Maybe I'm crazy... two OTTBs retraining at the same time
Hello Everyone! My name is Amanda and I am the proud owner of not one but two OTTBs. I got my first OTTB towards the end of last summer and decided one just wasn't enough and adopted a second from New Vocations this past december. Both with two very different jobs in life. Shumaker is my future event horse who is coming a long very nicely. We just survived our first weekend at my trainers and she thinks he will go far. One slight problem is he has a patella issue, mainly his left hind seems restricted in its ability to come underneath him as it should. We go get x-rays this week... wondering if anyone else has had this problem and if so, what was the treatment??? Tunes is my young dressage prospect since he came to us with a bone chip and zero desire to go over even the smallest crossrails. Most days he is amazing. More recently he has started this hard-mouth thing on the lunge. It literally takes all my strength to keep him going in a circle and he doesn't have his tongue over the bit, but its like his mouth turns to concrete and he does his best to drag me in the circle he wants to go in. I have tried just given him a bit of slack but that doesn't work. Any suggestions?
Hi! I have a lot of experience with Thoroughbreds, both on the track and off.
With the stifle issue, if the vet doesn't find anything, it is probably just that the horse is weaker on that side. Unless you have a really awesome exercise rider, or one from a show or dressage background, most racehorses tend to travel crooked, so the stronger side gets stronger and the weaker side gets weaker. It doesn't make them unsound, just harder to step under with one leg. What I have found with similar sounding horses in the past is lots of trotting, with them stretching down into the bit, and making sure they are traveling straight to start with, then with a slight shoulder-in when travelling to the weak side until they are more balanced in how far they reach under.
For the horse who's all of a sudden hard mouthed on the longe line, it sounds like he's bored and decided to leave. I know lots of people advocate giving OTTBs lots of time off, let down, start back really slow with longing and such, but these horses are generally active in their bodies and their MINDS. Try leaving the longing alone for a while and just start riding him (if you feel safe). Teach him to bend, flex, anything to get his mind involved. If you absolutely have to longe him, put some trotting poles or cavaletti out, in random areas, sometimes a single pole, sometimes 3 or 4 in a row. Intersperse going over the poles with a circle or two on the longe, to poles, to circle or two, to poles etc, until he can pay attention.
For the stifle horse,(AFTER veterinary inspection and assuming weakness is the problem) I'd also recommend hill work-long and slow, in the bridle, march up, march down and halt a few times along the way. Raised cavaletti (12-18") are also great strengtheners. As he gets stronger, spirals on the circle will also help.
For the hard lunger, get him off the lunge line! I hate lunging and think it is way over used. If you don't want to ride him yet, teach him to long line. It is a much better way to build strength, trust, you can do some lateral work, you can teach him so much more. It will keep you in shape too once he's really working!
Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.
Hills is the usual fix, and some work backing up hills, per my vet. The only problem with that is I live in the Mississippi Delta... flatter than... well let's just say we don't have hills. I take him to be x-rayed this week. My trainer is actually the one who insisted he get x-rayed as I had also felt it was just weakness on that side, but after we video'd him and watched it I saw it.
With the lunging, I used the same process to get my first OTTB re-trained (the one with the stifle issue) and it was quite sucessful for him. Tunes has been a different story all together here recently. He now grinds his teeth to no end when I ask him to do anything more than a walk on the lunge or otherwise... I have thought about lone-lining but I have ZERO experience with it, I go to my trainers once a month with the boys so I'm sure next trip up there she would help me with that. (she also has lots of hills!! thank god lol )
Just to update, we went to the vet today and did a full exam and x-rays. He had a small bone spur on his left hock, and inflammation in both left hock and stifle. We did injections in the hock and stifle and his right hock as he had started to rely on his ride side. Six days stall rest then onto a new training plan to help him rebuild the balance and muscle on his left side! We will probably continue with injections every 6 months as needed. He will not be limited in his Eventing career at the moment which is even better news... I don't know how I'd tell him he can't do the big jumps anymore!