7 Tips For Transitioning Thoroughbreds Off The Track

Nov 18, 2021 - 8:01 AM

Beverly Strauss co-founded MidAtlantic Horse Rescue with Ginny Suarez in 2002 in Chesapeake City, Maryland. They average 100 rehomes a year of horses from the track and from auctions. In this excerpt from the article “Tips For The Off-Track Transition,” Strauss shares seven tips she’s learned from her vast experience:

1. While it’s a personal choice based on a horse’s comfort level and quality of hoof, Strauss usually pulls her horses’ shoes when they come off the track.

“No. 1, it slows them down in the field when they’re first turned out, but No. 2 you end up with a healthier foot,” she said. “Most of the horses here are barefoot. When you first pull the shoes, they get footsore, but it’s amazing how quickly they come around and how much better their feet are down the road. There are always some that need shoes, but in the end, you get the natural balance of the foot back, and it becomes more solid as the horse gets back to nature.”

“There’s good and bad in every breed, but the Thoroughbreds are so trainable and smart, so I really think, no matter what kind of riding you do, you can find a Thoroughbred that will suit you,” says MidAtlantic Horse Rescue co-founder Beverly Strauss. Amy K. Dragoo Photography Photo

2. Keep in mind that most Thoroughbreds are tied to the wall in their stalls for grooming and do not know how to crosstie, so introduce it slowly.

3. Don’t be surprised if your horse won’t pick up his right legs when you’re on the right side.

“People don’t realize that when we work with these horses, we always work from the near side,” she said. “Picking out the feet, you start with the left front, then from that same side pick up the right front.”

4. Standing at the mounting block is usually the hardest part of restarting them. Use a tall mounting block and bring your patience. “When you’re on, some of them want to jog off, and it’s best that you just let them jog,” she said. “It you try to make them walk, they get frustrated and anxious and start to turn themselves inside out.”

5. Strauss says some people use a 30-day sedative on horses straight from the track, but she prefers the natural way. “We just work with the horse,” she said. “They’re smart, and they’re very trainable, so it’s just a matter of adjusting their expectations. They realize, hey, now life is a lot easier and laidback, and there’s not a whole lot that’s going to be asked of you, and they adjust pretty quickly.”

6. There’s a Thoroughbred for everybody. “We’ve adopted horses to 70-plus-year-olds to 9-year-olds to beginner riders to first-timers as well as to people with Olympic aspirations,” she said. “There’s good and bad in every breed, but the Thoroughbreds are so trainable and smart, so I really think, no matter what kind of riding you do, you can find a Thoroughbred that will suit you.”

7. If you’re not experienced in finding the right horse or don’t know where to start, look for a Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance-accredited organization that can guide you through the process. These organizations will often take the horse back if it doesn’t work out and provide support throughout your journey.

This excerpt is from an article that ran in The Chronicle of the Horse in our Sept. 20 & 27, 2021, issue.

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