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OTTB as first horse?

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  • OTTB as first horse?

    Hi everyone! I'm new and super happy to be part of this community!

    Okay, so back to my question, I am very interested in adopting an OTTB. This horse would be my first horse. I have been riding for about 8 years now and eventing for about a year and a half. My riding experience includes teaching greenies to stay on the bit and consistently jump to riding eventing school masters. Currently, I am riding an arabian and preparing him for his first event. He is about 12, has some basics, but didn't know how to remain on the bit and wasn't much of a jumper. He refused all the time, but now we are consistently jumping three feet, with help from my trainer. Although I've never owned a horse or leased one, I am at the barn about four to five times a week, either working for my instructor or riding horses for boarders.

    I'm used to hot-blooded breeds, ridden many arabians and a couple thoroughbreds, and I enjoy their energy. The reason I am considering an OTTB because I want a challenge and want to better myself as a rider. There is nothing better to me than seeing how far a horse has come. I'd really like to take the horse to at least preliminary, preferably a higher eventually, and I definitely expect that to take five or more years, but I'll be very patient. I will be working with my trainer weekly and she is always there for advice. Oh, and I would adopt one from a program that already starts the OTTB with basics. What do you guys think? Would it be a crazy idea or do you think it could work? Thanks for so much for reading!

  • #2
    I'd say if you are experienced, capable and confident working with green horses and would be under the supervision of a good trainer so I don't see why it would be such a crazy idea. What does your trainer think of the idea? She probably knows your experience and comfort level better than anyone else. The only thing I would caution is this: how much show experience do you have? If you have limited show experience and find showing intimidating or nerve wracking, I'd suggest getting some show miles with a horse that knows the drill first. That way you can feel comfortable (if you don't already) riding competently in a show environment down the road; you can make greenie's show experiences positive without having to worry as much about your own nerves and insecurities.
    Balanced Care Equine


    • #3
      If you are already comfortable with riding green horses and OTTBs, I don't see that not having owned before is reason not to consider an OTTB.

      Is this a horse you would be able to ride before buying or will you just be watching it jog etc? I do think in buying a first horse it would be best to be able to ride, have your trainer ride, to make sure you feel comfortable with the match.


      • #4
        Since you are working with a trainer, I think you would be fine. They're not really "hot-blooded monsters" I swear! Definitely do it in a way that you can meet and sit on said horse before you buy though (i.e. CANTER or similar). My OTTB is my second horse, and even though he is quiet and patient, I am definitely glad I had the skills learned from my first horse to apply, but they are also very different in many ways and you sound like you are in a situation that is well suited to that learning experience.
        Life doesn't have perfect footing.

        Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
        We Are Flying Solo


        • #5
          I work with CANTER Mid Atlantic retraining the horses donated to us and there are so many of our horses that would be perfect for a rider like you. There are some horses that I would probably steer you away from because although they are talented they may be a bit too smart for their own good. Those types are more challenging because you have to have a large knowledge base and big toolbox to ensure they stay on the right track and don't regress in their training.

          We put a lot of mileage on them before we advertise them for sale so we really get to know them inside and out. They go out trail riding, take trips off the farm, xc school and more. It helps us figure out what the horse wants to do in their second career and allows us to know what type of rider they will best suit so that we make the right match the first time.

          For somebody buying an ottb for their first horse it's important to buy a horse that is forgiving in nature and is willing to please. You will make mistakes and they have to be okay with that and not hold it against you. It's helpful to have a horse that is sensible enough to not overreact if you are nervous. Those types do exist so take your time making sure you find the right horse. The right horse can make the experience fun but the wrong one can take away your confidence quickly.


          • #6
            JLee is right on- and if you go through a reputable program such as Canter MidAtlantic, MidAtlantic Horse Rescue, or others, we will make sure it is the right match and stand behind the horse 100%. Win win win for everyone-you get a great horse, horse gets a great home, new horse gets to come into the program....
            Be a part of the solution~ Adopt a thoroughbred!


            • #7
              Then of course there are many private re-sellers like me who have the luxory of hand picking the horses. Their own farm w/ the abilitey to let the horse down and give them a good solid start w/ upper level rider. Plus can re-sell modestly.

              You have lots of options and your price will dictate where you buy...also allowing at least $1200. for a very comprehensive PPE. Don't fly blind or compromise if you are looking to make Prelim and keep the horse for 5yrs. Make sure you start out w/ good solid joints, good feet and wind.

              If you start out w/ an issue to over come or are working w/ a conformation handicap you will get frustrated.

              JLee amd Bev always have nice horses to try.....New Vocations is another place to . But w/ NV remember you are obligated to keep horse for 1 full year before you can sell it on if its not going to work out.


              • #8
                Totally agree with Jlee and Bev.

                I would also recommend Canter or MidAtlantic Horse Rescue. These are two reputable programs that take the time to make sure the horse is a good match. There are some rescues who aren't this way.

                It's more than just how many horses are adopted that makes a rescue successful. It's how many horses are appropriately placed and how many riders have partners that they enjoy and can ride.

                I love working with greenies but there have been ones that have been more than I was comfortable with riding. A horse like that can really set your confidence back and have you doubting yourself.

                Enlisting the help of your trainer and a reputable rescue should put you on the right track. Have fun and good luck!!

                ETA: I see Judy was posting the same time I was. The private farm is also another option and there are ones specializing in OTTBs.
                For a first horse, I would definitely recommend one that has been "let down" and evaluated by a pro. It's worth the extra cost.


                • #9
                  I'm a weirdo who actually prefers horses to be started by amateurs, they just seem to be able to take a joke a little better when they are ridden by someone who isn't perfect 100% of the time. But then again, I gravitate toward horses who are weird and do things like try to kick me when I do up their blankets

                  Anyhow, an OTTB as a first horse--absolutely, with the right horse. I don't usually suggest people go straight to the track to pick a horse themselves, and instead look only at horses who have been let down and well-started. Depending on where you are, there are lots of options there, but definitely check references and absolutely plan on a vetting, particularly if you are buying from a private individual.

                  I'd have to go back and look, but I know a decent percentage of folks have purchased horses from the CANTER program as their "first horse". They weren't inexperienced with horses though.
                  We have a couple in NC now that would tolerate you putting your Jack Russell in the tack and taking it for a hack
                  So yes, go sit on some horses and get a feel for what you'd like in a horse, and bring someone who knows OTTBs with you when you go.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by FairWeather View Post
                    We have a couple in NC now that would tolerate you putting your Jack Russell in the tack and taking it for a hack
                    FairWeather says this because she probably HAS put Boots in the tack and done just that!
                    ~Kryswyn~ Always look on the bright side of life, de doo, de doo de doo de doo
                    Check out my Kryswyn JRTs on Facebook

                    "Life is merrier with a terrier!"


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks everyone for such great advice! Some of that stuff I didn't even consider, like showing experience and a horse that's too smart. Anything else? How do you know an OTTB will do well as an eventer?


                      • #12
                        I just bought my first OTTB, though she's not my first horse she's the first super green, knows almost nothing baby I've bought. I got her with the help of my trainer and a private seller. However we were also looking at the Makers Mark Secretariat Center that's at the Kentucky Horse Park. I'm not sure where you're located, but they are wonderful and we currently have 3 horses from there, all are fabulous babies.

                        As for knowing if they'll do well as an eventer, evaluate overall conformation, movement, and jump (either undersaddle or free jumping. We took my filly XC schooling the first time I tried her. Took her through water, over a ditch, up and down a bank. She loved it. Did everything willingly. If you take them out XC and they're unsure but they figure it out and go, then you're probably ok, if you take them out and they never settle down, never get it, then it might not be the right job for them. However, it's still kinda a crap shoot, unfortunately. It's hard to tell until they're really going. But you can get a decent idea based on the initial XC schooling. But good luck and I hope you find a wonderful horse! I'm absolutely in love with my OTTB, she's so smart and wonderful and they're just great horses. =]


                        • #13
                          My test for an event horse:
                          Is it sound?
                          Can it trot (can it walk, can it canter)?
                          Does it pick up it's legs over a jump?
                          Trainable/quiet brain?

                          Of course, a whole lot more to it than that, but if you are shopping for a greenie off the track, the above is really all you can hope for.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by FairWeather View Post
                            My test for an event horse:
                            Is it sound?
                            Can it trot (can it walk, can it canter)?
                            Does it pick up it's legs over a jump?
                            Trainable/quiet brain?
                            + Can I get it on the trailer?

                            Sounds like my list.

                            OP, sounds like you have a good plan. I hope you bring home a lovely OTTB.


                            • #15
                              Having owned four, and now three, I am biased. Not every horse is for every owner, but that is all horses and owners. In a couple of months the sales will start for those not worth running this spring and you can find some nice deals.

                              How to find a good one...get to know someone that understands what you want and what you need in a horse. Have them keep an eye out for something that would suit you. This is what I didi and I can honestly say every horse I got from that person was exactly what I was looking for.

                              How to pick an eventer is a different story. It is hard to tell from the track if they will like eventing. If I had to pick one thing I'd say a horse that is confident on it's own. Herd bound, insecure, needing a leader MAY translate to a lack of confidence in XC where the hrose has to think on it's own at times. Not saying the above traits CAN'T be good eventers but its something to consider if you want to ride the horse to Prelim or beyond.
                              My three are working towards eventing, well two are and the third will be soon. Thirs is currently my DS endurance/trail horse and Im not sure he'll actually take to eventing but we're gonna try this year.

                              TBs seem to wear their hearts on their shoulders and they don't seem to hide much about how they feel. I LOVE THIS ABOUT THEM, but it isn't for everyone. Good luck in your search!


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Kryswyn View Post
                                FairWeather says this because she probably HAS put Boots in the tack and done just that!
                                That's how FairWeather figured out mine was a Good Egg--Boots did indeed try to hop up, and the mare didn't much care She was my "first" horse, though I'd ridden for more than a decade and leased for a while. While she isn't the easiest ride in the world (not at all bad or "hot", just sensitive), she's made me a much better rider and is a total love on the ground.

                                Finding the right one is definitely the key, and working with an organization like CANTER can help you with that. Good luck with your hunt!
                                A Year In the Saddle


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thanks guys! I will definitely using all of you when I bring one home. Sounds like a lot of you have experience with OTTBs.


                                  • #18
                                    Just thought I'd add, my first horse was an ottb (I hadn't even been riding a full year ). But really he was wonderful and I still have him 17 years later. As long as you are working with a trainer on a consistent basis, you'll be fine


                                    • #19
                                      I had ridden for a few years, and part leased a few different horses, and an OTTB is my first horse. But she had been off the track and in full training and doing lots of stuff for 2 years between the track and me.

                                      Ditto on finding one that is forgiving and a pleaser. Honestly, I have met more TBs that fill that bill than other breeds. They are often pretty generous minded.

                                      Have fun, and post pictures. :-)
                                      I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                                      I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09


                                      • #20
                                        I bought a very naughty OTTB as my first horse I had leased many, and been looking at several non-OTTB's prior to my purchase. I've since bought & sold a few without issue, all quite easy FWIW.

                                        He is amazing & fabulous & with me forever. However, I can not say it has been easy, or it ever will be. I bought him because he was.is a talented, athletic, attractive, and genuine animal. There are times when I wish he came with an 'easy' button, but his answer is 'yes, mom' when it comes to the important things. I'd take a million more like him. I suspect if he didn't have the work-ethic & arrogance he would have been out of my price range