I've had really good luck--horses that are sound and sane enough to race that long have a lot to offer. My soundest horse raced on the flat until 7 and o/f until 9. My current guy was 6, almost 7 when he came off the track, was not particularly tough.
They are a resale disadvantage though. If your horse is starting their event career at 8, it will be worth less than an equivalently trained 4 yo.
I have done great with the older ones, especially for myself. Gizmo (now 21) was 7 when I got him. The great thing was that he was already quite "grown-up" and we could just move along. He did his (and my) first preliminary 15 months after I bought him. Current guy is now 8. I bought him toward the end of his 6 year old year. He (unlike Gizmo) was actually a winning race horse, but has been very easy to retrain. I do agree with the resale thing, although I largely think many people are just wrong on this topic. A lightly jumped 8 year old ready to go prelim is to me just as good as a 5 year old. For the vast majority of riders, it isn't as if they come to the end of their competitive career at age 14 (as so many seem to believe/imply/shop based on).
Please stop posting videos and training reports of Suave Jazz - I dream about buying him!!!
Especially for less skilled/bold amateurs doing low level eventing and schooling shows and trails, an older horse seems such a better bet than a youngster. I swear, even the best minded youngsters are going to test your will sometime in that 4-5 years range.
Personally, I think I'd rather manage some physical needs (not lameness but more maintenance) than work through the unknown mental quirks of young ones.
I echo what Dinah says. I am back to riding in my 40s, and very happy to stay at low level eventing, schooling shows, trails, and some dressage work. My OTTB was 7 when I took him off the track. He is just turning 10 and going strong jumping, loves dressage, and is an all around sound, mature, and reliable horse. He was very mature and businesslike coming off the track, and keeps improving. He had NO problem leaving the track behind and starting his new career almost immediately. I think that if they are still racing at these ages, they have proven that they hold up well!
I am in the process of taking a 9yo OTTB off the track now!
"I am still under the impression there is nothing alive quite so beautiful
as a thoroughbred horse."
I'll ditto everyone else. I've gotten 3 who were 6 or older with 40+ starts and all transitioned very well. If you are not buying to re-sell I wouldn't hesitate to get an even older one. The "oldest" one I've had was 8 though and he was the only one I sold on. He vetted clean and loves his new job as a foxhunter.
If you believe everything you read, better not read. -- Japanese Proverb
I have a constant stream of horses coming in for retraining and some of my absolute easiest are the older horses because they have been there and done that in terms of seeing the world. If they are truly coming off sound it often means that the horse is built to last and that they use their body in a smart way.
I may not buy them for resale purposes but my own personal horse that I bought via CANTER Mid Atlantic (he was one of my retraining projects) raced until he was 8yr old and had 58 starts. He may not be the easiest on the flat but he is sound, smart and very talented. Excellent at hacking out, paper chasing, hunting, cross country schooling and just generally a very sane horse. He is probably the toughest older horse that I have had to retrain on the flat but that is more of his attitude (tough old stakes horse who thinks dressage is STUPID!).
I find that most of these older racehorses make wonderful ammy horses and tend to be very adaptable to retraining. It can take longer to get their bodies reshaped for the flatwork but it typically is worth it because they tend to have such good brains.
Some of my absolute favorite and easiest CANTER Mid Atlantic horses have been the older campaigners. I absolutely love them and they really should not be overlooked! I have two that I sold to members of Wicomico Hunt that are leading 2nd field in their first season of hunting. They just had amazing brains. One of horses that we sold raced until he was 12yrs old!!!!!! He went right to foxhunting as well and was an amazing hunt horse and would have done any other career.
I got my guy off the track at the end of his 11 year old season. He's one of the easiest horses I've ridden. He's obviously green, but very good and obedient and he tries.
(Watch, he's going to be a nightmare next time I ride just to show me up.)
I think TBs retiring after a long career are the best. You know they're well put-together. You know they're sound. You know they're tough. You know they've got a good mind. They've passed the test of time. They've seen and done it all.
The only possible downside I see to getting a horse after a long track career versus a short one is I imagine horses who have been on the track for a long time have a more pronounced left-sidedness.
I agree -- and I used to think completely the opposite, LOL. But I realized that if they have come off the track sound after a solid racing career, they can take a pounding and keep on going. They are, as pointed out by my jumping trainer, who has taken horses to ****, tough enough mentally and physically and have already proven that they are brave and consistent.
I got mine as a 7 year old, although I guess he came off the track at 6. He raced for three years, at any rate. Of course, I shop solid legs and feet and good conformation/mind anyway, but knowing he had prevailed under pressure made me feel better about longevity than a 3 year old who had raced once or twice.
And for the record, his hock and stifle rads are pristine. :-)
Mine is not really "older" but she came home to me at the end of her five year old year, in November. She just turned six. My coach has worked with a ton of younger off the track horses, but with Jess, she's been thrilled about how quickly she has progressed.
Although she's green, we don't have the "baby" issues to deal with. She can handle a lot more pressure than a 3 or 4 year old could. She's been in our program less than 90 days and is going to her first combined test next month.
So she's too old to get her ready to compete in the YEH classes, but we think it's realistic that she'll be running novice this year... In the grand scheme of things, not too terribly behind. We don't have to go into a holding pattern with her training to give her time to grow up.
I think - as others have mentioned- that each horse is an individual, so its hard to make sweeping generalizations.
That said, when you buy an older horse, over 5 yrs old, what you got is what you got in a lot of ways. Sometimes that's good (miss the terrible fours) but if the horse has some tough tendencies, your not going to be able to mitagte those as thoroughly as you can with a younger horse.
So my advice in buying an older race horse is to really pay attention to the attitude and temperment, because that's who he is.
And absoultley, if the horse has a bunch of starts and is still sound, there you go
Add my voice to those who say the older veterans are easier to retrain. I galloped TBs when I was younger (much) and loved when I got to have the rides on any of the "older" guys, they knew the game and were generally all business. Interestingly, those same horses took to new careers easily because of that mindset. . .all business. One time owner decided to retire his racehorse, a nine year old, low level claimer with a ton of starts, but sound. Buyer came to the training farm with his polo mallet, got on, swinging that mallet on both sides, neck reining that old boy without a thought. This horse was still in training on the track! Buyer Decided he was too big, I got on the phone to a H/J trainer I knew and told her bring the trailer!!
i have a lovely grey 17.0 7 yr.old geld that won over 60k at the track and i am retraining him to resell. he is really starting to understand the whole dressage thing, still green and really taking our time. but is a wonderful horse. loves people
The horse I have now raced until the end of his 6 year old year. He is, strangely enough, one of the easiest horses I have ever had for the dressage. He has a lovely soft mouth and a natural self carriage. He is not spooky and has a lovely rythm to his fences. But what I love about him that I think really is related to his time on the track is that he has the best work ethic I have ever found in a horse. I swear sometimes he complains about my work ethic. I think he would be a wonderful mount for a rerider or a junior that financially needed to train their horse themselves.
Don't get me wrong it isn't just the sire, but I am loving a lot of the old MD bred mares that went to him. Mostly due to Dr. Bowman, but there were some other lovely ones who were serviced by him.
I love my MD bred Slew grandson, Code Wind, by Slew Dancer out of Code Du Marche (Lost Code). I would buy one of his siblings in a heartbeat.
He retired sound at age 8 with 75 starts, and is now 19 years young, packing my daughter around Area1 events. He's honest as the day is long, with a great brain, and an even better work ethic. The worst thing I can say about him is that he's a bit hot, but always very sensible, he just likes to GO.
"You can't blame other people. You can't always say what happened wasn't my fault. And you know what, even if you have an excuse, shut up."
Bruce Davidson, Sr.