For those of you that literally buy off the track...UPDATE ON POST 25
help me! So my new horse search has commenced and yesterday was a huge fail. I drove across the state to PARX to see a very promising candidate. I fully intended to buy provided the horse in question passed the PPE (we'll get to that part later), so took my trailer. I rang up close to $200 just in turnpike fees.
When I spoke to the trainer on the phone, I was assured that the horse would vet clean. The first jogging of the horse was a fail, as they were trying to do it in the shedrow and all the horses were a bit hot, including the one I was there to see, so I couldn't even get a good look at how the horse travelled. I made the suggestion to the vet if we could ace the horse a bit and take it outside away from the hustle and bustle. Trainer graciously agreed to this plan, so outside we went. The first thing that I saw was a 'hocky" horse and a slight paddle in front. I could deal with the paddle, but just coming off of a very high maintenance horse, the hocks seemed suspicious to me, especially for an unraced, under 5 y.o. Ended up getting xrays, wanted to be sure because it was a NICE horse, and they showed, well, I'll call them "things that Coth has taught me that usually require surgery". Sadly, I had to pass.
So, my day was a total loss, and kind of an expensive one at that. For those of you that regularly buy off the track, how do you do it? I was told by the trainer I was dealing with that it wouldn't be a problem to get a vet to do flexions and xrays, but it was a problem. How do you vet horses at the track, when you are hundreds of miles away and can't bring your regular vet? Also, there seems to be a big difference between "track sound" and "riding horse sound". I would never have travelled that far had I been able to see the horse move, and it was only because the trainer assured me this horse would pass, that I went. Are there specific questions that I should have asked beyond "will this horse vet clean?" and "has the horse ever had any injuries?". There must be some sort of disconnect between what I meant and what the trainer thinks "sound" is. Not trying to be judgmental, I just want to better educate myself in case I try this again. Any additional insight into the process would be welcome.
That being said, I do hope the horse I saw ends up in good place, that place just couldn't be with me.
Last edited by ex-racer owner; Jan. 2, 2012 at 10:18 PM.
In all honesty... This is exactly why I do not usually buy straight from the track unless we have some reliable connection. Otherwise I am more than happy to pay an agent or a middleman so I can get quality photos, video and a vetting. In the end, IME it costs less money. I would contact Jenarby or Mapleshade to act as agent if I were in your boots. And no, I dont get paid to say that!
"Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
--- The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.
I would definately try to fit in multiple horses in a visit. Driving so far and spending so much to get there on one horse seems like a waste to me. There are some trainers that will take video for you.
But like the previous poster said, I would try to find someone that has contacts at the track to help you out.
I've never bought straight from the track myself, but have accompanied friends as their 'extra eyes' -to quash impulse buys.
It sounds like you live pretty far from the track you are shopping at- and it sounds like you drove there to see only one horse. Those are both things I would never do. You were also very lucky they let you ace the horse to see it jog reasonably. For the most part, you can only expect to see them jog/spook/canter sideways in the shedrow.
I'd recommend you get in touch with the CANTER representative for the track you are looking at. Most are super nice people- and will help you either set up 10-15 to see in a day, or let you know which listings are already stabled off the track. That way you could likely see the horse trot and canter in a field before committing.
There are also some great people that take bunches of them off the track and re-market them after 30 or 60 days once they know what they are dealing with. That might be a better fit for you.
Buying directly off the track, I think you have to expect a certain amount of unknown (unless you know the connections really well), and for that reason alone it's definitely not for everybody.
It does help to know who you're buying from. That probably more than anything else was the best indicator of general soundness in the horses I bought. Word-of-mouth and COTH connections can work to your favor.
I did not do x-rays for any of the horses I bought, but that's only because my own philosophy is that all horses have *something*, and I'll deal with it when it surfaces. I understand that approach isn't for everyone, especially for people who are thinking of resale. I was willing to accept a degree of risk, because nothing I intend to do will come a smidgeon close to being as demanding as racing.
Woth noting, some of mine came off the track pretty sore and changed for the better over time with improved shoeing and R&R.
Ask around about the quality of tracks to find ones that are less likely to brake down horses. Also do not assume trainers know that much about horses. Our friends used to have race horses, and the wife was the trainer. I don't think she has ever sat on a horse, and didn't know what "hock" meant. She would have had no way/reason to know what jumping horse sound meant.
We recently tried to buy directly off the track. The horse was quiet enough we could do flexions, but our vet noticed some fill that wasn't there the day before....thank goodness we xrayed as the horse had a massive chip under its seasmoid, as well as many little chips. Vet did not want this horse to jump. The hardest part was they then tried to just give us the horse, but I knew we had to walk away.
It seemed that most of the horses we looked at had some fill in their ankles, and I later found out that our local track is really hard on ankles, so not the best track to shop at.
I've gone to the track and to lay-up farms for people looking to buy. I've taken videos and pics for them. I've also 'bought' horses (TB's and STB's) from the tracks or from Trainer's barns.
If possible get a couple candidates to look at. I find track vets very hard to break from their busy schedule so I try and do as much as I can without them. I've never done xrays because these are track horses and they all have something going on. Besides with horses coming straight off the track I'm going to give them a couple months anyway of R&R.
There are trainers who will tell you just about anything to get a horse out of his stable. I always go in with the mind set that they are going to show me just about anything.
I went with a friend to look at 2 horses at Los Alamitos, ended up looking at probably 8. The trainer and his buddy just kept pulling out horses left and right. I damn near left with a couple myself. Friend didn't buy any. But I did forward the trainer's contact and the name of one horse who I thought was the best of the bunch to someone who did end up buying him
See above ~ yeah, I've bought plenty of horses on and off track without knowing the trainer or owner, or having them vetted. Got one three year old filly with a long dismal race record free - well, $500.00 on a "win cuff" This was common back then, when trainers just wanted to free up a stall, get rid of non perfomers. I laid her up for months, ran her a few times, she never stepped up, and so eventually she sold well as a brood mare.
A bunch of others: Bottom dollar claimers that no one would halter sold fairly cheaply under the shed. I had various luck there. Some came back from lay ups at the farm and paid their way, others improved and the original owners took them back at a higher price.
But my best sucess by far was of a big black gelding, as a five year old maiden, had to be off the track. He trotted out lame, had horrible long toes with too small shoes on. I bought him anyway. That week I had my farrier come, and we put the correct shoes and angles on him. Within a month this boy was showing some real talent as a jumper, and in fact, over 15 years he could go open jumper, winning many championships, and also get good ribbons as a show hunter. I fox hunted him several seasons and he stood like a rock at checks and minded his manners perfectly. He'd never win at conformation, had a thick neck and strange scars on his knees, but he never took a lame step after the proper shoeing, and was always game to leap ever higher - we did 6 foot at home, in the pasture once. I'll sure miss him... he passed away after a happy retirement, of old age.
First, kudos to you for buying a guy straight off the track. They are such wonderful horses as long as you understand their previous life and how it makes them think about the world/riding.
Second, I think like many have said, connections at the track will be critical. And yes, there is a difference between racing sound and riding horse sound. Hopefully someone like Laurierace will have some connections for you. That will definitely help find what you're looking for without all the tolls! Also, I'm assuming you're working with your local CANTER chapter. Very helpful!
ExRacer...I suggest getting in touch with our CANTER people at Mountaineer. They can be your eyes if you tell them what you are looking for, or better yet call and volunteer to help them and get a good look yourself. You can e-mail me at Nancyk@canterusa.org and I'll connect you directly.
First, I wouldn't be totally discouraged from buying OTT.
That does sound like a horrible experience, but showing up to find a lame horse when the owner assured you on the phone it was sound is not confined to the track--that happens everywhere.
I have gotten fairly lucky with trainers I didn't know, but agree it is better to have good contacts, and the CANTER folks are great. I've interacted with a few CANTER PA volunteers and they were all awesome and really helpful.
Vetting has been tricky for me too. It is not too hard to get a track vet to take a look, but as you point out they do have a different horizon for soundness (the "this could become a problem in 5 years" is more of a sport mentality). They also often have some relationship with the trainer (which isn't seen as quite the same issue as in the sport world, but still) and most that I've met didn't have digital x-ray. Personally, I usually go for the brief track vetting vs. trying to hold the horse for a week or shipping it out to a vet, but I understand that it might be too much risk for some.
As for questions to ask, if you get the horse's registered name you can look it up on Equibase. Look at the race history for any gaps. Healthy horses often race 1-2 times/month, during seasons when the tracks are open (varies by track/climate). If you notice gaps, you can always ask why the horse didn't race between April and July of 2011. Or why he was vanned off, etc. You can ask if he comes back from races sore anywhere.
You can also ask about specific injuries/types of injuries (osslets, bowed tendons, etc.--especially if you see anything on the pics) You can ask about maintenance/race meds, you may not get an honest answer but the reaction might help.
However, race horses change hands frequently (you can find out from the race charts individually), so a trainer may not know much history on a horse.
It might also help your odds to look at a few at any given track. Often they seem to start coming out of the woodwork when a buyer shows up. Also, some people are really good at telling which gait abnormalities a horse is likely to work out of with let down, but since I personally am not, I probably would save my vetting dollars for something that looked sound to me. If it was obviously lame on the jog I would pass.
I buy directly from the track and its not alwyas what you know but who you know.
There are resources that can help you set up a PPE when you are there, and Yes you are right there is a big diffrence between Racing sound and Sports Horse sound.
But you also have to take into consideration they gallope on a Race Track 7 days a week and are shod entirely diffrent . They live in a 12x12 cube 23 hours a day 365 days a year....Ask some of us to meet you or PM those of us who do this all the time for HELP....or at the very least a ttrainer recommendation.
The red flag for me would have been and unraced 5yr old..oh yeah...reason why he didn't run @ 2 or 3 or 4..ahhha...PM if you want help.
Parx is the base for the Turning for Home program. Many of these horses are at foster farms and you can see several at one time. Some have already started retraining as riding horses. Rerun is also a good source, and Rerun NJ has several horses currently under training with a well-known h/j trainer through a grant from the ASPCA.
My experience (as I got my current OTTB right off the track)....visit as many horses as you can in 1 trip. I made a couple of trips of the summer of 2010 to the local track, and always made appointments to see a bunch of horses each time. When I finally found the perfect one for me, he was like the 5th I saw that day. I was lucky, and bought him from a super nice trainer who was dead honest. A few of the horses I saw over the summer, well, the trainers were not so honest.
I guess my advice would be if you live far away, make it worth your time & try and see as many as you can. I've realized sound to a racing trainer isn't always sound to a riding person.
Yes, you definitely need a reliable connection of some kind when buying straight off the track. I absolutely 100% would not trust what someone I didn't know said about a horse. I have seen it happen too many times where a trainer is anxious to find a home for a horse that isn't racing well and they will say anything, assuming incorrectly that the soundness criteria for a riding horse are much less stringent than for a race horse, to the point where I've seen wobblers passed off as "riding horses." Ridiculous!
I'm honest up front that I'm looking for something that is 100% sound, no issues, no "NQR" anywhere, no weird conformation, no feet problems, and no blemishes. No craziness issues, no cribbing, no stallions. It helps to mention that you will be using the horse for jumping which seems to help racetrack folks understand that you truly do need a sound horse. Most racetrack people are very good, caring people and genuinely want the best future they can find for the animals in their care, they generally don't want to send them off to be broken down by someone else.
Keep in mind that many racehorses have had excellent vet care/xrays and such and at least IME, the trainers that I work with already know the intimate details of the horses health, soundness, xrays, etc. For this reason, when I'm working with a trainer/farm manager I trust, I rarely vet horses off the track. I'm not necessarily recommending this, just saying that anything your vet would find in a vet exam the trainer probably already knows the details about.
Race horse sound and sport horse sound can often be quite different depending on the trainer
It's important to do your research on the horses race record. Like Judy said above an unraced 5yr sends up huge red flags to me. It doesn't always mean something bad but in most cases it does.
Very important to know who you are dealing with. There are trainers I would buy something from sight unseen and others that I won't ever buy anything from based on my experience with them. If you can find somebody that knows the track and the trainers you will have better success.
I buy a lot of horses for clients straight from the track and we take many horses donated off the track that are sound with no vices. I will say that I do think it's hard to judge soundness at the track so unless you want to x-ray everything it might not be the thing for you. Horses are often quite funky in their body due to living in a stall and being muscled for quick bursts of speed. It takes time for the body soreness to go away.
If you are willing to take a gamble than buying from the track is a good idea especially if you don't have a lot of money to spend. However, I caution people because buying cheap from the track without a vetting can end up costing you a lot in the long run if you get stuck with something that doesn't vet out later down the road.
There are some really good people out there that are already doing the hard work at finding the nice horses from the track and then selling them. Tons of great rehoming organizations as well. I think the prices will always be higher but I feel that it's worth it to pay more money when you can determine soundness, personality and if the horse will fit your job. Not to mention the money that has already been spent to let the horse down, feet, teeth, worming and more.