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Thinking of getting an OTTB....

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  • Thinking of getting an OTTB....

    Now that Sully is retired (he's looking great, by the way), I'm on the hunt for a new horse, and am looking into getting an OTTB from California. I've found a trainer out there (through a lady at my barn here in CO) who specializes in doing just that, and she's getting together some information for me (and another woman at my barn who is also interested) on several prospects that she knows of. Apparently this is prime buying time as it is nearing the end of race season, and owners want to unload the slow and injured ones NOW so that they don't need to put them up for the winter.

    I've had OTTB's before, but this would be the first time I've started one myself (don't worry, I'll have lots of help). Any stories, words of advice you can pass on, warnings, etc?

    Sully's Brag Page

    "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers
    where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?

  • #2
    Order Reschooling the Thoroughbred through Amazon. It's an inexpensive paperback that has some good insights into what you should expect of your OTTB. A lot of folks suffer from the misconception that OTTBs are not trained when in fact they are extremely well trained -- just for a different job. The more you understand about the job they were trained to do, the more you'll understand why they react in certain ways and it'll make your re-training that much easier.

    You can also run an internet seach on the topic -- there are a couple of good websites that have information on reschooling a TB.

    I'd get together (if you don't already have) a good selection of very gentle bits (I like KKs/french links, soft rubber mullens, and waterfords). The OTTB's I've worked with all had very sensitive mouths and it took a while sometimes to find the bit that was just right for each individual -- and generally it was the softer the better. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

    I've also always had good luck starting each one with short lunge sessions to teach voice commands. I can then use those voice commands to translate the new under saddle aids and it makes the transition easier. The first few weeks I just lunged and did ground work. And then I would lunge 10 minutes and ride for 20. Eventually, I quit lunging unless I'd like to teach something new, then we go back to lunging to prepare the new idea -- good books in this area are the Klimke books. I forget the titles but one is something to do with training young horses and has great info and the other is the Cavaletti book, which contains lots of really good exercises. Both are also in paperback on Amazon.

    Get (if you don't already have) a book on stretching and massage and consider investing in some chiropractic work right from the start. Depending on how much racing your new horse has done, you may find stiffness to one side (usually the right) and your chiropractor might find starting gate injuries. The sooner these issues are worked on, the better your retraining will go.

    Also be prepared (have a plan and location) to give the horse time to 'let down' from the track. Depending on how close in time s/he was in race training to your ownership, you may need to give the horse some time to clear medications and mental issues from the track. Giving them some time off is a bit controversial, but it can make for a nice transition to a new life with you.

    HTH! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]



    • Original Poster

      serendipity, thanks for your thoughtful response! I've been reading everything I can find on the internet (lots of great articles on the CANTER site!), and now I'm on my way to Amazon.com to get your book recommendations (although I think I have the lunging one you're talking about, worked great on Sully).

      Thanks again! Anyone else?

      Sully's Brag Page

      "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers
      where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?


      • #4
        can you email me and tell me what trainer you are working through out here? There aren't many trainers out here who pull horses off the track, so I have an idea of who it might be. If it isn't the person I have in mind, I'd love a new contact for picking them up. I've got a couple of friends who would love to find ottb's, but there is no organized program like CANTER through which they can do so in CA.



        • #5
          Serendipity gave you some great advice.
          I would like to add one quirk of OTTBs.
          I have found that the 'throw the head up and bolt' routine is often NOT an evasion or sign of anything bad. On the contrary, it can mean that they are trying really hard to do what you want, they are getting frustrated and so they revert to the behavior that in the past got them lots of pats and rewards - run fast.
          It makes it much easier to deal with than trying to correct it as 'bad' behavior.
          Also - just a funny quirk - many OTTBs have never stood still to be mounted - a rider is thrown up on them as they are led around - they will start walking as soon as they think you want on - again - just trying to please and do what they were taught.
          There are lots of little behaviors like that.
          I have found that MOST have wonderful ground manners and trailer well.

          If you want to shop locally - I can put you in touch with a trainer out in Parker who has pulled some lovely TBs off the track and sold them to friends of mine. Including two of Scotty's half brothers, one is starting over cross poles, the other is doing Open Jumpers and MiniPrix.
          She has a knack for finding nice, sane, sound TBS.

          charter member BEQS Clique & Invisible Poster Clique

          ...virtue shall be bound into the hair of thy forelock... I have given thee the power of flight without wings. - The Koran
          Nina's Story
          Epona Comm on FB


          • Original Poster

            Barb, do drop me a line, it never hurts to shop around! My problem is my budget -- I am limited to $2000 since I am keeping Sully, and that will include my shipping costs (although I can probably add vetting costs on top), and so far I can't find anything around here for that little that is old enough to be ridden. But keep your eyes peeled for me!

            Keeping two horses is a bit of a stretch, but not impossible since Sully will be moved out to pasture soon. Darling husband has been nothing but supportive, so I'm TRYING to be cheap (especially since he is putting off buying the $2000 custom golf clubs that he really wants so that I can do this). I could wait a year or two and save some more dough, but durn it, if I can find a prospect on a teeny budget and have fun doing it, I'm gonna try. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]

            Sully's Brag Page

            "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers
            where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?


            • #7
              another thing to remember is that they have been stalled pretty much 24/7, so when you start to turn out,just go in a small paddock at first.
              Also most track TBs have never been crosstied, they tack up in the stall and lead out (for exercise).
              Wonderful animals, all of whom deserve a good home and a new job - good luck in your search!
              I would always recommend an OTTB to a kind and sensitive rider.
              That reminds me, often they will have sore backs coming off the track (among other things) and they are just not used to a lot of weight. They may also be quite stiff. The suggestion of bits was excellent - I have had good luck with Waterfords, french links and also German silver hollow mouth loose ring.
              good luck - and keep us posted. For inspiration, take a look at Robby Johnson's Rhodey......
              A Fine Romance. April 1991 - June 2016. Loved forever.


              • #8
                My dear Rhodedendron, Rhodesmeister, Rhodes Point, "Rhodey," is a dream of an OTTB. Has some issues similar to what Serendipity describes (mostly stiffer to the right) and will be having some chiropractic/vetting done for a baseline, so we can move forward with more knowledge.

                IME, Rhodey has been a wonderful horse. There are some little idiosyncracies to note:

                1. Fred is right ... tying him up and cross-tying was, at first, confusing. However, he is a VERY GOOD HORSE so he figured it out pretty quickly. But going into the stall to tack up is fine with him.
                2. Trailering is confusing to him. He is accustomed to a straight load trailer. My slant load annoys him, but mainly because he's too big for the first stall.
                3. Despite being at the track, he hates being bathed/groomed. Bathing is better if the water is lukewarm. Still, he's probably ever only going to be so good.
                4. I started him in a Happy Mouth regular jointed snaffle, switched to a KK ripoff in about an 18-21mm size. Now have him in a real KK that is 14mm and he loffs it.
                5. Try not to panic if they cannot trot, at first. But don't be surprised if they can go from walk to 1/2 trot step to canter and never even blink an eye! Thoroughbreds tend to be bred to canter, not trot, so that is something they must learn.
                6. Farrier/vet work. Usually they're fine with this. As well as clipping, etc.

                Best advice: go slow. Give them lots of love, lots of attention, lots of confidence in you. Remember, they may see 10 people a year as their handlers, and everyone is probably just efficient, so often they don't know how to be "your horse."

                Rhodey is awesome. I pull up into the barn and park my truck and he automatically comes to the gate and waits there for me.

                [sigh.] Life is good!


                You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.
                When blood is the beverage of choice, the sharpest fangs feed first.


                • #9
                  Or you could just bring out Robby from CO since he has done such a beautiful job with his Rhodey - go with the best, I say.

                  One quirk I learned, to add to all the above fantastic advice, is that for most track horses, pulling on the reins (and bit)means speed up. I have ridden OTTB's with standing martingales because pulling on the martingale and putting some light pressure on their chest gets them to slow down, and I can avoid touching their mouths until they get used to the "new" signal. Has worked every time for me (learned this trick from my wonderful SC trainer...).


                  • #10
                    Oh, and lets not forget the absolute heart attack most of them have the first time a horse passes them in the opposite direction at a canter... ya definitely need to hang on tight the first couple of times that happens! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]


                    • #11
                      <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by BarbB:
                      I have found that MOST have wonderful ground manners and trailer well.


                      This is one of the primary reasons I prefer OT horses to all others...I love training under saddle work but not ground work! I don't *want* to have to teach them about hoses and trailers and wash stalls and tractors and cars and gates ad naseum. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img] I did it once and I didn't find it as fun as the daily day-to-day training rides of reschooling an off track horse. Someone else has already done the bit I don't prefer to do! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

                      That said, I agree with everyone's posts about the quirky behaviors (that are not so quirky once you've done some reading or spent some time at the track [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img] ). All the OTTBs I've spent time with have been intelligent and anxious to please...they just need you to explain the question in a way that allows them to provide the correct answer.



                      • #12
                        I just found this thread! I don't have all that much more to add to the wonderful advice you've gotten. But I just bought my first OTTB, too..

                        I bought Ya-ya, what, a month ago? I've been on her two or three times, and I'm really impressed with how much she *does* know. She has moments of roundness, she knows her leads and I can actually sit on her back without her getting upset. I do have to be very careful with my hands and very correct with my seat. She stands fine for tacking up, she takes the bit, she stands to be hosed off. She's good for the farrier, and she lets me wrap her legs. She's not even girthy, which was something I expected I'd have to work through.

                        Her back was sore when I got her, and she did need time to be let down. She came into heat HARD just a few days after I got her home. I think they regu-mate the fillies at the track (?) As I've just recently found out, what people say about young TB's hurting themselves all the time is 100% correct! Expect owies and things that make you worry [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]

                        Overall, I would buy another horse right off the track in a heartbeat. It's been a fabulous experience. I *still* watch the CANTER sites--if I had a spare $20K, I would invest it in horses [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]


                        • #13
                          and Robby, you know I meant you should be brought out from ARKANSAS....I must be in an Arkansas blank space imagining the Cher concert...sounds a bit like the Divine Miss M concert I went to in L.A.....yessiree


                          • #14
                            <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by master_tally:
                            Oh, and lets not forget the absolute heart attack most of them have the first time a horse passes them in the opposite direction at a canter... ya definitely need to hang on tight the first couple of times that happens! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

                            [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_razz.gif[/img] oh yeah! forgot that one!

                            That was exciting for a while and even after he calmed down it still made him very worried for a long time.

                            charter member BEQS Clique & Invisible Poster Clique

                            ...virtue shall be bound into the hair of thy forelock... I have given thee the power of flight without wings. - The Koran
                            Nina's Story
                            Epona Comm on FB


                            • #15
                              Just brining this back up front to see if there are any other pearls of wisdom out there. I toy with the idea of getting an OTTB for the *fun* of reschooling it.
                              Who has advice on what to look for while at the track? There is so little you can see since they can really only walk and trot past. Are there any sort of special things to look for beyond normal good movement and a fairly quiet attitude?

                              What would your top 5 qualities be when looking at a horse at the track?


                              • #16
                                I adore OTTBs -- heck, I even help my friend ride and reschool them for new homes here, and have one that was very fresh off the track when I got him. You've gotten some good general words of advice, and here are my ramblings.

                                Top 5 things to look at:
                                1. BRAIN -- if the horse is jumpy and spooky, it's jumpy and spooky and won't change. That may be OK with you, but know it to start.
                                1.5 FEET -- just as important, and I've taken a bath on an OTTB with bad feet, so I'm picky here. Expect some bad angles, etc, but they shouldn't be TOO flaky, the sole be TOO flat or thin, and they should be sound. IF you can, get a farrier to put hoof tester on, or take a small hammer and whack the side of the foot. whole bunch of reaction and I'd pass.
                                2. LEGS -- reasonable wheels are important. Pinfiring is usually nothing, as are splints. Ankle "jewelry" is more worrisome.
                                3. FLEXIONS -- not realiable, but with an OTTB somewhat useful. SOME response is probably OK, a lot and I'd pass.
                                4. TWO LEADS -- most have it, but not all. And while that my not be a biggie for you, I really hate that.
                                5. REASON FOR SALE -- If you can, find out why the horse is being sold. If it was running good then suddenly wasn't, I'd be wary. Mine was actually part of the Penn National race fixing scandal of a couple of years ago. Personally, I like the ones that did win a bit -- they seem to "wait" for their rider more, but they can be right quick...

                                As to the retraining....

                                Lunging can be a very good thing, but don't expect the horse to have a clue how to do it. Many OTTBs have never been lunged and don't understand what is being asked, so don't just slap on sidereins and go. For some, it's just easier to work them under saddle.

                                Expect a pronounced one-sidedness.

                                You may or may not have a "canter." You may only have a "run." Trot is also optional, so be prepared for some, uh, interesting riding. And lots, and lots, and lots of biiiigggg circles for a few months.

                                Social skills may be less than optimal. Most OTTBs are great about trailers, tying (here at least they tend to be crosstied), clipping, worming, temps, wrapping, bathing, etc. But as to how to socialize in a horse group they may have no clue.

                                They may be very picky eaters, esp with regard to treats. Cut up carrots and apples may work, but not always.

                                OTTBs are really great horses, but they can be difficult. It's really important to be able to not punish them for forward, although that doesn't mean they're allowed to bolt off. They should come back quickly, but never make a fuss about forward. It IS what they'v been bred and trained to do.

                                Good luck!


                                • #17
                                  California is a great place for finding quality TB's off the track but you do have to know what you're looking at (and for) and some familiarity with common Calif. bloodlines helps. I'm going out on a limb with this one but in my experience some TB lines do pass temperament along with physical attributes and it's helpful to know which lines are making successful sporthorses. Doesn't matter how pretty the body is, if the brain isn't there you're not going to have fun. Make sure the California person you're working with understands what the sport of eventing entails in order to evaluate the horse's temperament.

                                  That said, I have to tell you prices are really low on horses here right now and you might be surprised at what you can find in horses that are already trained! I have an experienced friend who has taken horses off the track and her most recent project, a really nice 6 year old, who will vet sound, has had a little over a year of solid training, is nicely jumping small courses and, I think, has the right attitude to make a nice eventer. The market is so slow his price has dropped to $3,500 and she has a video of him (really helpful to those out of state!) You might want to check out something in this range if you can find a way to make it work -- payments or something. I think that's a real bargain considering someone else has already done the tough work the first year off the track involved.

                                  Good luck,


                                  • #18
                                    Hopeful Hunter, you've reminded me about the importance of feet! How could I overlook that, it wasn't even ON my top 5, silly me. Thanks for your advice on what to look for.

                                    Rides2fly - someone on this board needs to take advantage of that great deal. Pricewise, I haven't seen anything close to that on the east coast.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Wow, my thread is back! I think that's the first time I've ever had a resurrected topic!

                                      But this is fun because now I can post what I did... I got a 3 year old TB from California (I'm in Colorado), through a sister of a friend who is located in CA. She found me a horse who had never been raced, and I ended up buying him sight unseen (he was that much of a bargain).

                                      He's a cutie pie! I've been on him all of three times, and last time we even trotted a bit. So far he has been very un-thoroughbred-ish.... very quiet and calm. I'm actually a little worried that he's going to be TOO quiet and I'm going to have to sell him as a hunter. But it's too early to tell for sure, I suppose -- I just keep expecting explosions that never come! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]
                                      where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?


                                      • #20
                                        rides2fly, do you have any recommendations for bloodlines that are nicer to work with?

                                        I've been browsing at CANTER, and I see a lot of horses with scary shoeing work - incredibly low angles, yikes. I realize that this is not how the horse is built, but I worry that (a) he may have been damaged by the low heel (b) clearly, the trainer doesn't know as much as you'd hope, and what else has he been doing to the poor horse? Any thoughts on this?

                                        rhymeswithfizz, where's a picture? [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img]
                                        If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket