View Full Version : For all you OTTB peeps! UPDATE PHOTO PAGE 2!

Oct. 6, 2010, 09:16 AM
I just got an OTTB (6yrs old, raced til he was 4) and I haven't ridden an OTTB in years. Any helpful advice? I'm just longing him now, starting side reins (which he has taken to learning quite quickly). I get on him and walk, practicing halting, walking off again, understanding my hand, serpentines and that kind of stuff. I haven't graduated to trotting under saddle yet (I've only had him since Saturday lol). He's a bit excited when the other horses came in the indoor, so we just stood there and watched them flat. He relaxed when i was off him, but if i was sitting on him, he still thought that when there was a horse behind him, we were off to the races!
Any tidbits of wisdom? Words of encouragement?

Oct. 6, 2010, 09:56 AM
Just remember he's trying to do what he thinks he's supposed to. He was supposed to run and outrun horses who came up behind him. Lots of patience and praise, and he'll realize he's supposed to stand there and let them go by soon enough.

I would be cautious in the side reins because many OTTBs want to duck behind contact, and if he has that tendency it could add to it.

Most of all, enjoy him. Realize that if he's typical he's going to try very hard to do what you want. VERY hard. My guy finally realized he's supposed to relax on trail rides, and when he got a pat and "good boy" as he was so relaxed his head was swinging and hanging down... he now tries to trail ride in peanut roller position swinging his head from side to side intentionally, thinking that must be even better than what he was doing before. They take what they learn to extremes in their efforts to please, so just be an advocate for your horse and remember he may work through problems to try to be good for you.

Oct. 6, 2010, 10:48 AM
Yeah I wouldn't go with side reins yet. You want them to learn long and low first. Ita easier for them to evade contact and be on the muscle if they're curled up. Ottb's just take time. If you've got a smart one your patience will be greatly rewarded in the end.

Summit Springs Farm
Oct. 6, 2010, 11:13 AM
give him time off before you start retraining, at least a couple of weeks, I would just love on him and groom him, let him know that any handling does not mean go to work.

If he was mine I would give him the winter off, but that's me.

Oct. 6, 2010, 11:18 AM
Whoa! This horse is 6, and if he had typical early handling he has been under saddle for 5 years. He has done a moderate amount of flat work . He has changes on demand (though not necessarily cued the way you would do it). This is not a horse who has only galloped NASCAR style for a long period of time. He probably needs to learn to stand for mounting.

And stay away from the side reins. (That's a personal prejudice. I've never understood what side reins did better that even reasonably educated hands. And they can really piss a sensitive horse off)

He has been off the track for two years. Just get on him and enjoy him, remembering to not get in his face to slow down.

Anyplace Farm
Oct. 6, 2010, 11:26 AM
Like everyone else said, I'd lose the draw reins. The benefit of getting rid of them is that without them, the horse learns to balance on his own, naturally, with his neck. This is actually how those low head carriages and long toplines are properly obtained.

Oct. 6, 2010, 11:58 AM
give him time off before you start retraining, at least a couple of weeks, I would just love on him and groom him, let him know that any handling does not mean go to work.

If he was mine I would give him the winter off, but that's me.

If he hasn't raced for 2 years he may have already had a decent amount of time off, unless they've kept him at the track and/or in training for those 2 years with no racing. That said, yes definitely some downtime is in order if he is fresh off the track or fresh out of training.

Oct. 6, 2010, 12:06 PM
My only real advice is to not mystify things too much. Just get on and ride like you would a "normal" horse and usually they adjust. You stay relaxed and happy in the saddle, and he'll get relaxed and happy under you.

The only other thing I'd say is forward is your friend. If he's ever tense or nervous, moving forward and putting him to work is probably a good idea. At least, I find that works better than trying to make them stand, at first.

Don't overcomplicate things. Stay relaxed, and reward him for doing what you want (even tiny things you usually take for granted) and he should come along fine.

I also wouldn't do the side reins, as the main problem I run into with these guys is they like to curl behind the bit and not accept contact - I fight that enough, wouldn't want to add to it by introducing side reins to the equation.

Oct. 6, 2010, 12:08 PM
The most important thing to do is forget about the fact that he is an ottb and not expect him to do anything that any other green horse wouldn't do.

If you are having an expectation for him ("doesn't know what leg is," "muscles are on upside down," "he'll probably light up in a hack class" whatever else) that is based on your knowledge that he is an ottb and which you would not have for any other baby that was already started under tack, drop it.

They already know more than most freshly started youngsters their age. They have been handled by professionals the majority of their lives. Their jobs involved threading the needle through the gap at 40mph.

Expect him to be a polite, well-behaved citizen.
He was a working professional before he came to you, so anything less from him is taking advantage of pilot error or low pilot expectations.

Oct. 6, 2010, 12:37 PM
He IS polite and he does want to please. The more i praise and talk the better he is. When i longe him in the side reins, he doesn't curl; rather he is actually stretching into them - they are LOOSE. ha ha ha he does need to learn to stand for mounting. As soon as I get on, he wants to trot off!

He has a nice topline already and I am excited about him!! When i had my warmblood greenie (who had some balance issues) I put him in the side reins and worked transitions on the longe - it made a huge difference. Should I expect something different than that from my OTTB (i rode OTTBs as a kid, but have spent the last 20 years on warmbloods).

Any tips as to steering, slowing down, etcs. When I did trot him the 1st time under saddle, he braced against my hand and didn't want to stop. I gave him little half halts and then let go...

Oct. 6, 2010, 12:45 PM
Any tips as to steering, slowing down, etcs. When I did trot him the 1st time under saddle, he braced against my hand and didn't want to stop. I gave him little half halts and then let go...

A lot of riders on OTTBs get into a naggy ride with lots and lots of little half halts that they never expect (or get) an answer to.

Don't try to "massage" him slow. EXPECT him to remain under your seat without getting past you into your hand.

If he gets past you (probably by stride two, :) ) do a prompt transition to walk. EXPECT AN ANSWER. The walk transition should happen in at most two strides, not half a long side of asking coaxing gently asking. If he braces against your hand in the down transition don't react, but don't let go until he lets go either. If he is impatient in the walk, halt and calmly back two steps. Keep your hand passively there until he gives first.

When you have three polite walk steps, trot again.
Maybe he will last until stride three until he gets past you again and you have to repeat the exercise.

Allow yourself to EITHER half halt OR leave him alone with your hands. Do not naggedy nag with a million and one half halts all the way around the arena. When you ask for a transition, give him TWO STRIDES to answer, not two lengths of the arena.

Most horses will be practically transformed after 20 minutes of this if the rider has good timing and feel, and brings with her a fair but notable level of expectation.

Also, if you want to teach him to stand for mounting, halt as soon as you can after you swing a leg over and then reach down and feed him a treat. It does not matter if at first he scoots a little and then halts. Just wait until he is four footed long enough for treat feeding to be possible and then give him his mint.
He will soon learn that he has to stand still if he wants you to be able to feed him his treat, and he will start to "look for the halt". Should work in four or five rides.

Oct. 6, 2010, 12:48 PM
What's he been doing the last 2 years?

Oct. 6, 2010, 12:54 PM
meupatdoes - that makes sense! Can't wait to try it. It's funny- when you have an OTTB and you've been riding warmbloods you do kind of get hung up on that...as though you need to ride them differently. Much of what you just said, i used on my young warmblood. Why I thought it would different on this guy - i don't know.

I have no history on the last 2 years. I only know he raced up until 2008 b/c i researched his tattoo.

Thanks everyone! I appreciate the support.

Oct. 6, 2010, 02:01 PM
I agree with meupatdoes: just ride him like any other horse. The only caveat to that is that, as you go along, you may occasionally discover something or other that is a throwback to his racing days. Just learn to laugh about it, and then correct it exactly the same way that you would correct the behavior in any other horse. Ride him like he is already trained (which he likely is), and you will be amazed at the results you get. I do agree that you should stay away from side reins, etc., but I would say that about any horse, not just OTTBs.

I do think TBs sometimes require a bit more sypathetic correction than a WB requires. You'll learn over time how much it takes to properly teach a correct behavior in your particular horse.

My horse was also a little funny about horses coming up behind him at first (I got him about 2 weeks off the track). He got very tense and jiggy - like, "Hey, they should not be passing me, correct?" He also tucked his butt under as though he believed he was about to be smacked. I just calmly insisted that we allow the other horses to pass, and he got the idea in less than a week. I also recently discovered a hole in his training involving coming up on horses in FRONT of him. The first time I cantered a circle and ended up within maybe 20 feet of the horse in front of me, he flattened out and started to "go for it," ha ha! Luckily, he knows the basics very well now and immediately responded when I asked him to slow down and not try to outrun the poor little mare in front of us! Good thing to fix before taking him in any hack classes, lol.

Anyway, enjoy your new horse and don't worry too much about whether this or that is an OTTB behavior. At the end of the day, just think about how he SHOULD be going, and ride for that result. :)

Oct. 6, 2010, 02:07 PM
I started longing him b/c I think i don't trust MYSELF. It's been a long time since I rode one like this and I guess I am doubting that i can bring him along. He is REALLY nice. I have hopes for him...he's a fantastic mover, and super sweet. I really appreciate all of your thoughts and comments. Guess I will start trotting this week.....

Oct. 6, 2010, 02:11 PM
Well, I had a nice long post typed out in my head, but....

Everything caffeinated and meupatdoes said is great advice. OTTBs are not so different than other horses--in many cases they are more BTDT than most greenies. They also like to work--especially the ones who ran for a significant amount of time. They're used to having a job and get bored with nothing to do.

My only other advice would be not to go *too* slow with his training. At his age, he's not a baby and you don't have to go quite as slowly as you would with a 3 or 4 yr old. I made the mistake of creeping along with my guy's training when I first started him and he got REALLY bored. I finally learned to change things up/add new stuff and he was much better.

I have an OTTB, 11 yrs old, ran for almost 8 years. He is the freakin' coolest horse I have ever met. He is not perfect--he has some quirks--but the brain and personality in this horse are just awesome. LOVE him.

Enjoy your new guy!

Oct. 6, 2010, 02:30 PM
Thanks! I was taking it slow...but then again, I took it slow with my WB too. I trotted for 6 months will very little cantering b/c he was unbalanced at the canter and I am kind of particular...BUT that being said, when I sold the WB after having him for 2 years, he was super balanced and really really fun to ride...

Will start working this one....

Oct. 6, 2010, 02:49 PM
Ditch the side reins.

Just ride him. Especially after two years, he's just another horse. IF he hasn't had much done with him since his races he might be a little funny about things like canter cues (I had to learn how to ask 'backwards' from what I'd always done.) And I've learned to pick my battles--he wants his hooves done 'track-style' (from the near side for all four), if that makes my life easier, fine, I'm not gonna argue.

Biggest thing with both my OT boys was and is not to let them get away with something once--do it, and they've learned it that way, and UNteaching it is suddenly a production number.

Oct. 6, 2010, 03:14 PM
Out of curiosity, what do you all do with your OTTBs? Do you show them? Hunters, jumpers? I am curious to know....what levels?

I am hoping to make this one up and do the 3' hunters...maybe a derby if he is brave....(or if I am brave, more like it!)

Oct. 6, 2010, 04:16 PM
Mine will (hopefully) show in the baby green hunters in 2011. He's five now, and had most of his four year old year off due to an injury. He'll probably finish as a 3' hunter.

Oct. 6, 2010, 04:19 PM
thanks finealready!

Oct. 6, 2010, 04:52 PM
I just wanted to give you my 2 cents, since I got my first OTTB fresh off of the track last September. She is the *very first* training endeavour I've ever had, so I took things really slowly with her, but thankfully she didn't get bored enough to be too naughty about all of it. lol

Either way, I found her to be just like some others have said - extremely willing, eager to please, tries her heart out to do anything I ask, and loves to work. And because of all of this, she's never taken off with me even once. If ever she started to want to go, I could feel it and got her to come down a gear or two right away - averting the situation completely.

My slow training plan went like this:

Do ground work for a couple of weeks to be sure she's really polite and listening.

Lunge (no side-reins) and/or Round Pen until she was doing every gear by voice command for me (Walk, Trot, Canter and Whoa). That way, I *knew* that if we got into trouble while I was on her back, I could just ask her with my voice to Walk or Whoa and we'd be golden.

Only after the voice commands were well planted did I climb on her. I know that's a slow way to do it, and probably was way overly-cautious. But, I'm kind of a wussy in the saddle, so I needed that to give me confidence. :yes:

So OP, do whatever you feel you're *both* ready for, and go from there. I say, don't rush it - but don't be afraid, either. They have great minds, these Thoroughbreds. They're thinkers. And they try to please. So, you're already one step ahead on this. ;)

Oct. 6, 2010, 04:54 PM
Oh, and as for your question about what we're doing - I'm snailing my way into getting her into the local jumper ring. I originally bought her for hunters - she's built perfect for it and moves like a knock-out for it, too. But, I think she may have just a little too much spunk over the jumps to do well there, at least for now. So, we'll do a few schooling shows, then head for the local Jumper Ring and go from there. If she chills enough for Hunters, we'll do both! :D

Oct. 6, 2010, 04:58 PM
thanks all! Guess i need to join an OTTB clique on here now!!! Will post pics when I get some!

Oct. 6, 2010, 06:22 PM
I have a seven year old OTTB that I've had for two years. I am madly in love with him and I've never regretted the decision to buy him almost straight off the track even though a lot of people told me I was crazy. He is level-headed, a fast learner, and has an incredible work ethic. When the saddle goes on, he knows it's time to go to work.

I am a re-rider so I'm in a learning process just as much as he is. I've taken things really slow with him. We've done a lot of ground work and a lot of trail riding as well as some lessons. My goal is to show him as a hunter and maybe in low level dressage. I'm just having fun with him and seeing how far we can go.

You're probably a more experienced rider than me, so I'm not sure what advice to give you other than to love on him a lot and take it slow!

Oct. 6, 2010, 06:31 PM
Out of curiosity, what do you all do with your OTTBs? Do you show them? Hunters, jumpers? I am curious to know....what levels?

My ottb is The Noodle in my sig line.

He has showed up to the 3' Adult Amateur hunters.
He got a piece of the o/f classes at some A rated shows in NJ.

When he maxed out as a 3' horse I started doing dressage with him in April 2009 and I hope to get the USDF bronze medal together in 2011.

Oct. 6, 2010, 08:27 PM
My OTTB was right off the track so we started slowly. After he was turned out we learned to ground drive and then long line. By the time he was ridden it was easy..The best thing is introduce trail riding also. They love it, just do not go aolone your first time out, go with a good seasoned buddy...
I think my horse would rather drive then be ridden....

Oct. 6, 2010, 09:01 PM
Out of curiosity, what do you all do with your OTTBs? Do you show them? Hunters, jumpers? I am curious to know....what levels?

I am hoping to make this one up and do the 3' hunters...maybe a derby if he is brave....(or if I am brave, more like it!)

My guy evented through last year (off the track at 3 after 11 races). He competed through training level and was finding the jumping pretty easy. He just didn't love cross country, though. Now I have him and we're doing dressage, which he LOVES. He probably could have been a jumper, but he absolutely wouldn't make a good hunter. He doesn't have either the movement or pretty, even knees in the air. He voluntarily offers up upper level dressage movements just for fun, though, so I'm pretty sure we finally found him the right career path.... He loves babysitting nervous people at a walk, and is starting to love trail riding, too. He also really loves chasing coyotes, so I can't wait to get him around cattle when we move to our own place!

Oct. 6, 2010, 11:00 PM
My two are completely different. The first one came off the track at only 3, no talent for running. He's a laid back, easy going horse, pretty much takes everything in stride, and unlike most OTTB's he doesn't stress himself out trying to figure out what I want, but he is a quick learner.

Our newest one raced until age 5, was a winnter, and has a phenomenal work ethic. He will go, and go, and go forever. Ring work bores the crap out of him and makes him grumpy, but he loves hacking out on trail. He's definitely one of those that wants to please, all it takes is a soft 'good boy' to make him puff up proud as a peacock.

Treat them like the intelligent, sensitive athletes they are and you'll never regret your OTTB. They're incredible animals. Meup has given you great advice. If she live closer to me, I'd send her every horse I have for a good start.

Oct. 7, 2010, 01:07 AM
A couple of things I have found with my mare... don't get in a pulling match. When they get quick let go and use your weight instead of your hands... I had a hack of a time figuring out how to get her to canter. Finally I thought about what the jockeys might do... so I pumped her on the shoulder with my knuckles like I was using a crop on her shoulder, and Bingo! Canter. You may, or may not have both leads... and you may or may not have lead changes... me singing helps my mare keep a rhythm.

Oct. 7, 2010, 10:06 AM
I am so happy to get all of this positive feedback!! Thank you to all my new OTTB friends!!!

Summit Springs Farm
Oct. 7, 2010, 10:36 AM
I missed the part that he was off for 2 years.

I would not treat him like any other horse, I would treat him like an OTTB, he has learned to do things like a race horse not a sport horse.

I have had several, and all were different, one was very easy going and quiet, so you could push alittle, one was not as quite and the last one was very sensitive, no pushing at all.

I think your training is going to depend on how HE responds to what you are asking, so whatever you do, use good horsemanship and you'll do well, remember a horse can only learn when he is relaxed, breathing and trusting. Only then will he accept your teaching.
Can't wait to see pictures! Another thought, is if he is not all that managable under saddle just yet, you might do long lining to teach him the aids from the ground, so when you do get on, he has learned from the ground up. you know the saying... learning from the ground up!

Oct. 7, 2010, 11:01 AM
Trail ride. Just get on and ride. Skip the lunging.

TBs have wonderful work ethics, and a very focused sense of work. There isnt anything they cant learn *out there* that requires a ring .. Off-tracks are used to *big* space... so they enjoy the trail riding --- and you'll find most are bombproof to everything ..and when they come across soemthing thats new they really do just take in stride (thats if YOU dont panic)..

Jump out there, find ditches, logs..I think you'll find it comes naturally.

In my barn is a 5yr old mare, 6 weeks off track -- she has 2 shows under her belt, ribboned in all Low Hunter 2'6" classes(even Won u/s in her first show ... Minor brag :D)..
a 4yr/m old only 4 weeks off track and schooling 2'6"-3' x-try fences... with expectations of hunter paces/event before the end of the year
a 4yr old gelding, off track 6 weeks schooling some rather complicated 2'6" sets, aiming for hunters.

Try not to over-analyze your riding with him, but explore the strongest points and enjoy them --the weaker aspects will fall in place.
Fact: the harder you pull, the faster they go. Try to stay off the mouth, the concept of a nice loose rein might initially frighten you but its worth trying;)

Oct. 7, 2010, 12:30 PM
I actually brought my camera to the barn the other day but didn't have time to take pictures... i thought my 7 year old daughter was snapping some, but she deleted them all from the camera before I could look! She did save me the video of him longing.

Summit Springs..i would love to long line him, but i have never learned how to do it :(

no where to trail ride really, and by the time i get to the barn in the PM, i have my 7 yr old with me and i can't leave her alone in the barn...

i am enjoying reading all of these responses. thank you so so much!

Summit Springs Farm
Oct. 8, 2010, 11:03 AM
Long lining is easy to get the hang of, see if anyone in your barn can give you a hand and its fun, eventually you will be able to walk change direction each way, halt, ask for a trot around you both directions, walk trot and halt transistions, and leave at that. After you are good at that then get on and see what you have created, you'll be amazed at what you horse learned from you!

Oct. 8, 2010, 12:20 PM
My friend in MD ( a dressage instructor) is very good at long lining...too bad she is in MD.

Decided to listen to all of you (what a concept, right?) and rode my guy yesterday. Worked at the walk, transitions, change directions, etc. Then....the trot. He DID figure out after 1 or 2 corrections that he should go slow, maintaining an even speed. He tried to curl up a few times, and i floated the reins at him and he figured out that i didn't want him to curl. He was great. He started to understand my outside rein and reach toward my hand. He was a very good boy. He was great to the left, but a little stiff to the right. I am assuming that is normal...don't they race counter clockwise?

Thanks for all of your input and advice. My boy was a superstar!

Oct. 8, 2010, 12:27 PM
here's a pic taken by my daughter on my cell


hope the link works!

Oct. 8, 2010, 01:21 PM
Oh he's CUTE! can't wait to hear more updates :) I love my OTTB's :D

Oct. 8, 2010, 01:22 PM
Thanks. I am loving him!

Summit Springs Farm
Oct. 8, 2010, 02:03 PM
beautiful! Looks like a sweet heart, try to read up on training young horses so you are informed, he looks worth it;)
I'm sure many here can give you some great suggestions of books to read!

Oct. 8, 2010, 02:30 PM
Very cute! I like him a lot just from that pic!

I would see if you can do something about your saddle fit as far as balance goes - looks like the lowest part of the seat is not where it's supposed to be, so if you are stuck with that saddle a bump pad in the back to help lift it is a good idea, of course making sure that doesn't cause it to pinch in front.

Oct. 8, 2010, 02:31 PM
He's adorable!

Oct. 8, 2010, 02:33 PM
Very cute! I like him a lot just from that pic!

I would see if you can do something about your saddle fit as far as balance goes - looks like the lowest part of the seat is not where it's supposed to be, so if you are stuck with that saddle a bump pad in the back to help lift it is a good idea, of course making sure that doesn't cause it to pinch in front.

My gut feeling on this is that the saddle could be better if it was just moved back. Cheap to try, anyhow.

Oct. 8, 2010, 02:48 PM
My gut feeling on this is that the saddle could be better if it was just moved back. Cheap to try, anyhow.

Very possible - I have definitely found I have to put the saddle on my OTTB back more than on any of my previous horses because of his shoulder conformation... though to defy stereotypes, I did have to use a bump pad with my very uphill QH which wasn't needed for the same saddle on the uphill TB. ;)

Oct. 8, 2010, 04:06 PM
Funny you should mention the saddle b/c i actually took this pic after i rode and the saddle was further back. I loosened the girth and moved it up before i took the pic. LOL Oh, and you can't tell from the pic and the low lighting but he is pretty skinny - needs to put some weight on!

Thanks for all of your encouragement!

Oct. 8, 2010, 06:14 PM
LOVE HIM. Verrrry nice picture. Good luck; you've got some great advice. IMO - nothin' better than an OTTB.