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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct. 11, 2011

    Default Thoroughbred Retraining plans.

    Those of you that get horses off the track, do you have a set plan for them to start their new career, like monthly goals to work towards? (obviously COMPLETLEY flexible depending on the horse). For instance, do you start from scratch and do groundwork for a few weeks, then few weeks in the round yard, then out & about, then a show a few months in? I've got a project horse that's purely for reselling, (but he's a darling, it's going to be so hard!). His last start was mid July & he was at a friend's house until yesterday. My friend wanted him as a riding horse but he scared him a few times (complete beginner) so I've got him now. He's still track sore, and muscled up in all the wrong places, and I'm pretty sure my friend was feeding him full grain (!) but with the correct diet, daily massages & light work, I'm hoping he'll be a great horse.
    Oh and here's a pic!
    So what are your basic plans for OTTBs?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep. 26, 2010


    Your friend's horse has a very kind look about him. From what you described it sounds like he could benefit from some serious down time.

    I bought my horse from CANTER MA, an organization that believes, like many others, that a lot of these horses need time to "just be a horse". The horses typically get downtime of a couple of months to be in a field and relax and forget about the track. When the horse is ready, then they get started again from scratch. This gives them an important mental break and time to get over any body soreness they might have.

    My horse had I think around 30-45 days u/s when I bought her. However, I started her from the ground with some longing and long lining and a bit of riding. I gradually increased the riding component and after a few months was no longer doing much groundwork. During that time I was taking my horse off the property and doing flatwork as well as very easy jumping and even some free jumping.

    As for what time period is appropriate, I think it totally depends on the horse. Some might be ready to jump courses in a couple of months, others might need a lot more time before they are ready for that. Same thing goes for shows.

    If I were to start another OTTB (and I've done a couple of them), the only common denominator I think I would have is a couple of months of turnout before working them. That and at least a month of solid ground work. After that I'd let the horse tell me what it needed.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar. 11, 2012
    In a far far away place....


    I think some time off is a good idea. Couple months depending on there condition. If they are body sore, have a massage therapist or chiro check them (after your vet gives thier ok) before you put them back to work. I dont do a lot of ground work, I just got on mine. He has been fine. I have never been one for bitting up, and all that stuff. I have done mostly long hacks around the farm, on the trails. Not much ring work yet. All depends on the horse.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar. 22, 2007


    A very nice set of guidelines is available here:
    "In the beginning, the universe was created. This made a lot of people angry and has widely been considered as a bad move." -Douglas Adams

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 20, 2006
    Pa-eternally laboring in the infinite creative and sustentative work of the universe


    Cute horse --- glad hes got another restart ahead of him.

    Id suggest you simply tack him up and ride the trails -- the long walking will help strech out all those sore spots -- and give him something mentally to do. Theres a lot to be learned from trail work and most likely you'll find him nearly bombproof, as hes already been exposed to a lot of chaos from the track.
    Most ottb's know traffic well, water, they ride in all conditions --so its You who needs to wear the rain gear--
    Honestly, there isnt much you can ask of this horse that wont seem like a cakewalk compared to his old training program.

    I would avoid lunging ! this will only produce more soreness, put stress on the joints and stifles. Hes used to working in long straight lines -- his lifetime tightest turn is the left on the shedrow short wall.
    As you trail ride you can start strengthening those areas and he'll let you know when hes ready for those 20m circles.

    Track horses typically train for 20minutes or less each day, with one day off -- 3 off after racing just walking. They tie to the wall, stand for all care and tacking, just tack and walk quietly to the track (and back!), ride in either d's or ring bits, know how to be ponied(so when you first trail ride with a partner be on the right) , stand for the farrier and vet,& know if they misbehave what a lip shank is, and most are pampered/used to a lot of human time; so a quiet voice might work best. They trailer, most know hotwalkers, some know swimming and euroccizers now.

    Explore these things and build a baseline of what what he does'/doesnt know. -- and go from there.
    OTTB's ready to show/event/jumpers. Track ponies for perfect trail partners.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct. 1, 2002
    Cow County, MD


    Quote Originally Posted by RillRill View Post
    Those of you that get horses off the track, do you have a set plan for them to start their new career, like monthly goals to work towards?
    No. Every horse is different.

    I kick a new horse out in a small paddock with a donkey for a couple days and watch his behavior. Is he aggressive with the donkey? Does he walk the fencelines? How is he eating? Is he "detoxing?"

    I usually do a first ride after about a week just to evaluate brain matter, steering and brakes. Depending on how the horse does, I might kick him back out for a few more weeks and do another re-evaluation ride.

    My latest project is 3 and the owner/breeder is a friend. I know he wasn't racing on any nefarious substances, and thus he didn't go through the detox time, when they blow their coats and look like they want to die.

    I got on at a week and he was perfect. I'm continuing to ride him 2-3 times a week for 15-20 minutes. He likes the attention and having a job. He came with auto brakes , but wobbly steering, so we walk and trot serpentines, figure 8s, various patterns. He is so good that I consciously have to stop from asking more of him than he is ready to do. He popped over a crossrail about 5 times a couple weekends ago (about 7 weeks post race), and that's probably all he'll do until spring. We spend about equal time in the ring and hacking out around a big field. He came from South Florida and is still figuring out what a hill is, but I plan to ship out to an easy trail a few times this fall. He's already passed the redneck test (my neighbors practicing with their muzzleloaders the second I get on ). He's probably the easiest TB I've ever retrained. His breeder says that when they broke him, it was like he'd done it forever, so evidently he's just that kind of horse.

    With others, I have spent months installing voice commands on the longe line and doing basic ground work. It all depends on the horse. Once you start thinking "I must get x accomplished this month," you're too likely to push them past their comfort zone. That's the case with any young horse, not just a TB.
    Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct. 11, 2011

    Default thanks

    Thanks guys, yeah like I said in my original post, "(obviously COMPLETLEY flexible depending on the horse)" I know that there is no strict rule for every horse, but I wondered if you might have a loose schedule/training steps. GypsyQ, thanks heaps for that link, will print it off.
    I know what racehorses are exposed to having worked as a track rider & groom, and also know the trainer that had this boy. I've had several TBs off the track, including a few that I rode at the track and strapped for. But they were to keep/long term home, so there was no pressure on their time with me, or what I was doing with them. Obviously I don't mean to say that I'm going to rush this one, but you know what I mean. He is super super cute, I rode him yesterday & despite the fact that every time he bucked at the canter my friend would get off & put him away, he didn't put a foot wrong and I'm so happy with him. He's loving it here, my horses get handled twice/day (if not ridden, then hand walked/picked or sand roll/brush/massage etc) but my 3yo gelding is NOT happy with him here and makes it known. I won't be riding him in the arena very often, will get him out on trails ASAP and will even start him on cows.
    Will keep you guys updated with progress

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2009


    Honestly, if the horse is sound and mentally fine, I start riding them right away lightly. I just start trying to build the new muscles for the new job slowly. Some of them don't really want or need downtime - it all depends on the horse. Your horse has already had down time since July, so I would start riding him lightly now for sure. I don't do much with them on the ground until after I've been riding them a little. They are usually more confused and frustrated by groundwork than they are with riding. They already know LOTS about riding, even if what they know is a little different than what we do.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun. 16, 2010
    Washington, DC


    I read all that stuff about down time, but mine ended up in light, happy, forward riding work from the first day. It was hard to get her to adjust to turnout in the beginning, so I don't know how I could have turned her out right away anyway. She was kinda sore for a while, but she likes the routine of working, and while her body was adjusting she wasn't doing anything taxing anyway.

    She did MINIMAL lunging. A little later on, I did slightly more lunging to try to help her topline, but not much. And no lunging before riding just for the sake of it.

    Not sure I believe in the one-sided thing. A noticeably one-sided horse is just a horse with soreness somewhere, imho.

    Of course, the primary reason she's been successful is that I hired a really good trainer and listened to her as much as I was able.

    Like all horses, I think they end up more a reflection of the people they're with and their physical comfort than anything. The moment I make excuses or suggest some different method for her because of her track background is usually the moment I go off into Cuckoo Amateur Lady land. A horse is a horse.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun. 7, 2006


    A few weeks for each step?

    Do each step only IF you need it, and ONLY UNTIL the horse is ready for the next one.

    I have had ottbs that I hopped on and rode, no longe, 48 hours after their last race.

    I am currently working with one that came to my program already let down, which I did a ground work session with before hopping on, and will revisit the ground work with before each ride for the next few rides.

    In general unless there is something hugely the matter with the horse they can WTC and hop over little jumps within a month. Not expertly but they can play around.

    Don't waste time doing random stuff based on a time frame. Look at what the horse is telling you, and do what IT needs for AS LONG AS it needs, but not needlessly longer.

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