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Thinking about buying an OTTB... am I crazy?

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  • Thinking about buying an OTTB... am I crazy?

    First of all, brand new to the forums (but a long-time lurker), so-- hi! I've had lengthy discussions with my trainer on this subject, but I'd love to hear some different insight. Apologies in advance if this gets a bit lengthy.

    I'm 25. Started taking dressage & jumping lessons at age 9, and continued until leaving for college at 17. I showed through First level dressage and later did horse trials at BN and N. In college, I did H/J on the IHSA circuit-- in sum, my training is primarily in dressage with lots of dabbling elsewhere. I really loved eventing and would have liked to go further, but I didn't have my own horse and was very financially limited growing up, so there weren't many opportunities.

    Key phrase being, "I didn't have my own horse." I've leased a couple of horses, but for the most part I rode whenever and wherever I got the chance, which meant I worked with a lot of different horses (mostly very green and in some cases unbroke) over the years.

    I'm now a few years out from graduation, and have been taking lessons again and leasing a horse for the past few months. My fiance and I will be getting married in November-- and he sprang the news on me a few weeks ago that he wants to buy me my first horse as a wedding gift. Financially, we're in a very solid position to be able to manage board, vet care, and all the rest.

    Because I've always worked with green horses, training my own project is kind of where my heart is. (I should note here that I don't have any lofty competitive goals, maybe lower-level eventing a few years down the road). I keep finding myself drawn to OTTBs, but I note that CANTER and New Vocations (two organizations with locations in my area) prefer not to adopt to first-time owners. I reschooled an OTTB with my former trainer, and would be working with my new horse under the supervision of my current trainer, but this has me wondering if I'm getting in way over my head and if I would even be able to adopt a horse from these organizations.

    Any thoughts?

  • #2
    Originally posted by serendip View Post
    . I keep finding myself drawn to OTTBs, but I note that CANTER and New Vocations (two organizations with locations in my area) prefer not to adopt to first-time owners.
    First... welcome to COTH !!

    Second... NO you are not crazy!!

    OTTB's are incredible horses and are worth getting .

    I am w/ CANTER so I just wanted to mention that some affiliations of CANTER have both trainer-owned horses and CANTER-owned horses. You do NOT need to be approved to buy a trainer-owned horse... that is basically a regular sale. In order to adopt a CANTER-owned horse, you do have to go through the adoption application process and be approved.

    It sounds like you are on the right path - you have a trainer who can help and you have the funds and you have experience. But just to warn you... once you get an OTTB you will want to go out and get another... you can't have just one . They are super horses and have the biggest hearts and will bond like no other !!
    "When a horse greets you with a nicker & regards you with a large & liquid eye, the question of where you want to be & what you want to do has been answered." CANTER New England


    • #3
      I'd not go so far as to say you're crazy.... not until I get to see more of your postings anyway

      But I would say that for a first horse that it's not the best idea or plan I've heard.

      I'd need to be more persuaded that you're experience and support was pretty strong.


      • #4
        I can't see why they wouldn't adopt to you. You're pretty experienced, you have leased before and you're working with a trainer. Make sure you have those references.
        The no first-time owners is probably a generalized message to discourage total beginners who just want a cheap horse and have no idea what they'd be getting into. With your history you should be able to get approved.
        Proud Member Of The Lady Mafia


        • #5
          You are not crazy at all. OTTB's are awesome, and it sounds like you have enough experience to know what you're getting into.

          There are lots of organizations who specialize in placing trainer owned OTTB's, which, IMHO, is a better route as you buy the horse outright and he is legally yours. Check out organizations like Finger Lakes and Lieghton Farms for good prospects.

          I have a FL graduate. My other OTTB came straight off the backside after only 3 races as a 3 year old, recommended by a TB trainer in the same shedrow who saw him every day. Both of mine are sweet tempered, well mannered, sound, and eager to please.

          Go for it!
          Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
          Witherun Farm


          • #6
            I believe some TB groups take horses off the track and evaluate them. I've visited the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in Poughquag NY and believe they do that. That way, the horse is still green, but they can match you up a bit better with a suitable horse.

            PS. I was a bit like you when I was younger, although I owned my own horse. When I was in my 20's I got an OTTB pretty much off the track. It was not a good idea. I thought because I got a green 3 year old when I was 15 and trained him (jump, pony club, event etc etc) that I was better and could handle it. I was wrong. I am not saying this to tell you that you shouldn't do it, but to say it is not necessarily that easy, and I think you need to hear this as well as the "Go for it!" posts.
            Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/


            • #7
              I think it's worth a try (and I am a CANTER volunteer who does deal with rehoming the adoption horses).

              The first-time-owner thing gets worrisome (for us) only because people who have never had horses may not know a lot about the kinds of things you would run into with a thoroughbred or have to be aware of. That and we do get a lot of inquiries from people who seem to be beginners or who want to keep the horse at their home, who have never done it before. That said, I think if you demonstrate you are a knowledgable person it wouldn't be a deal killer.

              You could also buy a horse outright, either straight off the track (probably the riskiest for a first time owner) or from someone who works with them and gets them started.

              If you prefer the adoption route, just answer questions on the applications as thoroughly as you can. Know where you would be boarding the horse and what vet you would use before hand. Provide extra references, as you haven't had a working relationship with a vet or stable as an owner.
              "smile a lot can let us ride happy,it is good thing"

              My CANTER blog.


              • #8
                CANTER Mid Atlantic has a large number of horses that will soon be available. These are CANTER owned horses but ownership does transfer when the horse is sold. I'm just itching to get on them but the majority of them all came in within the past month or two and need a bit more downtime. Feel free to email with what you are looking for and we can tell you what we know about those that we do have.


                • #9
                  In my own experience, people who have 'never' owned horses are not necessarily less qualified than people who have owned horses for years!

                  If you have experience riding different horses including greenies, that to me is better preparation that years of owning a steddy eddy kind of animal.

                  And there are a whole lotta OTTBs (or TBs about to be OT) available. Go for it. If I were going looking for one for myself, and lived near a track, I'd be going to the races and looking for a young 'un with a case of the slows. I recall decades ago watching a friend's 3 yo finish dead last at Charles Town. He became a lovely field hunter.


                  • #10
                    Not sure of your exact location, but a wonderful resource for you could be Steuart Pittman at Dodon Farm. He does a super informative clinic The Retired Racehorse Training Symposium. I attended last year in Maryland, and although I've had my OTTB for eight years, I found his advice quite helpful. It was well worth attending. http://dodonfarm.com/RRTP-temp.html

                    I would think that your experience schooling OTTBs far outweighs the fact that you haven't owned your own horse. You could own a million bomb-proof, dead broke shetland ponies, and that wouldn't prepare you for owning an OTTB. The only real difference from what you've experienced previously is that you're now the one holding the checkbook.

                    The important thing, in my mind, is that you're working with a qualified trainer. The value in that is not to be underestimated.

                    I say perform the experiment. Take part in the adventure. We do this for fun, after all, right? You never know where it might take you. And if it doesn't work out, of course that's unfortunate and disappointing, but it will be far from a national disaster.

                    I love my OTTB dearly and only wish my bank account (and my schedule) would allow for a few more. He's one fantastic partner.

                    Good luck!


                    • Original Poster

                      Thank you, everyone-- I couldn't believe when I checked back an hour later and already had all these replies! I truly appreciate your thoughts and input.

                      A little more background on my experience, for those who asked: after three years of lessons, I got interested in training. My trainer was of the belief that difficult horses are wonderful teachers, but I was still pretty young, so she started me off with mildly naughty ponies and gave me steadily more challenging rides. She never put me on a horse that was too much for me, but she had a great gift for finding horses that would help me refine what I already knew as well as building new skills. The last horse I worked with her was the OTTB I mentioned. In college, it was more of a "whenever, wherever" approach-- I did everything from teaching a Western pleasure horse some elementary dressage to reschooling Arabian ex-racehorses for a local lesson program. My current trainer is an eventer who has brought quite a few youngsters (including several OTTBs) up the levels, and she's supportive.

                      Again, I really, really appreciate the responses. Rather than jumping in with both feet and my heart (even though I want to, especially reading some of the comments!), I've been doing a lot of research on retraining OTTBs and I'm trying to make sure this is truly a good decision for me and my horse-to-be. I may be PM'ing some of you CANTER volunteers if that's okay... and if I can figure out how to PM. Thank you all so much!


                      • #12
                        Just click on the username at the top of each post, you'll get a drop down with the PMing option (among a few others)

                        "smile a lot can let us ride happy,it is good thing"

                        My CANTER blog.


                        • #13
                          One of the finest, bravest, talented and safest horses I've ever owned, was a TB off the track. Go for it.


                          • #14
                            I was in a somewhat similar sit'n. I rode as a kid, had a horse thru high school, then didn't ride for 20ish years. I leased a horse for 3 months and then bought a OTTB 1 month off the track from someone who picked up prospects from around the country. If I had it to do over again, I'd be sure that I was working with a trainer that had worked with OTTBs, which my guess is you'll find more in eventing than in H/J. I'd also do what it sounds like you're thinking of doing which is go thru a reputable organization that has an honest evaluation of the horses they're dealing with. The one thing I'd be sure of is to have a realistic idea of whether you are likely to be timid at all. If you get scared, you're done for - so many of their reactions are not what you expect (what they are scared of and not, how they respond to pulling on the reins, how unbalanced they are). And don't do what I did which is decide that I liked his eyes better than the other horse! That said, 8 years later I still have him and while it's been way slower than it probably should have been I've enjoyed it.


                            • #15
                              Sounds like an OTTB would be perfect you! If you've handled OTTArabs and naughty ponies, most OTTBs will seem like a vacation. And definitely less evil than ponies. Ponies are all evil (cute evil, but still evil.)
                              Author Page
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                              Steampunk Sweethearts


                              • #16
                                Restraint be gone!

                                I can't believe I've been reading this thread without weighing in before now!

                                If you don't associate my COTH moniker with my passion, you haven't been on the racing forum or following the "Finger Lakes Roll Call" thread on the off-course forum! I highly recommend that you check out the latter and learn about the many, many happy campers who have taken OTTBs from Finger Lakes Racetrack. Reading some of these entries may calm you fears about taking a TB fresh off the track.

                                Here's the deal: OTTBs are, for the most part, well-broke horses who have been there/done that as for daily handling. They tie; they load; they are good for the farrier; they've learned to accept the ministrations of the vet; they're accustomed to commotion and noise. If they've been badly handled, they will have their ghosts, but they are amazingly resilient and SMART! And versatile! They are eager to please and quick to learn once they know that all will be well in their world.

                                OTTBs are not backyard ponies. They require a routine and, preferably, a job. They will probably need grain, sometimes a lot, to maintain weight, as well as liberal hay and, of course, ample fresh water. Some of them may be okay turned out in the north 40 with nothing but forage and water, but that's not usual.

                                Life on the backside of a racetrack is entirely different from just about any other life they may find themselves in, but most of them are hardly greenbeans. There will be the ones that have been badly broke, badly handled, abused, etc., etc., ad they will carry baggage. But even those unfortunate ones can turn out to be steady Eddie packers and smarter than the average horse.

                                There's a reason for my enthusiasm and you may be well served to explore the wealth of possibility in an OTTB. Simply put, they are diamonds in the rough!


                                • #17
                                  There comes a time when you have to start teaching a green horses. an't rely on made horses for ever.

                                  First requirement is temperament. Second is soundness (if you value your pocketbook).
                                  Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                                  • #18
                                    If you have the resources of someone with a good eye for form/function and experience retraining OTTBs, who can help you see the pros and cons of each horse, then sure, why not?

                                    Owning your first horse is always eye-opening in many ways, but if you have a good "team" in place, it's a lot easier.
                                    Full-time bargain hunter.


                                    • #19
                                      You will never own a horse with more to give than an OTTB . My DD's boy is from Finger Lakes [Mister Fizz] but have had a few from other areas of the country as well. I would def talk to "caffeinated" and /or "foundationmare". Good Luck !
                                      Speak kind words,receive kind echos


                                      • #20
                                        I have purchased three different horses off the track. All have turned out to be amazing! My current show horse (an OTTB) goes western (does western pleasure), english pleasure, has done the hunters, low-level evented, and has done some dressage. they are very versatile, and definitely addicting!