart Pittman (www.dodonfarm.com) who works with OTTB's and retraining. He is doing a symposium in October on this topic and has info on his website.

mythical84
Aug. 11, 2009, 10:53 PM
Here's more info on the Retired Racehorse Training Symposium: http://dodonfarm.com/sympoisum.html

I've also posted info on this on the Events board. It's going to be both educational and entertaining!

smilton
Aug. 12, 2009, 09:51 AM
All my TB's have done better with a french link than a plain snaffle. They have low ports and they get popped in the top of the mouth by the snaffle with pressure and toss their heads up. All of mine have been very different. One was calmly trail riding 2 days after racing. Another is 6 months off and still has bolting bucking tendencies. Some OTTB's have lead changes, move off leg and do voice commands others only know one speed and have no steering. It really depends on the horse's back ground just like any other horse you buy. All of my guys are big 16.2+ so small areas are pretty hard on them so I actually ride them in an open feild most times.

centeur
Aug. 12, 2009, 10:09 AM
Okay..so here is the deal. I have dealt with babies before but this is a different beast...the ex racehorse! My friend just got this freebie off the track a few months ago and I have some questions on how to help her handle this simple minded racehorse.... he is very calm and sweet, but everyone that I have spoken to thus far says to work him in small spaces because our riding ring is going to remind him of the track. He doesn't run away with you. He might get alittle jumpy at an orange cone or a smell in the air but nothing major. He does like to toss his head a bit...but he is just being ridden a plane jane training snaffle! I can't fathom how that can be agitating?! So...with all that said...is there anything out of the box I can do to get him brain off the track and into everyday flatwork???

I've worked with lots of OTTB's and seems to me they need some time to just be a regular horse. Then, start him with quiet hacks, don't attempt the 25 miler immediately! Keep it simple, close to the farm, and work your way out. Let him know he doesn't have to be be ready to do the mile and a quarter at a moments notice. Collection is in the future, not now. Like another poster said.........listen. good luck!!

JstMyLuck3
Aug. 18, 2009, 04:21 PM
#1 thing I would do before anything is get his teeth done. I've found on the some tracks, dental work is often ignored /or the bare minimum is done.

Madeline
Aug. 18, 2009, 09:19 PM
Fool around with bitting. Some horses are fine with single jointed snaffles, and that is probably what this horse is used to. I would first try a french mouth, then a mullen mouth.He may prefer one of these.

We have 4 TB's in the barn now, one is really nicest in a waterford, two are MUCH nicer in the Myler mullen/barrel mouth (02), and one is perfectly nice in any snaffle, but HATES the jumping hackamore. If you have access to single jounted, unjointed and multi-jointed , you'll probably find something he likes.

And do check his teeth.