Just to start out, I have taken OTTBs and retrained them in the past, but it's been a while, and they had already had nice cool out periods and had the ground manners re-established. I'm considering an OTTB as a new prospect and I'm wondering how everyone else does their retraining.
How long do you turn them out to pasture for to cool out? How do you restart them? What "basics" do you find you have to cement, etc?
Do your research and really know what you want. Things I figured out when I got my guy.
1. Walk away from the stall walkers unless you really really like the individual.
2. Mud on the legs is not a big deal and is normal for most race horses.
3. Be honest about your skills
4. Do not bring your trailer with you. Go home and think about it and then call the next day.
5. The great trainers will be able to tell you when the last work out was and mine actually handed me a sheet with his routine on it.
6. Bring your own halter and lead rope as the trainers usually don't give it to you.
7. You will NOT be able to ride the horse at the track so don't ask. You MIGHT be able to see someone else ride the horse at the track.
8. Ask for the current radiographs and don't be afraid to have the horse vetted. Not sure what the rules are on outside vets coming in to vet the horse so ask.
9. Have fun! We got there super early and got to see the warm-ups both days and got a tour of the backside which was really neat.
10. Be ON TIME! Don't Cancel! Time is money and most trainers don't have much of either.
Adoring fan of A Fine Romance
Originally Posted by alicen:
What serious breeder would think that a horse at that performance level is push button? Even so, that's still a lot of buttons to push.
My passion is OTTBs and my mission is to find them suitable homes and debunk much of the misinformation about them.
I am astonished that so many people believe that they need basic training when they are aquired. These horses are completely broke for the most part.In fact, they are more broke than any other horse at the same age. Love it/hate it, many young ones are adept at constant handling, trailering, standing for the vet/farrier, etc.
I am of the opinion that some OTTBS are damaged by a delay in work because the new owner thinks that they all require extensive downtime. Yes, there are some that need extensive R and R, but most others will saddle up and be ready to carry on in short time. They are accustomed to work and thrive on it.
Some may be okay with turnout and others will need a job to be happy. You have to sort out the individual need. Some new OTTB owners want to lunge them but that is more of the regimen that makes them bored. Take them on a trail ride.They're exposed to something different and relaxing and they respond well to that. They understand what it feels like to be off the track. Give them something different and enticing and they will reward you
I agree with Foundationmare...my OTTB came off the track at 3 with amazing ground manners and really quite broke under saddle. Could ride him in a busy ring with no problem, ships like a dream, etc. Also had natural lead changes for the most part.
One thing I would do differently next time is take a little more time doing flatwork before starting the horse jumping. I believe they come off the track with some wear and tear that will mend itself to some degree if you just keep them in light work for a while. If you push them a bit early, you can escalate a problem that otherwise might have resolved on its own. In my case, it was a suspensory. It's not like I went crazy with my horse and started jumping him big or frequently, but I still wish I would have gone slower. In the end, I was forced to slow down due to the suspensory injury... I've basically restarted him at this point, and the additional flatwork has been very, very beneficial from both a soundness and training perspective.
It's hard not to rush them, actually, because they are so darn smart and pick up on everything so quickly!
If I could go slightly offtrack from Foundationmare for a moment...
one thing to note is that -- like horses in ANY discipline -- different trainers, different tracks, mean different skills.
For example, my first OTTB had hauled only TWICE in her entire life -- she lived at the home track and raced at that track and had never been hauled to other places.
My first OTTB had no idea what flyspray was -- they treated the facilities not the horses in this particular region.
Another we have had never been tied and actually is HYSTERICAL about being tied (likely due to a chiropractic issue at her atlas -- which was either caused by a yanking incident or resulted in the panic and yanking when tied).
And, like any breed and any career, there are so many "types" of OTTBs -- we've seen OTTBs who are so amazingly lazy, they become 'grandma's horse; hotheads who never 'cool down', champions in so many varied arenas, and about anything in between.
AnnMarie Cross, Pres, Crosswinds Equine Rescue, cwer.org
Sidell IL (near Champ./UofI/Danville IL/IN state border)
My first OTTB came from a trainer in NJ who really did a great job on basic training. I bought him from the farm and put him right to work.
My second OTTB had been turned out for a year (she was going to be used as a broodmare but they never got around to it). She was used to being ridden by many people and tried hard but was muscled up wrong (underneck) and hand to learn how to carry herself better. With her I did a lot of work to build a top line, get her to work long and low and rebalance off her forehand. Lots of transitions. Lots of hill work. Very steady contact and lots of leg. She tended to get very tight in her hamstrings and gluts at the beginning so she got a lot of massages.
My current OTTB came off the track so balanced and nimble that he could have cared less about leads. He didn't have much of a trot (looked like a sewing machine) and he was terribly crooked cantering to the left (he would carry his head/neck to the right). We did a ton of ground poles/cavaletti to open up his stride and get some suspension. We worked on straight lines with him being straight. Unlike my mare, he's always had a big engine and is very light in front. With him it wasn't teaching him to come from behind; rather it was to get him to relax. He was a horse that also liked to really lean on the bit. I had to convince him to carry himself without being in a "package" or by balancing on me.
What I don't do is lunge. I spend a lot of time hacking out and working them up and down hills.
My OTTB didnt have any turn out time, and honestly, he's one of the most laid back horses I have ever dealt with. (maybe thats why he wasnt a successful racer!). He never pushes me, and is calm in the arena, never offering to run off like I expected.
Love 'em! It seems my Thoroughbred campaigner didn't know what hills were. It was a little funny. Imagine you've been living on flat, nicely mown or sand or concrete most of your life and you move to a place where there are little ditches and HILLS and some actual gullies with WATER in the bottom!
It was such fun and amazing to see my boy learn to navigate these obstacles. He's a gentle and sensitive soul, even while being a really tough, tough and durable horse, so I can probably state that not many Thoroughbreds would be so sensitive about hills!
We had great times when he was having his let down walking in hand around some trails.
Maunder, your post made me laugh because when we started trail riding my dad's OTTB (less than 2 months after he left the track) he was totally perplexed by the hills and gullies in our woods. He would pick his way through stuff following an experienced buddy, but with a bewildered look on his face.
We always joked that he was thinking this was the worst track he'd ever seen and wondering what idiot was in charge of maintaining it!
To the OP, I'd say each horse is different. Unless there is an injury, we bring them home and put them into some kind of light work. My 3 year old was broke, but like any young horse steering could be a little shaky if he got distracted.
~ A true friend knows all there is to know about you and still likes you. -E. Hubbard
The guy I have now was helped by a lounging program, complete with side reins. 2 months of regular ring work with a short time in side reins before I got on made huge improvement in his work on the flat, over small fences and on the trail.
They are all a little different-let the horse tell you what he needs.
The book "Beyond the Track" is a great reference. You already know most of it, but it sure is a help to have it organized and in front of you to draw on as you need an idea.
It really does all depend on the horse. I had the opportunity to work with a bunch of OTTB's when I did my Internship during college for ReRun.
Some of the horses needed a lot of work on the ground before even thinking about climbing aboard. Some were very good for riding after a short while. It all just depended on their personality.
I did end up riding 1 mare who became my project. We spent a few weeks going from free-lunging, to lunging, to lunging in very loose side reins. When I got on, she was really a good girl...who had no concept of going to the right, lol. I mean NO clue that she could go that way. We spent weeks just walking and trotting large circles, serpentines...anything to get her to understand, yes, you can go to the right. Yet, she stood stock still for being mounted, which you wouldn't really expect in an OTTB.
So I guess my opinion is it really does depend a lot on the horse. Some need months of down time...some are good to go almost right away.
I train OTTB's the same way I train any horse - I tailor the training to fit each horse's temperament, and needs. I personally don't think that OTTB's need any off time, except for soundness issues, or to be "let down" from any medication still left in their system. On the whole though, I think they are broke better then most pleasure horses I have ridden. I used to break and gallop TB's for a living, and I know all of mine could trail ride - and we did once a week. Even the racing fit older ones - do auto lead changes in an arena, leg yield, preform a training level Dressage Test, and could jump around a 2 ft course. Plus, they were all Tteamed once a week, so they had pretty good ground manners to boot. People have such misconceptions about racehorses, and their training. Like going to the right. While they may gallop to the left, I don't know of any racehorse who hasn't warmed up, and at least jogged to the right. But, just like any horse, they will have a stiff side, and a hollow side.
Anyway, DO check out the links that leila posted above - all are great. Good luck. and have fun!!
I agree--let the horse tell you. My OTTB ran for 8 years, and was off the track for 2 months when I got him (no particular reason--just waiting for a new mommy). I started him in light-ish work immediately and progressed fairly quickly to full training. This particular horse was very used to working and needed/wanted a job. A year later, he is still antsy if he gets more than one day off.
If I could do it again, I would actually move a little quicker with the flatwork; I was so worried about pushing too hard that I took things too slowly and he got bored. I wish I had started leg yielding, turn on the forehand, collecting/extending strides a lot sooner. He hates going around in circles and tunes me out pretty quickly when he's bored.
My advice would be to pick up an OTTB from a REPUTABLE trainer. My OTTB came from a very reputable trainer, and I was able to talk to a few people that had worked with other horses from her once they'd retired. My guy is really a gem--he was pretty broke in a lot of ways, had been on the farm quite a bit, traveled extensively, etc. As a result I got a very happy, sane OTTB who loads like a DREAM, handles new places well, crossties, stands for mounting--all things that aren't really a norm for these horses.