PDA

View Full Version : How much consideration is given to the discipline or new career a retiring race horse



Hauwse
Sep. 17, 2009, 05:50 AM
I thought it might be interesting to hear the perspective of those closely involved in the racing discipline regarding how much consideration is given to the future careers of ex race horses by trainers/owners.

I myself have owned a few race horses over the years; however my involvement from the owner perspective has always been directly related to my main focus which is the hunter/jumper disciplines. All the horses I have run were purchased for a career in the hunter jumper/disciplines, but just happen to be running well enough to make a dollar at the lower levels, that and the fact that I love horse racing, so I paid my rate and ran them until the end of a meet, or something along those lines.

Thanks to good trainers, and some luck I have never had an issue with a horse that I ran that prompted me to sell a horse in to a new career.

This question is the result of a zillion threads on the hunter/jumper forum regarding TB’s in the discipline and basically what it would take to get TB’s back in to the hunter/jumper rings competing at the top levels again like they did in the past, prior to Warm Blood’s becoming dominate.

There are lots of debates, some are of the opinion that TB’s are just not capable, some citing TB breeding practices, some citing the advantages of WB’s being bred for, etc. etc., and there are lots of great idea’s focused on increasing TB development, however these questions, ideas are always debated in a vacuum, and rarely include those who are actually involved in breeding and running TB’s, the source of our TB’s, and I thought it would be useful to hear from those of you who are directly involved.

SleepyFox
Sep. 17, 2009, 09:22 AM
When I breed, I do not consider the future career of the horse. I do not look to produce a good dressage horse or hunter or whatever. That never crosses my mind. However, I do breed primarily for the commercial market, so I am breeding for a big, correct, good looking horse with nice movement. And, I always breed for a good temperament just to make life easier on everyone. So, in theory, what I'm producing should be good at a variety of disciplines.

When I claim a horse (which happens more frequently than I breed), a horse that has the physical traits to find a second career as a dressage, h/j or event horse is a bonus. I absolutely do not base any decisions on that, but it does make the decision to drop a slip a little easier if I think we can at least sell the horse as a prospect if he doesn't work out. I actively try to avoid claiming nutcases, so that helps, too.

When we have a horse in the barn, we do talk about what he would be good at as a second career. And, we do worry when we have one to retire that doesn't have the traits to be desirable to the OTTB market.

So, in sum, I would say it's something that is at the back of my mind, but it isn't a key factor that drives the decision making process.

jengersnap
Sep. 17, 2009, 10:51 AM
My husband, who makes the calls on what we have in the racing string, is very much like SleepyFox. When he bred, he looked at the performance on the track above all else. His few homebred foals were bred to be runners from runners, not what was popular or trendy and not for resale. They all made it to the track, and save one who had a tragedy before her first start they all were winners. That's rare. He claimed a LOT, and like SF, desireable post-racing traits were bonuses. He looks to improve on a horse as a racehorse first and foremost. But it's nice to have ones that have recognizably suitable second careers. One in the barn we both know would be a fabulous kids horse and we talk about that often when we're playing with him...after his racing career of course ;) The only one I've had that I worried about placing (small chestnut mare with a bow) is the one I tried to give away, had a ton of unexpected responses on, then ended up unable to part with. :D

On the Farm
Sep. 17, 2009, 11:00 AM
Hate to turn the question, but I'm not so sure that bringing thoroughbreds back to prominence in the hunter ring has as much to do with thoroughbreds as it does with today's brand of rider. Alot of t'breds are simply not push button horses and require a thinking rider with some give an take. From my own experience, in both receiving lessons and seeing the results of other lesson programs, today's riders are not learning those types of skills. They're taught to achieve a certain "pose," taught to respond to spoken instruction while riding, and taught to turn the horse over to the trainer for "straightening out" the horse when objections are presented by the animal.

To answer the question posed, I'd say very little. The finish line is the objective judge of successful breeding in the racing world.

Laurierace
Sep. 17, 2009, 11:08 AM
A sound thoroughbred should be able to "do" anything at a low level. Basic dressage, small jumps, trail riding, western, you name it. That alone should be enough for them to be useful to someone. Maybe not a top level eventer or a champion barrel racer etc but not everyone needs a horse that can compete at a top level. So when breeding for a race horse the number one consideration needs to be likelihood of success at the race track. Sound horses tend to be more successful than unsound horses so the sound part figures in by default.

vineyridge
Sep. 17, 2009, 01:05 PM
I agree with Laurierace about the TB versatility. Keeping runners sound is paramount for second careers because so many horses come off the track broken and their owners don't want to put the time and money into fixing them.

For TBs to have a chance at excelling in the show rings again, trainers and owners generally are going to have to stop pounding them into the ground.

Don't get your feathers ruffled. I know that most trainers care about keeping their horses sound, but running them on some of the things they are given to keep them going is not conducive to long lasting second careers--and buyers know that or think that.

Las Olas
Sep. 17, 2009, 01:59 PM
I agree with everyone's comments, and the thing to keep in mind is that the goal here is to breed a winner. The problem with trying to breed for conformation, temperment, etc, is that once you start doing that, your focus shifts, and you no longer have the fastest horse, as the guy next door is just breeding for speed. It's easier to breed for one variable instead of two, and we're talking seconds of time here. Now, speed and talent being equal, I would breed to the level headed stallion, but if the a**hole is faster or less sound, than that's who I'm going with. Otherwise, what's the point?

I try to compensate by training my horses with a future career in mind. When I leg them up, I drive them extensively, take them out on long gallops and try to expose them to life and hopefully it sticks.

Hauwse
Sep. 17, 2009, 07:24 PM
Hate to turn the question, but I'm not so sure that bringing thoroughbreds back to prominence in the hunter ring has as much to do with thoroughbreds as it does with today's brand of rider. Alot of t'breds are simply not push button horses and require a thinking rider with some give an take. From my own experience, in both receiving lessons and seeing the results of other lesson programs, today's riders are not learning those types of skills. They're taught to achieve a certain "pose," taught to respond to spoken instruction while riding, and taught to turn the horse over to the trainer for "straightening out" the horse when objections are presented by the animal. To answer the question posed, I'd say very little. The finish line is the objective judge of successful breeding in the racing world.

You will not get an argument from me regarding todays riders. There is much to be said regarding the lack of horsemanship of today’s riders/trainers that does in large part make the TB undesirable or more work than many are willing to invest in a horse.

This is part of the WB paradox, people buy WB's because they are developed for the junior/amateur rider who is not interested in developing horse, the whole instant gratification idea, and as a result they are desirable to the trainer because they are a quicker mount for students, and ultimately TB's are not developed by those who do have the ability, and ergo the status quo.


A sound thoroughbred should be able to "do" anything at a low level. Basic dressage, small jumps, trail riding, western, you name it. That alone should be enough for them to be useful to someone. Maybe not a top level eventer or a champion barrel racer etc but not everyone needs a horse that can compete at a top level. So when breeding for a race horse the number one consideration needs to be likelihood of success at the race track. Sound horses tend to be more successful than unsound horses so the sound part figures in by default.

Unfortunately one of the biggest TB speaking points being volleyed around today is that they are not the same horse they were 20-30 years ago, that today’s TB breeders are so focused on precocity and early speed that TB's are no longer the "sport horse" they used to be, citing TB's being osteologically delicate, to TB's simply not having the physical ability due to breeding for speed.

I completely understand that TB breeders are no different than hunter/jumper breeders, when I am breeding I do not think race track as an alternative even though I only breed TB's. Racing is the precursor and king of all "bred for" disciplines, and I would not have TB breeders thinking about anything other than their discipline.

Breeding with an eye on the G1's has worked for years for the hunter/jumper/eventing industry, with 12 of the 14 Show jumping Hall of Fame inductees being TB's, and with race sires like Nasrullah being the most prolific show jumping sire of all time, not to mention horses like Damascus (highly desired bloodline by those who follow TB bloodlines), Fappiano (leading event sire for as many years as he had crops), Sir Ivor (The leading French show jumping sire), etc. etc. etc., and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Probably more to my point is what happens to those horses that fail at the track, are not mature enough to start at 2 or 3, run out of conditions, are just moved on to make room for better runners, or have a injury that is not necessarily career ending but justifies moving the horse rather tying up a stall for 6 months.

These are the horses that fed the hunter/jumper industry for years, and it seems now with the changes in the slaughter laws, the realization by the powers that be in the hunter/jumper world that we cannot keep competing against the competition by buying their also ran horses, and the fact that hunter/jumper/eventing is really the most logical new career for horses retired from the track from a numbers and financial standpoint, that perhaps there should be an honest effort to get OTTB’s in to the right hands, and not just from the hunter/jumper perspective but the racing perspective as well, not off the track to a good home.

What would it take for the racing industry, and by the industry I mean trainers/owners to really focus on trying to move horses in this direction??

SEPowell
Sep. 17, 2009, 08:25 PM
[QUOTE=Hauwse;4381570]
These are the horses that fed the hunter/jumper industry for years, and it seems now with the changes in the slaughter laws, the realization by the powers that be in the hunter/jumper world that we cannot keep competing against the competition by buying their also ran horses, and the fact that hunter/jumper/eventing is really the most logical new career for horses retired from the track from a numbers and financial standpoint, that perhaps there should be an honest effort to get OTTB’s in to the right hands, and not just from the hunter/jumper perspective but the racing perspective as well, not off the track to a good home.
[\QUOTE]

Sorry, my neuron's not working very well and I got a little lost here. What did you mean "we cannot keep competing against the competition by buying their also ran horses"? Whose also ran horses?

And whose hands are the "right hands"?

Laurierace
Sep. 17, 2009, 08:26 PM
Ok you just asked a totally different question than the one in the OP which is ok. I guess that means you got the answer you were looking for, right? As far as getting people to care about where the horses end up after they retire, that is not such an easy answer. How do you get people to "care" about anything? Pass a law? Levy a fine? Make it easy to make the "right" decision? If you figure that one out let me know. I personally have made that my life's work for over a decade.

Acertainsmile
Sep. 17, 2009, 09:49 PM
A little OT here, but I wanted to mention the TB classes at some of the Hunter shows. Seems a little ironic, but glad to see them, maybe some that wouldnt have made it to Hunterland will start dabbling in some of the other divisions. Who knows.

Personally, I dont breed for future sport horse careers, but do pay attention to personality, longetivity and conformation in a mating. When I do sell TB's once retired I always market them to where I think they will have the best future, whether it's the Hunter, Jumper or Event world.

Vitriolic
Sep. 18, 2009, 06:57 AM
Having had hunter/jumper background before turning to racing, it is impossible to not prefer an attractive horse, with a good mind, and look at each foal considering all his possibilities. I usually loose jump them a little when they are not too fit to know what their form is like for future reference. I have one broodmare who is a 10+ mover. None of her foals have gone on to show, yet... but it is impossible financially in Canada to develop and market these foals as hunters, even after trying them on the track. So unpopular are TBs here, that I now feel safer selling a $5000 or $10,000 claimer to a small trainer to carry on, than I do to some of the people looking for a free or cheap horse. Only a decade ago, we would reschool the perfect candidate and get $15,000 US for him if he wasn't an allowance level or better horse. Now the market is gone. The pros we used to sell the "right" horse to can no longer resell it, so they won't buy anything with a tattoo.

That said, I try not to create anything short or ugly (no matter how fast ;) ). If two stallions are equal, always pick the one with the prettier head as 1. I have to look at it, 2. No one will buy it later if it is not cute.

The losses of most horses going as nonrace horses are so great, no matter how perfect the horse, it is unfortunately tough to consider their future career. I have sunk tons into schooling and showing attractive horses for resale only to attract the kind of rider/buyer who I would not sell to. For every ten, you might find two "the right home". And by the right home, I mean someone you don't have to call the Humane society on. I do feel it easier to sell a nice TB in the states than in Canada though. :)

TalkIsCheap
Sep. 18, 2009, 08:16 AM
Interesting thread, as I may be interested in bringing along an OTTB for Hunter use.

My question is, given current breeding "standards" for racing, what should I look for physically in an OTTB that would be a no-go for Hunter/Jumper? Talk to me of foot confirmation, soundness issues, etc. The bloodlines discussion is interesting as well.

Training is not an issue, trainer is old-school and definitely lays down the basics.

Pronzini
Sep. 18, 2009, 09:47 AM
I think the solution such as it is is to breed for a sound sane athlete with some value on the racing market place and let the future take care of itself. Trying to breed a full TB which is substitute warmblood will result in a tweener that may not appeal to anyone--not fast enough for the racehorse folks and missing the lofty action and movement for the sporthorse folks.

Many years ago, I went out and watched a friend's young TB train at a farm. He was a beautiful horse with a high knee action and nice movement. I made the mistake of commenting on that thinking I was paying a compliment. "If he can't make as a racehorse someone will surely want him as a sporthorse." My friend scowled "Why don't we worry about the first career?" Of course all that lovely movement meant the horse couldn't outrun me and my friend had created a green sporthorse at racehorse prices. ($10K stud fee as I recall) He sold the horse to an eventer without even racing him for $1500.

It's hard enough to breed a winning racehorse that it is unreasonable to expect a breeder to think about anything but the first career even if this board is focused on the second.

DMK
Sep. 18, 2009, 10:03 AM
without getting into too many specifics of conformation, look at the stallion register at pics of Point Given, mr. Greeley, Peace Rules and Indian Ocean.

Point Given and Mr. Greeley pretty much sum up what you don't want in body type and balance.

Peace Rules is a lovely example of a classic style hunter and Indian Ocean (who happens to be the sire of the winner of all top hunter breeding shows this year) is a sterling example of a more uphill modern style of hunter.

obviously, just as in racing, horses don't read the manual, and plenty of horses with less than ideal conformation have done very well, but people don't pay a lot of money or pay much attention to them in sales ads when they are prospects.

As for the TB hunter market, there's an issue with riders, but i think riders will by and large buy what trainers sell them. problem is, trainers will sell what makes them the most amount of $$ with the least amount of work and risk. unfortunately, right now that is a just started, lightly to un-shown WB imported from europe with all the basics put on and just a little bit of finish work. When racing expanded and created so many more levels for horses to be run at before being ruled off, i suspect the unintended consequence was the loss of a good percent of the trainers who made their living off retraining and selling those horses into second careers.

Las Olas
Sep. 18, 2009, 01:16 PM
Indian Ocean (who happens to be the sire of the winner of all top hunter breeding shows this year) is a sterling example of a more uphill modern style of hunter.



DMK - Have you seen Indian Ocean? There wasn't much for me to like about him on paper (except the Oceana/Storm Bird breeding - love those full sibs), but Wow! I loved that horse when I went to look at him. He's not perfect, but very nice and eaten up with class. I bred to him twice. He was my sleeper pick for FL, but a little slow to start (4th on the 1st crop FL list).

Beam Me Up
Sep. 18, 2009, 02:32 PM
As an OTTB buyer (for eventing), I can't really expect the racing industry to breed with me in mind, given that I'm the last guy down the line and paying the least. Those prospects that we're buying for 2K may have sold for 50x times that already in their life, or have won that much for their owners, our tiny contribution is probably to a trainer losing money on the horse.

I can't really be bitter about that though--there are purpose bred sport horses of the same age for 10-20K.

If I can't afford either race or sport prices, then I'll just have to hunt hard.

As I see it, there is a silver lining though, and that is that OTTBs are not really priced according to their h/j/event talent, so a lot of the most talented are just an inexpensive as the less talented. Imagine if race trainers were thinking of us and raising the prices on the better prospects!

Hauwse
Sep. 18, 2009, 04:47 PM
[QUOTE=Hauwse;4381570]
These are the horses that fed the hunter/jumper industry for years, and it seems now with the changes in the slaughter laws, the realization by the powers that be in the hunter/jumper world that we cannot keep competing against the competition by buying their also ran horses, and the fact that hunter/jumper/eventing is really the most logical new career for horses retired from the track from a numbers and financial standpoint, that perhaps there should be an honest effort to get OTTB’s in to the right hands, and not just from the hunter/jumper perspective but the racing perspective as well, not off the track to a good home.
[\QUOTE]

Sorry, my neuron's not working very well and I got a little lost here. What did you mean "we cannot keep competing against the competition by buying their also ran horses"? Whose also ran horses?

And whose hands are the "right hands"?

Sorry, I am sure it is less your neurons than mine.

I was referring to the fact that the hunter/jumper industry has become completely WB based, and North America imports the majority of those WB's from Western Europe, or we import Sires or import semen etc.

This is a paradox because the majority of the Western Europe breeding programs are highly organized, government subsidized programs, focused on improvement of sporthorses. Their success in exporting is based on their success in International competition, and their continued ability to produce top international horses. The end result is that while they export a ton of horses to North America they are not exporting their best horses, and never will.

By the right hands I am reffering to the trainers/riders here that have the ability to train and develop OTTB's for the top level of competition.

The chain that helped to train and develop TB's in the past has been broken. Because we predominantly used TB's development at a high level was built into the process.

Now the next great TB has a better chance of being purchased as a pleasure horse, and ending up sitting in someones back yard for the rest of its life, not that there is really anything wrong with that as long as they are well cared for.

It however does little to promote the TB as a first rate sport horse.

DMK
Sep. 18, 2009, 05:11 PM
DMK - Have you seen Indian Ocean? There wasn't much for me to like about him on paper (except the Oceana/Storm Bird breeding - love those full sibs), but Wow! I loved that horse when I went to look at him. He's not perfect, but very nice and eaten up with class. I bred to him twice. He was my sleeper pick for FL, but a little slow to start (4th on the 1st crop FL list).

i haven't seen him in real life, but i always keep an extra close eye on Bridlewood horses, partly because the horse in my profile is one and partly because i think appleton is one of the remaining legacies still breeding for runners, not sales horses (which ties into the idea of this thread ;) ). That horse caught my eye, and I filed it away in the section of my brain that says "if you hear of a horse available by [insert sire name] it's probably worth a look-see." From a sport horse perspective i'm not enamored of his sire line, but i liked the dam line. i have plenty of love for the storm cat look, just a recognition that the mental toughness doesn't always do them any favors in the hunter ring. But I'm always secretly happy if/when they succeed at their first job. ;)

Linny
Sep. 18, 2009, 07:40 PM
:eek:DMK, when I read your first sentence I almost died. I could not imagine why you'd lump those 4 together.

Las Olas
Sep. 18, 2009, 07:49 PM
i haven't seen him in real life, but i always keep an extra close eye on Bridlewood horses, partly because the horse in my profile is one and partly because i think appleton is one of the remaining legacies still breeding for runners, not sales horses (which ties into the idea of this thread ;) ). That horse caught my eye, and I filed it away in the section of my brain that says "if you hear of a horse available by [insert sire name] it's probably worth a look-see." From a sport horse perspective i'm not enamored of his sire line, but i liked the dam line. i have plenty of love for the storm cat look, just a recognition that the mental toughness doesn't always do them any favors in the hunter ring. But I'm always secretly happy if/when they succeed at their first job. ;)

Are you in Ocala? If so, you should go see him. He has good size and scope to him. And, I hate to say it, but Bridlewood has pretty much made the conversion over to breeding for the sale ring. Probably more so now than when Mr. Appleton was alive, but back when I was at Denali, we sold quite a few for them. Having said that, the horses they breed still have a lot of success at the track. A very nice group of people to work with.

DMK
Sep. 18, 2009, 09:17 PM
:eek:DMK, when I read your first sentence I almost died. I could not imagine why you'd lump those 4 together.

*snork* yes, all 4 of those names stick with me as "extremes". i admit to having some serious Peace Rules love though. that horse epitomizes what i would like to see in a hunter prospect. I do love a great many of the Forty Niner sons, they seem to have that look in spades.. Gone West did seem to sire his share of "downhill butt ugly", but to be fair, he saw a lot more mares in this continent than forty niner, and i suppose if they were saddled up within 3 races of a G1 race, someone bred them to a mare. :D

Las Olas, unfortunately i'm in Atlanta, and every time i get in the ocala area, it's an action packed schedule, so it's not been an option, but it needs to be. and you're right - that lineup has changed from maybe less than fashionable but quality runners to juvvie sires of hot sires. oh well, it took longer than lundy marrying a wright or nerud & tartan dispersing the mares...

Vitriolic
Sep. 18, 2009, 10:00 PM
Now the next great TB has a better chance of being purchased as a pleasure horse, and ending up sitting in someones back yard for the rest of its life, not that there is really anything wrong with that as long as they are well cared for.

It however does little to promote the TB as a first rate sport horse.

This is so true. I had a lovely gelding, shown a little schooling, who at 6 could lope over 4'6" effortlessly with a pro. He would be simple for anyone with a few miles. He is likely giving trail rides somewhere. I never got one decent rider (with a few thousand dollars) to try him out and after 3 years of trying, just wholesaled him to someone else to flip.

Any we have sold into the right hands have done extremely well, but it is no longer worth it to even try. If I have a stellar one, I will call a few people who have bought in the past. If he is not the whole package, I don't waste hours of my time, and hundreds of dollars going to a few schooling shows to get the level of person and type of home he will end up in. It is very frustrating the way things have gone in the last 10 or 15 years. I still think Americans are more open to TBs than Canadians. :(

When a good rider is looking, it is a dream, and you are happy to sell the horse for a song since you've already lost your shirt on him. (I also feel that most people think they (OTTBs) are all worth the same whether they have tons of potential, reschooling, showing, and quality or not.) However, to a green rider, or one who is likely not capable of caring for him properly, it is not worth it.

fossiloverfences
Sep. 18, 2009, 10:05 PM
I am an old school adult amateur hunter rider and I agree totally that today's riders are not capable of riding a TB. TBs have great heart and work ethic, but also need a sympathetic touch for their sensitive natures. Dumbbloods can be "kicked on" for immediate gratification in the show ring by the less than tactful, less than talented rider. Hunter trainers say that the TB takes too long to "make up" but personally I believe most trainers do not have the skill.

Sorry, a bit of a rant, but the negativity towards TB hunters drives me crazy.

Linny
Sep. 18, 2009, 10:06 PM
I saw Peace Rules several times while he was racing and always thought he was lovely. In fact the first time I saw him he was 2 and still with Gary Contessa. I asked Gary who he was and Gary asked if I had a buyer for him. He was sold to Frankel's client about 3 weeks later.

I agree about Indian Ocean as well. One of his 2yo's won at Calder today.

As for looking to a future off the track, I can't blame people that buy for racing if they don't care a bit about what happens after they race - WHEN THEY ARE YOUNG AND STILL UNRACED PROSPECTS. After all, if I buy a very pricey hunter prospect and pay a small (or large) fortune for his care and training, the last thing I want to consider is that I might sell him for a far reduced price down the road as a 6yo "dressage prospect."

That said, as a possible "end user" I certainly appreciate the idea that a youngster learn proper lessons and if possible, get reinforcement during layoffs etc. I'd love it if there was an easy way to find out what training center provided the initial lessons for each horse. If you find one that came through Training Center X and is really broke you might guess that others from the same place got similar lessons.

Vitriolic
Sep. 19, 2009, 08:28 PM
As an OTTB buyer (for eventing), I can't really expect the racing industry to breed with me in mind, given that I'm the last guy down the line and paying the least. Those prospects that we're buying for 2K may have sold for 50x times that already in their life, or have won that much for their owners, our tiny contribution is probably to a trainer losing money on the horse.



The fact you are even aware of this and the difference in value of a nice prospect v a no hoper, makes you the ideal candidate to have a large trainer of quality horses call when a gelding needs to go. I would give anything to still have the pool of talented contacts to sell my nice ones to when they can't race or lose their conditions. I know a few big breeder/ owners who have people to send the "right" horses to. Either they pay to reschool them and then sell, or sell to a good trainer so the horse gets its best chance. It is sickening to sell a horse you think could do Rolex go to some sack to wreck. :(