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Looking at an OTTB today!!! Questions to ask??

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  • Looking at an OTTB today!!! Questions to ask??

    I am going to look at a local OTTB today, with the hope that he could be my next show hunter. While I have worked with some, and showed some in the past, I have never actually purchased my own OTTB. I wanted to know if all of you knowledgeable folks had any suggestions for some questions I need to ask, and things I need to know. Any tips on how you can assess one for suitability for the hunter ring? I know the basics about him, such as age, training, and race history ( Only 3 races! ), but is there anything else I should be asking or looking for? TIA
    Where am I, and what am I doing in this handbasket???

  • #2
    the 2 key things for me innediately would be #1)How long has he been off the track? and #2 With only 3 races you need to know if he just didn't have speed, desire or stamina or did he get an injury? a full PPE would be a must as well.

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    • #3
      Exactly -- get a ppe.... Just because he raced 3 times only doesn't mean he's sound. A lot break down from this issue or that before their first start. There are horse's that ran over 30 times sounder than some that ran only once (or not at all).

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      • #4
        Look up his race record on Equibase--like they said, it's REALLY relevant whether he was simply too slow, whether he had behavioral/temperment problems, or whether he's injured. I would rather buy a horse with more starts who just wasn't competitive than one with only two or three where I look at the charts and he bumped horses out of the gate, DNF, ran through the rail, etc. TBs are bred to race--I do not want one who didn't at least try, even if he didn't have the talent to win.

        Ask about his stable manners and if possible about how he handles to gallop in the mornings. Racehorses spend most of their time at the track in their barns, and they are exercised more than they're raced. If he's a horse whom the exercise riders LIKE getting on, that's a good sign.
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        • #5
          Here's the start of a list that I use when I go look at a horse.


          # Check how they move from the side and in front and behind at walk and trot
          # Manners on the ground, under saddle, with farrier and vet
          # Current vaccinations/recent coggins/dental
          # Most recent vet call and what for and most recent farrier work
          # Age
          # Has horse been turned out with others when not in training - i.e., winter/on the farm
          # Blankets, size used, and does he trash them
          # Trailering and loading
          # Hacking out/trail riding when off the track
          # How does horse handle puddles?
          # Bathing and clipping.
          # Feed-hay/grain
          # When started back in training if he was given time off
          # Any hand grazing here
          # Last time out of stall
          # Last race-how long ago
          Sue

          I'm not saying let's go kill all the stupid people...I'm just saying let's remove all the warning labels and let the problem sort itself out.

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          • #6
            I think pretty much everything has been covered already, really. But to add:

            I second figuring out why he did not succeed on the track, however I do not think whether he tried or not in his races will overly affect a hunter career. I personally like a horse with a lot of try, however that is just personal preference. We have one OTTB who is definitely hunter material who just did not try on the track. He is the only horse with whom I actually had to restrict hay when I groomed him, because despite a full training and race schedule, he would grow fat. He just did not care to try in his races and he treats all of life that way. He is currently being ridden by two novices and works beautifully for them, despite the fact that his overall don't-care personality does indeed shine through. When I hop on him however, it's yes ma'am how far how fast? So it is still manageable (and it is manageable with the novices of course, they just had to work a little harder and decipher how to work with him!) - you just have to figure out how sometimes. For your first OTTB, that might even be the best option. Look for something quiet, something who will take to being re-trained quickly. Ask if the horse has already had any re-training, if so, what (likely rudimentary basics only), and for how long. Ask how long he has sat. I recently purchased an OTTB who I swung my leg over (in a western saddle, to boot) less than a week after his last race. Usually I re-start them all from the ground up however I had a gut feeling about this one (I used to groom him as well) and was insanely curious to see how he would go. He plodded along on a loose rein (plain D-ring snaffle) as if he had been a trail horse (my intentions with him in particular) his entire life. He is already my 'husband' horse, the one I'll throw any beginners or non-horsey friends on top of (not at this moment of course, but he is already nearly there). Most of my OTTB's were great to re-start - completely lax. However I have one who came with a multitude of issues and could not be ridden for months. It took well over a year to sort through everything where I felt he was 100 percent safe.

            In a hunter, obviously look for the characteristic hunter movement. He should look and move like a hunter!
            ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
            ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.

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            • #7
              Ask why it didn't succeed on the track.

              I bought an OTTB who was the quietest horse you could imagine having just come off the track: stood quietly to be tacked up, was relaxed undersaddle at the walk and trot and I didn't want to push my luck and ask for more as she was recently off the track but had a loose shoe. I was sitting on her with a loose rein chatting with my Mom and trainer about her and she basically went to sleep. I figured it was a no-brainer why she had failed on the track as she was so mellow. Well all that changed when I went to canter and suddenly lost any ability to rate her speed. When the race horse trainer came in the spring to start the 2 year olds he was surprised that I had picked this mare, as it turns out the reason she was not successful on the track wasn't due to a lack of speed but the jockey's inability to rate her speed at the start of a race. After a year and 100's of transitions we had only slightly improved, her trot work was great lengthen, shorten lateral work, but all was forgotten at the canter... After a year I decided that I much preferred starting from scratch than fixing pre-existing problems so traded her for an unbroke 3 year old and she has worked out wonderfully for the new owner, and I absolutely love my new little mare so all worked out in the end anyway.

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              • #8
                You have to figure that he's been trained only to function at the track. That's not much, but it can be telling. Does he load and haul? Does he stand for the farrier and vet? Has he had his teeth done? Is he okay to tack and groom? What's he like to gallop (does he pull? can he rate?)? Does he have any ground manners? And what kind of tack are they using on him? How is he alone/in company?
                Sometimes it isn't practicle to pay for a full ppe on a very cheap (or giveaway) horse. A good farrier can tell you with reasonable certainty whether a track injury is long-term (serious) or not.

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                • #9
                  I think its pretty much a given that a horse that has raced will have been hauled, probably many times, and will have had his feet done, many times.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Good Old Sledge View Post
                    You have to figure that he's been trained only to function at the track. That's not much, but it can be telling. Does he load and haul? Does he stand for the farrier and vet? Has he had his teeth done? Is he okay to tack and groom? What's he like to gallop (does he pull? can he rate?)? Does he have any ground manners? And what kind of tack are they using on him? How is he alone/in company?
                    Sometimes it isn't practicle to pay for a full ppe on a very cheap (or giveaway) horse. A good farrier can tell you with reasonable certainty whether a track injury is long-term (serious) or not.
                    You vastly undestimate what it takes to "function at the track". Yes, they load and haul, they stand for the farrier and vet, have had their teeth done, have been tack and groomed. They probably have had more of this done than most pleasure horses. And have had it done much earlier. It takes months and months of training before they can even show up at a race track, so you an certainly assume they know all of the above.

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                    • #11
                      They will know how to stand for the farrier, stand for the vet, be groomed, be wrapped, load and unload, be bathed, and generally do everything for barn handling except probably cross-tie (and Lucky grasped that more or less immediately. Though he is eight and super-sensible.) If they lasted any length of time in training for racing, they've had to do all that.

                      Things I didn't know iwth the first OTTB that would have helped-they're used to having a chain over their nose, by and large. They step off to mount (they're not doing it wrong, that's what they're supposed to do at the track). They may NOT be used to having their ears clipped.
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                      • #12
                        Ummm I've bought/sold several who only had 3-5 starts and one who wasn't even tatooed.

                        They for the most part had no talent like 48 lengths off the finish or one who was super bad in the gate, another in fact 2 whose owners went bust and horse was being sold for his training bill.

                        So few starts don't signal a bad thing neccesarily. With todays economy so bad alot of horses are on "Deals" and if it isn't going to earn a check its benefits everyone to get it gone before it eats up to much $$ in keep.
                        Even the big time trainers are feeling the pinch of hedge fund owners w/ case of the shorts.

                        A horse with a big elegant walk who stands up square has his neck coming out the top of his withers and a well hung neck and of course good wheels....

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