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Riddle Me This....

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  • Riddle Me This....

    I have questions but don't have source(s) to ask IRL so here I am

    When one purchases an OTTB and begins the retraining process I have heard that many require a 'letdown' period to chill and shake off the track life. Then I've read (because this really does interest me) that it's a better idea to keep them in some work even if it's light because they already have a work ethic instilled in them. Opinions?

    Next question..... when horses are taught to race, they are taught that when the rider pulls back on the reins they are to speed up, correct? How, then, do you go about reversing that where pulling on the reins now means stop? Of course I don't truly mean 'pulling' - just for exaggerated example.

    I don't have experience with an OTTB retrain but I'm so curious. I've seen someone ride one that was newly off the track and, yup, she made the mistake of putting too much contact on the reins and that horse was in full on zoom mode around the arena. It was actually quite scary.

    So..... educate me please

  • #2
    It really depends on the horse and program. However, I almost always give the OTTBs I get about 2 months off of ridden work. This is partially for convenience since I tend to get them in the fall when the meet is over, and our winters are brutal, and partially because I think giving them time to move around and recover from any micro-soreness is imperative. All TBs that come off the track will have some level of body soreness, so I like to give them time to recover. This also usually gives me time to get some other things in order: correcting their racing angles/feet, dental work, and a chiro if needed. However, there isn't anything wrong with keeping them in work either, provided they are sound and able.

    I turn them out 24/7 - almost all TBs at some point have been out 24/7, so they acclimate fast.

    I start by teaching them in hand "aaand whoa" for slowing down, combined with rein pressure. They learn fast - I find that pulling = going "faster" really only applies once you open them up / gallop and if you are getting off of their back. After all, these horses ARE trained - just not in the discipline of our choosing. They have to walk to and from the track in training sessions, usually with jockey astride. They know how to stop and steer.

    Regarding your particular scenario, it may have been the rider was tense and nervous, and the horse tense and nervous as a result. Horses are intuitive, TBs no exception. Or it could be pain related.
    AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

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    • #3
      we had one TB who never raced due to a pasture injury.... the mare had two gears... walk and run (pulse Run Faster)

      had her 17 years, she never changed

      Comment


      • #4
        I think it will vary between horses. I have seen the best results in terms of calm horses from genuine down time turnout, say a year plus of real pasture. Work ethic is typically not something you need to worry about with OTTB.

        As far as rein aids you need to retrain the horse from the ground up. Obviously it goes faster than with a truly green colt but you can start on the ground and inhand and just teach the desired response.

        You also don't canter and certainly not gallop the horse until the training is installed. And as with all horses you should circle a runaway to halt not just pull.

        ​​​​​​

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        • #5
          Work ethic isn't usually something you have to worry about with an OTTB as Scribbler noted above. I always give at least 2 months off "let down" time, to help them with any body soreness they may be experienced (and I have never met an OTTB that hasn't had SOME level of body soreness). That is if they come off of the track sound.

          Rein aids need to be trained from the ground in hand, and then repeated under saddle.

          Comment


          • #6
            My OTTB retired from racing Oct 2018 and got turned out at his breeding farm. I bought him in March 2019 so he'd already had some time off. I started doing groundwork with him immediately after I got him home. I wouldn't say he was still overly body sore by then but he had some lingering stiffness and tension still. I started doing PEMF treatments with him this summer and it has been a game changer.

            I have not had a problem with him pulling. In fact, I'd say he has the best self carriage of any green horse I've ever ridden. I'm a big believer in Andrew McLean's Equitation Science way of training and that's the method I've used to restart this horse. Stop and go is the first things to work on and you practice until your horse stops from an extremely light touch on the lead rope or reins. I practiced my stop/go and turns on the ground for over a month before I got on in all different places - his pen, the giant puddle that was my driveway, on the forest service road behind my house, etc.. By the time I got on, I knew the horse knew the cue to stop. While I have yet to really open him up, we've done plenty of cantering and jumping and he's never offered to take off on me or been hard to stop.

            Comment


            • #7
              I think we gave Alex about 6 weeks off before starting him on groundwork - he needed time to let down, adjust, put on some weight, and get trimmed/re-shod (he came in his racing plates). He was turned out as well, and at 3 years, was pretty chill.

              I ride dressage, so we started him back out as if he knew nothing - we put him on the lunge, introduced him to the saddle and bridle, worked him with cavaletti to start teaching him to know where his feet were, and to start a bit of self-carriage. When I got in the saddle, we were very careful to stay out of his mouth - VERY light contact, which we gradually began to wean him away from over time, so that within a year or so, he was taking true contact with the hands. But even today, all I really need are the seat and leg aids.

              Now, there was one incident in the arena in which he spooked and bolted, and I instinctively grabbed the reins - and he instinctively ran faster. Again, my fault for forgetting his training. And that was about four years after I got him.

              Comment


              • #8
                I have retrained a bunch of Ottb's and generally (Since I worked on the track for 10 years) I know that they like a program. I don't ride 6 days a week, I swap to 3-4. So they get some rest but some work.All of mine are out for a minimum of 12 hours a day, more if my fields can take it.

                Initially I teach them basic things for riding horse life in ways similar to track life. Track days tend to only include a max of 20 mins of riding (30 or more if you're at a training center like Fair Hill). So I jog both ways around the ring a few times. I canter both ways a few times, with walking in between and I hack to and from the arena. This isn't much different from track life. I will incorporate trotting over poles on about day 3. I may even ask them to pop a 6" X at that point once or twice so they know they might have to purposefully leave the ground at some point. But they're still just lightly working. Each week I extended the rides by 10 mins until we get to a 50 min ride. By week 5 (on average I give them 2 days of work each week for a month to let the new ideas marinate a bit)

                Later in their first year (Usually during Summer) I will give them a full 1-2 months off. But not until they're in the routine for a while.

                It's always worked well for me. I have produced solid jumpers with great minds and been successful at competitions too. But hey that's me. And I really find it hard to believe that any one way is the only way.


                Em
                "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries

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                • #9
                  Others have answered the time off question well so I will skip that part and address the pulling back on the reins means go faster part. That is not true. Not even a little bit true so not sure why it gets repeated so often. What is true to riders either leave the horse with a little loop in the reins so there is no pressure on their mouths or pick them up and take contact with their mouth almost like a dressage contact but on both reins. The latter helps support the horse as he digs in for the drive or even as he gallops around in the morning. Once the gallop or race is over the rider will stand up in the stirrups and release the contact and the horse will naturally slow down because they have been conditioned that that means you are done, not because pulling back means go faster. You can turn and stop them just like any other horse except those trained to neck rein.
                  McDowell Racing Stables

                  Home Away From Home

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                  • #10
                    Here's a link to a video of one of my guys on his 3rd ride off the track. **This was from 2012** He turned out just fine.

                    Em
                     
                    "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ya not much riddling. You don’t need to give them time off and you don’t need to teach them rein aids from the ground up. It will go better if you are a quiet sympathetic rider and don’t use ugly bits.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My boy raced 5 weeks before I saw him and was still on full feed but not doing any training

                        I picked him up a week later and I was greeted with. We took him for a 5 hour ride yesterday, you would have been so proud of him. He was on the bit the whole way.

                        The poor thing. His mouth was so sore I could not touch it with the reins. I rode with my head facing side ways so as he would not knock me out if he threw his head.

                        It took a week before I could touch the reins. He did not know how to go in a straight line. He did not know how to circle.

                        I started lunging him. I would get on him afterwards and do just a walk, a trot and a canter. He went off the incorrect lead once. I said uh uh and he never went off on the incorrect leg again.

                        I always lunged him in loose reins. One day I tightened them. (He did understand them) and voila I had a dressage horse. The smartest horse I have ever ridden. He surpassed his rider in one month.
                        It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                          Others have answered the time off question well so I will skip that part and address the pulling back on the reins means go faster part. That is not true. Not even a little bit true so not sure why it gets repeated so often. What is true to riders either leave the horse with a little loop in the reins so there is no pressure on their mouths or pick them up and take contact with their mouth almost like a dressage contact but on both reins. The latter helps support the horse as he digs in for the drive or even as he gallops around in the morning. Once the gallop or race is over the rider will stand up in the stirrups and release the contact and the horse will naturally slow down because they have been conditioned that that means you are done, not because pulling back means go faster. You can turn and stop them just like any other horse except those trained to neck rein.
                          Thank you!!!

                          Seriously people, they are not trained to run faster when you pull back. They are trained to the same basic rein aids as every other horse on the planet (barring horses who exclusively neck rein).

                          I think it gets perpetuated because some riders get nervous and take a forward seat and a death grip on the reins when their TB starts to speed up, which isn’t effective to slow down any horse, let alone a race horse.
                          Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My experience has been that TB are people pleasers and want to do the right thing. But they are very sensitive to what's being asked and also of course tend to have more energy than most other breeds. So if they get a rider that's giving confusing aids or are being kept in confinement or ridden with a lot of constraint, that's when they get squirrelly.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The only thing TBs don’t know when they come off the track is how to balance themselves around a (comparatively) tiny arena in a treed (and often poorly fitting) saddle with a rider asking them to do things in a different manner than they are used to.

                              Every race-trained TB walks, trots, canters, steers, halts, and stands quietly. Some barns have different expectations of manners under saddle while doing these things. Barns also have different expectations as to how the horse should carry themselves under saddle (straightness, headset, etc.). Trainers have different methods for dealing with horses with issues under saddle, ranging from reschooling to gadgets and quick fixes, not unlike any other discipline. But basic gaits are a necessity for a race horse.
                              Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                If you do decide to retrain an OTTB, get some help from people who have experience retraining OTTB's. People in your area who can come give you help, hands on and eyes on. As well as help from online. There is a lot to know that is not at all what we expect from a horse that has been through even just standard basic training to be ridden.

                                Ex-racehorses that are not yet re-trained very often:

                                - Do not know how to be mounted from the ground, or from a mounting block. They know only riders getting on with a leg up. Horses have to learn to accept other ways of mounting. Most horses are initially cautious or afraid of the mounting block.

                                - Don't respond to steering with the reins, depending the horse's background. In a great many racing programs the horses are led everywhere, even with a rider aboard, until they are doing their work on the track. Some better quality racing programs give the horses basics under saddle, but there are plenty of trainers/programs that don't. I was taken aback when my OTTB not only didn't steer, he pulled back hard in total resistance. He had no idea what the rein guidance meant. I could sit on him in a saddle, but I couldn't steer!

                                - Have no expectations of a "ride" the way we think of a ride. They expect to be asked to gallop. They may begin to get agitated in anticipation.


                                Etc. There is also some great help on the web, AJ Dyer has published several articles on OTTB's. And Xctrygirl, posting above, will also have some great advice for you as well.

                                I found that working things out in groundwork and on the longe first, and getting it well-schooled there before doing it while riding, helped a great deal. Natural horsemanship groundwork helped immensely to establish a relationship with him that wasn't about galloping and racing. Groundwork, groundwork, groundwork!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Texarkana View Post
                                  The only thing TBs don’t know when they come off the track is how to balance themselves around a (comparatively) tiny arena in a treed (and often poorly fitting) saddle with a rider asking them to do things in a different manner than they are used to.

                                  Every race-trained TB walks, trots, canters, steers, halts, and stands quietly. Some barns have different expectations of manners under saddle while doing these things. Barns also have different expectations as to how the horse should carry themselves under saddle (straightness, headset, etc.). Trainers have different methods for dealing with horses with issues under saddle, ranging from reschooling to gadgets and quick fixes, not unlike any other discipline. But basic gaits are a necessity for a race horse.
                                  No, every race-trained TB does not know those things. You are familiar with some quality racing programs. It isn't like that everywhere.

                                  Trust me, there are hundreds of horses that are NOT taught to walk, trot, canter, steer, halt, and stand quietly . I'll point you to where you can find them in abundance.

                                  What I was told in explanation is that it depends on where you get them. Outside of the Kentucky and higher-profile racing areas it can be a crapshoot as to what kind of background the horse has been given.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by OverandOnward View Post

                                    No, every race-trained TB does not know those things. You are familiar with some quality racing programs. It isn't like that everywhere.

                                    Trust me, there are hundreds of horses that are NOT taught to walk, trot, canter, steer, halt, and stand quietly . I'll point you to where you can find them in abundance.

                                    What I was told in explanation is that it depends on where you get them. Outside of the Kentucky and higher-profile racing areas it can be a crapshoot as to what kind of background the horse has been given.
                                    They are all taught to walk, trot, canter, steer and halt. How would they get to back and forth from the barn to the track if they couldn’t do all those things?
                                    McDowell Racing Stables

                                    Home Away From Home

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by OverandOnward View Post

                                      No, every race-trained TB does not know those things. You are familiar with some quality racing programs. It isn't like that everywhere.

                                      Trust me, there are hundreds of horses that are NOT taught those things. I'll point you to where you can find them in abundance.

                                      What I was told in explanation is that it depends on where you get them. Outside of the Kentucky and higher-profile racing areas it can be a crapshoot as to what kind of background the horse has been given.
                                      While I haven’t been to every track in the US, I have certainly worked at tracks of all levels and handled race horses from just about every state in the US. It is SOP to leg up the rider and have them walk the shed row before walking to the track. Horses then jog (trot) the wrong way on the track for as much as a mile or more. Most days, they “gallop” in a controlled canter. Almost all barns, at some point, have horses turn out and stand at the gap or stand before galloping for relaxation. Then they are ridden at a walk back to the barn.

                                      Those things are pretty non-negotiable. That does not mean they do it without theatrics. That does not mean that there aren’t trainers who try to resolve behavioral issues or holes in training with harsh bits, gadgets, draw reins, etc. That does not mean that horses always get ridden “well” by their riders. But they all have to do it, in some form. They don’t just gallop around erratically every time they are out of their stalls. The racetrack is a dangerous place; horses need to be able to be ridden in a controlled manner.
                                      Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        At our barn we have a track trainer renting a couple of stalls who moves her track horses through for some R & R and also when she wants to market them for resale to eventers (we are located about 15 minutes from the track).

                                        The track trainer has a sticky seat and she does ride even her current race horses in the arena. However she really has no training chops at all for calming down a horse, even the ones that are retired from racing. Her typical ride is a bronc session on the longe or in the saddle. She does try to do it when the kiddie lessons aren't in session but even so there are a number of daytime adult riders who give her a wide berth!

                                        She is considered atypical (at least by herself) because she does make an effort to get her horses going under saddle and considers that a selling point. She also does have fairly nice horses, given that this is a small time track with a lot of claiming races.

                                        My own coach also retrains OTTB but she gives them a long letdown and then starts them very slowly. Also to be totally fair, perhaps she gets horses that never wanted to race, while the track trainer is usually dealing with "war horses" that have been winning money for a few years, so there might be some basic personality difference in the horses.

                                        I've also watched a number of juniors and young adults try the OTTB thing without sufficient guidance.

                                        Anyhow my point about the track trainer is that yes, she has her horses broke to stop and go and turn in arena, but most of them aren't remotely "broke" for anyone else to ride, and the eventers that buy them are going to need to start from scratch. Track riders have very sticky seats, and no fear and this one at least just takes shenanigans in stride as totally normal rather than try to train them out or prevent them from happening.

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