View Full Version : Timetable/Schedule for Getting New OTTB to BN level

Jan. 21, 2010, 12:07 PM
Good Thursday to Everyone---
I know we have a lot of OTTB eventing gurus on here and since I have not evented since I was around 17 yrs old (around 15 years ago! sigh....) How did you guys go about getting your OTTBs ready to event BN? My first goal is to get him comfortable with the dressage part and then I am planning on starting to jump in March/April. Did most of you do amoeba/tadpole/elementary events before making the leap to BN? How many did you do? I will obviously do a lot of schooling before actually competing again, but my current plan is to do a BN level event this fall. I know that it is hard to give a plan/time table because every horse is different, but I guess I just wanted to hear how other people have gone about this.

Anybody have any pearls of wisdom?
Thanks = )

Jan. 21, 2010, 12:24 PM
The MTPC puts on a "learn to event event" in April where there are amoeba up to BN levels. You could trot through the little stuff and see how he does away from home in an electric environment and go from there. He will tell you when he's ready to move up!

Also, every weekend in August, the MTPC opens Percy Warner Park up for XC schooling. You could school the BN stuff there and look for a recognized event after that to go BN or wait until the spring. May Daze is typically a great even to move up at in the spring.

You can also school XC at Colonial Hill in Cornersville, TN. They have FABULOUS little tadpole size fences made by the same guy who builds for MTPC.

I can't wait to see you guys out together! Good luck!

Jan. 21, 2010, 12:39 PM
Depends on the horse and depends on you.

My most recent OTTB...first one I've had in a little while. After a few months down time in a field...he had an injury he needed to recover from, 60 days of work and he went to his first BN HT. (and was very good). I had never gone BN before...usually start them at novice.

So no, I didn't start a the really little levels and work my way up.;)

I took him xc schooling I think 2-3 times. And had taken him to a dressage schooling show first (after 30 days re-training). He is still needs a ton of miles....but is really quite a good boy (after the first 30 minutes of warm up:lol:). He was also a very well bred OTTB...and I suspect an expensive one...but because of that, he obviously had been very well started before racing. I doubt had jumped...but clearly knew his leads, turn etc and isn't really one sided. It helps a TON if you are starting with good raw material.

It does really depend on the horse. My other horses usually took me 3-5 months before their first HT but I always started them at novice. I am NOT a fabulous rider...it all depends on the horse!

Best word of advice though is to go at the speed YOU and your horse are comfortable. If it takes you longer...it takes you longer. There is no prize for being fast....but also don't be afraid of just doing it if he is ready. They don't need to be perfect!

I wont lie...when I walked that xc course I thought crap, this looks big!!!!. It wasn't what I expected for xc (I thought it would be little logs but the first fence was a max dog house....followed by a coup and then a bench...no damn logs.) But when he made the first fence feel tiny and happily cantered along....I knew we were fine. So do your homework...and be prepared....but do know that that first course is going to look huge until you jump that first fence at WHATEVER level you start with. :)

Beam Me Up
Jan. 21, 2010, 12:49 PM
I had 1 that went about 6 months off the track to his first novice. I took him to a couple hunter shows and x-c schools prior but no smaller events.

Another I did the same, but probably was more like 9 months--bought early fall, evented spring and did YEH.

On the other hand, most recently I had a non-OTTB (TBx) who I did a lot of baby stuff with (I'm going to say 5-6 little hunter shows, 2 events at elementary, 5-6 x-c schools) before I decided he wasn't going to event at all.

So, it all depends on the horse--if it's going well, I think less than a year from track to event is very reasonable--if a horse enjoys jumping and is sane off the property, the actual event skills at those levels are not too complex. The stuff you have to establish first--being comfortable in new places with other horses being ridden, safe out in the open, some x-c exposure, jumping courses--you can do through smaller shows, or lessons, or schools.

Some (fabulous riders, unlike myself) do enough schooling to just show up for a training or two before going prelim, so I think where you get the early mileage is less important.

Jan. 21, 2010, 12:56 PM
Well it all depends... really depends. I've had my current OTTB for over 2 years and no shows yet... we've both had time off and bad luck!

Honestly though, you don't need great dressage to get out there. I've had plenty of TBs that had better steering and stopping when I was jumping them than when I was flatting - perhaps it had something to do with my own sense of self-preservation? - "We MUST turn here no matter how unbroke you are!"

The last couple green horses I took to their first events, my biggest worries were:

1. staying in the dressage ring
2. getting our leads in dressage
3. not spooking too badly at the decorations on the jumps.

I did not worry that we would have basic jumping problems, as they'd all been schooled enough in those 2 phases.

So to answer your question, it takes as long as getting really comfortable that you and your horse can answer ANY question that will be presented on the XC or SJ at that level. (In fact, this holds true for moving up to any level.)

Jan. 21, 2010, 12:59 PM
Depends on the horse.

My stallion, who was five when he got off the track, went to his first combined test three weeks after his last race and did well. I think he went to his first BN a month or so after that. He was only the second horse I ever evented so it was certainly not through my expertise :-)

Over the years I've had quite a few other OTTBs and I'd say six to nine months to BN would be average. The ones that take the longest are the ones who were not straight off the track (via prior owner who had no business with an OTTB). I've had very few issues with straight off the track horses.


Jan. 24, 2010, 08:11 AM
Can I fifth or 6th depends on the horse I have had everything from eventing Novice in 3 months, to eventing BN in 7 months to the current guy who did his first tadpole event after 8 months and will hopefully be moving up to BN in another month or two. This is all barring injury/illness, etc.

I do work with great trainers and take lessons once or twice a week and I have been eventing consistently since 1995

Jan. 24, 2010, 10:22 AM
I have often taken them off the track and taken them BN or N within a month. If you are not as experienced or confident, consider having a trainer give it it's first few event experiences. Dressage is usually the biggest challenge, but winning wasn't the point - so I never worried too much about it. Most OTTB's welcome the excitement and challenge of XC with a good ride.

have fun!

Jan. 24, 2010, 10:41 AM
I'm on about the same timeframe as you :) And since I'm just north of Nashville maybe we should have a green OTTB party :lol:

My guy came off the track in Oct. He's had some time off, and is currently in the really funky stage where he's settled down, we're about halfway through a month course of gastroguard, but he's still ribby. Next week, he'll start lunging and doing some in hand work. We'll start heading out places to hack around probably in April.

Jan. 25, 2010, 07:47 AM
Wow, some of these answers are surprising! My guy stopped racing a couple of years back in May I believe. He needed to sit awhile and gain weight because he came to his owners (Ishi and her husband) in very thin condition. They started him under saddle and I got him in late-Sept. We went to our first little dressage show in April of the following year (due to winter weather). We did a couple of CT's and short course derbies from the Spring through the summer and did out first BN in Sept.

He is my first OTTB, and maybe with any other BNR, he would have been going training by that time, but my trainer insisted he learn to behave at shows and hang out. She also wanted to take things slowly so he would learn to use his body and so he wouldn't get fried like so many that are pushed too fast do. I'm sure it depends on the horse of course, as everyone has said.

Jan. 25, 2010, 08:26 AM
My mare came off the track came off the track last Jan at the end of her five year old year and sat in a pasture with a mini. I really think this helped her grow up a little and figure out how to be a real horse living in the freezing north after racing in Florida :) I got her in the middle of April the following spring. I was a working student at the time in KY and thank god because that horse was a handful at first. For about the first month I started working with her in a round pen, then lunging, then lunging in very very loose side reins and then finally some lunging me on her. I know lots of horses who wouldnt need this, but I really think it helped her figure out her balance and definitely helped her learn to bend more. In late may and early June I started a little ground pole work and hacking her in the field. In late june we started cross rails and she did her first mini trial at our farm- Green starter. It took her that entire event to realize that just because there was a loud speaker, didnt mean she was going to a race!

For the rest of June and beginning of July I slowly took her over bigger things and she went off the farm schooling at different cross country courses and facilities. It worked out that her first BN and off the farm event was at a state owned facility that we had schooled at before. Even though most of the jumps werent the same, I think she could recognize the water and a few other permanent things. She finished on her dressage score :)

Im not sure how your horse's temperament is, but I think the most important thing you can do for a horse in the beginning of their career is give them confidence. My mare will try to find the next fence in the field and get so excited, ears pricked, about getting to jump it. I really think she learned that after having such a good/easy time in her first gs.

Other things I think helped: get off the property, to practice all three, not just xc. Have an awesome trainer, mine gave me so much advice from retraining hundreds of ottbs. Do something smaller than BN if you can; mini trials are cheap, even just to bring the horse to walk around the first time. Incorporate little jumps into flat schoolings once in awhile; my horse thinks jumping in so exciting still, but a little vertical and then back to trot circles makes it a little less of a big deal :)

Good luck!

Jan. 25, 2010, 08:51 AM
Yeah, it really depends. For instance I've never bought a horse off the track that was thin and needed to take time off to gain weight! Fit, yes, thin no. Thin horses don't race well! Good trainers have well-kept horses, and in general horses in the hands of good trainers are better-minded and better mannered. And I try to avoid the fruity ones who tweak out at anything that reminds them of the excitement of racing. Last thing I need is a horse that gets stupid when it thinks about something exciting.... I have had an event horse who turned into a nut when I got near the start box. NOT FUN. On another thread I commented that you want to avoid the ones with that LOOK.... the one that says "I could blast around Rolex right now!" unless you're ready to blast around Rolex right now, at least! I prefer the look that says "Bored bored bored... got a cookie?" I have had a lot of luck with that look. Horses with that look are good ammy prospects!

I've never found much benefit to just turning them out and doing nothing with them for an extended period of time..... heck, well-broke horses act like jerks when you do that and then start them back in work. So (for instance) the two 3 yos I just got from Penn three weeks ago are both in very light work just to keep them in the right frame of mind. I just treat them like any other greenie I might get in amd assume they know nothing useful. The filly is turned out with another mare, a gelding, and a yearling (of course we started with just one), gets along great after a couple days of being standoffish; longeing in side reins with light contact and w/t/c u/s, learning to bend with an opening rein. The colt is a little behind because it took a little longer to get him used to the turnout situation, but he's now turned out with three other geldings, longeing, and trotting over a pole on the longe. The filly at least is going to a schooling show week after next to hang out.

Of course since they are just three the most they are going to do is trot over poles and stuff for a year. Another year older though and they would be starting teeny crossrails soon.

Edited to add: Keep in mind "good trainers" doesn't necessarily mean "winning trainers". I rode briefly for one trainer who didn't mind if a particular mare tried to kill someone going in her stall.....he said it meant she was ready to win. Obviously he was not a good trainer and I would not buy a horse from him!


Jan. 25, 2010, 09:32 AM
My OTTB guy is pretty chill....He is 9 years old so he has got most of the "sillys" out of him. I've only ridden him 3 times since I got him because of some foot soreness, but he is already walk/trotting great on a pretty light rein contact. I have not cantered him yet, but an planning on doing so this week. On Saturday, I walked and trotted him over a ground pole just to give him something more interesting to do.

I am a big fan of taking it slow, but sometimes if I don't have a "goal" in mind, I sort of loose focus on what I'm trying to accomplish. From all the feedback I've gotten, I guess I will plan to do a BN trial this fall (maybe the Middle Tennessee one since it's right down the road!). That gives me all spring and summer to school at different places around here and work on the dressage. :)

Thames Pirate
Jan. 25, 2010, 09:34 AM
My youngster (not OTT) was quite green when we went to our first HT.

For the flat our goal was to stay in the arena, to do more or less the correct movements at more or less the correct spots, and, well, to stay relaxed enough not to buck through the whole thing. He spooked a bit at the arena letters (big ones with flowers on them), and he bucked into one canter transition (blowing the lead, swapping quickly in front, swapping two strides later behind), but other than that he put in a tense but otherwise obedient test. I was thrilled!

He had had some miles XC and was fine with most logs, decorations, etc. The water there was not exactly inviting for a baby, so I figured there might be a stop or so there. When we got to the show, though, what caused problems was that the first log had the name of the show carved into it. He had a complete baby meltdown (backing, twirling, etc.) and it took us two refusals and over two minutes just to get him over the first fence (poor girl behind us just had to wait to start). Once he did that he started to warm to his work, jumped the next 8 fences well, and getting increasingly confident. By fence 5 he was looking for the next fence, ears pricked, cantering along eagerly but calmly, and handling the terrain perfectly. Well, sure enough, the water caused problems as predicted and he started to melt down. He had two stops, which eliminated us--a real shame, because right as they were calling out that we were eliminated he mentally regrouped and would have gone.

It was a bummer they wouldn't let us showjump, but I was thrilled with him (in spite of the big E). He also grew up a lot in terms of handling crowded warmups, tense atmosphere, and sensory overload. He's not actually bad at water--he was just surprised by it (you come from a somewhat open field into a trail. Instead of heading up the trail you turn around a mound, bypass the Prelim jump, and immediately cross the water--and it's a great place for spectators as well as where the ambulance parks). We're currently going through (and starting to overcome) a temper tantrum phase, but in a few weeks I expect to start taking him out to a few jumper schooling shows, on some trail rides at the state park, and with any luck to a baby XC facility (the only one in our area open for the next few months). We'll give it another go at BN this spring with the hopes of improving dressage a bit and actually completing the event.

We took him knowing the chance of being eliminated was reasonable, but we figured the exposure for him (and the experience for me--he's my first youngster) was worthwhile--and I think it was on both counts. Some people don't like to do that because of the emphasis on show record (though he's not USEA registered yet, so . . .), but I think it's more important to do what will help both horse and rider develop the most, regardless of outcome. After getting eliminated we didn't go straight back to the barn. We went over to an area where I could sit on him and watch a few other XC rides (mostly for his brain). Just hanging out was hard for him, but it was REALLY good.