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I took a chance on an OTTB at an adoption facility... return or not?

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  • I took a chance on an OTTB at an adoption facility... return or not?

    I went through the screening process and became an approved adopter at one of the more well known OTTB adoption organizations. I found a horse that just turned 3 this winter, and never raced (was started, but the horse isn't tattooed, the most I could find on Google was that the horse ran 3 furlongs @ :38.43 on Aquaduct in the fall of 2016).

    I stated I was looking for a horse to do lower level eventing, and some lower mileage distance riding (25/30 miles), and that we did a lot of 3 - 4 hour trail rides.

    In the video the organization posted the horse head bobbed for a few strides through out the video (in trot). I could tell by the video that the footing was pretty deep in the arena so I inquired about the occasional head bobbing. The response I got from the adoption facility manager/trainer was that the young horse was pushing into the reins then coming above the contact, but that she was sound. I asked how the horse's hooves were and the reply was 'uneventful' - nothing concerning.

    I set up an apt for a PPE with a reputable vet practice, and the vet herself has OTTBs and experience in eventing. When the vet arrived she found the horse missing the right front shoe and lame (lameness scale 3/5). I was a little upset that the horse lost the shoe the day before but no one thought to contact me or contact the vets office to at least give us a heads up to reschedule. I also discovered the horse had front shoes and pads (which I guess I understand for winter in the north).

    So the vet did a PPE minus any soundness evaluation,gave me her general impression about the hrose, and suggested to give the horse bute and rest for a few days, get the shoe put back on, and reschedule when the horse was presentable. I requested that since it was towards the end of winter could they remove the pads so the PPE vet could see the horses feet, and the adoption facility agreed. The adoption organization director even emailed me to say she knows the owners that donated the horse to the program and they stated they donated the horse 'sound' and that she didn't leave racing due to unsoundness issues.

    The vets impressions, by the way, were good. She said she toed in a bit on the right front but nothing bad, and that the rest of her conformation left nothing to be concerned about - she was free of blemishes, no external evidence of old injuries, her limbs were clean, cold, and tight. She also said the filly had a great personality, very very sweet, and people oriented, and easy to handle for her age and life experience. The vet confirmed the footing in the arena where the video was shot was extremely deep.

    The adoption facility contacted me within 2 days saying they had the shoe put back on and sent me like a 20 second video of the horse jogging about 5 strides down and back in the barn aisle way. The only thing I could tell is that the horse wasn't 3 legged lame (the video was head on, not from the side, and with back lighting). So I replied that if they were sure, if the horse has been off bute for 24 hours and if the farrier was confident the horse was OK I'd reschedule the rest of the PPE exam, and I did.

    The PPE vet came back out 3 days later and the horse was still not comfortable, scoring a 2/5 on grass and 2.5/5 on cement. *sigh* The vet did flexions anyhow and said the horse's limbs felt clean, tight, cold, and that the flexion tests didn't make the horse any more lame... but since the horse was lame (yada yada). I cancelled with the shipper I was communicating with. We agreed that I'd try to find another shipper and have the horse looked at again next week.

    I found someone else who was hauling that route and scheduled another vet exam 7 days later (exam number 3). When the vet got there that morning they all discovered the horse stepped on it's heel... (because she is a stall walker)...the same heel she lost the shoe on and lacerated it. *SIGH* Despite that the horse was down to a 1.5 on the grass with out any bute and a nice cut on her heel bulb.

    With the shipper waiting for my phone call I made the decision to take the horse based on the fact that with a lacerated heel bulb she had improved AND that the adoption agency has a 60 return policy. The adoption agency credited me the cost of the first vet visit off the adoption fee.

    The horse arrived and since it came on a commercial haul I quarantined her for 21 days in a smallish paddock (about 25' x 200'). The horse spent most of her time aloof at the far end of the paddock. Because of the quarantine I only spent about 30 minutes with her daily grooming her and taking her for a grazing walk around the back side of her paddock. I walked her down our gravel drive way and didn't notice her wincing or gimping. I tended to the slice on her heel bulb, and put sole toughener on her every few days (the iodine based stuff) and hoof dressing. In the paddock I really didn't get a good idea of how she moved, mostly because the paddock is long and narrow and on a slight slope.

    After 21 days of quarantine I put her in an acre and a half pasture with another horse, and they settled in well. I could watch her move and I'd think I'd see something (unevenness and head bobbing) but I wasn't sure. Every once in a while when they'd come galloping up for feeding I'd see uneven steps.

    I lunged her on day 24 and she had a mini rodeo so I kept the session short, about 20 minutes. I then rode her on day 26 and she was off and a boarder took some video for me.

    The next day (day 27) one of my boarder's had her farrier out so I asked her if she could do an evaluation and write me up her findings just so I can have it 'recorded'. The farrier agreed the horse is off, but said it looks like a right front to left hind lameness, and she couldn't tell which was the original source of lameness and which was off due to compensating. The farrier also said, typical for OTTBS, that the horse's feet needed TLC, typical low heels, long toes, and some rings on her hooves. The farrier also palpated the horse in the shoulders, back and hindquarters and said she was mildly body sore.

    I sent a video of the horse (trotting unsound) and an update to the adoption agency and I've ridden her once and lunged her once since then. I've got my farrier coming to do a trim and reset of the front shoes (the horse will be just under 6 weeks since it's last trim/reset).

    The other thing I discovered once the horse was in a larger turn out is that this horse is not just a stall walker (I have not stalled her) but she is a pretty committed pasture walker to. She walks figure 8's (I kid you not, flat figure 8's, like an infinity symbol). She walks like that about 4 hours a day (I work from home so I can see her pasture through my window) - let alone what she walks at night. She has a turn out buddy and they have a round bale of mixed grass hay since our grass hasn't come up yet. And yet she walks and walks and walks that figure 8. And I feed and feed and feed her (2 pounds of alfalfa cubes, 1 dry measure scoop of beat pulp, and 3 pounds of Tribute Kalm Ultra, and a measure scoop of DuMOR fat supplement per feeding, twice daily).

    So I've got about 30 days left in my trial, and I'm trying to decide what to do.

    I like the mare, which is why I picked her out. I like her size for me (she is about 15.2+, she is light framed, she is built up hill, and for her age she isn't physically difficult to ride as far as feeling unbalanced), she is comfortable to ride, she is compact so she is light. She isn't hot, and she isn't a leg ride. You can ask her to trot and leave her alone and she doesn't speed up, doesn't slow down. So far she hasn't been spooky, I've hacked her out around the farm and other than being ADD and looking at everything she hasn't shied/spooked at all. She is also VERY PEOPLE FRIENDLY and really seems to adore attention from humans (not a single ear back, not snarky).

    The 'guest farrier' that did the eval for me the other day asked me if I'd be willing to give the horse a few months of down time and work on the horses feet. I kind of shrugged... obviously if I knew she'd be sound I wouldn't mind, but since there are no guarantees I wasn't sure how I felt about that. So we talked about being body sore. I'm body sore myself with issues related to working on a computer and neck pain and SI joint weakness issues and for me exercise is the BEST THING. We talk about diagnosing things that can be found with blocking and xrays/ultrasound. And we talked about how much time, effort and money I already have invested in this horse being here for 30 days (with adoption fee, the fees for the 3 vet PPE exam appointments, and shipping I've got $1,260. $410 in pre purchase exams (some of that was 3 separate trip charge fees and the health certificate). $500 of that is the adoption fee that will be a credit towards another horse. And I spent $40 on the 'guest farrier' evaluation. With return shipping and health certificate add on another $600.

    I don't think I can stomach paying for blocks and xrays on a front and hind limb at this point... because if she has things like degenerative changes, bone chips, what have you, I'd send her back anyhow. If the nerve blocking and imaging finds nothing, then I put more money into not having an answer, and I'd still probably send her back.

    Soooo... spending more money to find out exactly what is wrong is the only decision I've crossed out. I've come up with a big fat question mark as what to do next. I'm not trying to throw the adoption organization under the bus. And I hope no one points out that I was stupid to take the horse in the first place. It was a risk I took thinking the horse was foot sore from losing a shoe in the winter up north, and probably had typical OTTB foot problems.

    The 'guest farrier' and I kind of talked our way into a line of think "well, why not ride her reasonably for her age and see if thoughtful exercise will either help her get stronger and if the unevenness begins to subside, or if exercise makes it worse". So since the farrier visit last week I've done something with the horse every other day (either light riding walk/trot and lots of walking over ground poles and hills, or light lunging or ground walking over poles and hill work).

    And here I am.

    My number 1 concern with this horse is soundness. My number 2 concern is the pacing/pasture walking (is that something I can live with for a life time, and is it contributing to her unsoundness?!?).

    My options are:

    1. Send her back as soon as I can find reasonable shipping
    2. Keep her the full 60 days but let the adoption agency know that if she isn't sound by then I will be shipping her back.
    3. Keep her for the long term and she if she rehabs (which I'd rather not do - she isn't THAT extraordinary that I'd give up a year of not having a horse to ride).

    I'm just posting here to get some feedback to help me make a decision on what to do, keeping my emotions out of it.


  • #2
    Go with your gut. It sounds like you've already done a bunch of second guessing yourself, and I'd rather be out cash than stuck with a lame horse for 33 years.


    • #3
      Can you send her back and get an agreement with the adoption agency to contact you once her foot problems are worked out?


      • #4
        With a horse that is a pen/fence/stall walker, you may be looking to unsoundness from that, if it was from a previous injury that won't heal because of the walking or the walking is causing it.

        Also the feet and knees will take a beating, not a good prospect to end up sound, if the walking is bad.

        All those initial problems should have been a caution sign not to proceed with that horse, the chances are against that ending with a sound horse.

        It is better not to buy trouble, unless you like to handle trouble, or your goals don't include having a horse you can ride, eventually, which she may never be.

        The longer this goes, the less apt the rescue may be to take her back, do you think?
        That may put a time frame for a decision to be made, sooner rather than later.


        • #5
          Do you really think she will suddenly become sound? I'd probably send her back.


          • #6
            All I will say is that with the paddock walking she is keeping herself fit and muscled when you are unable to ride due to weather, illness or work.
            It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.


            • #7
              I used to both work on the track and flip TBs off the track regularly. A lot of horses have come through my hands. I would bet money that this horse is one of those perpetually NQR TBs, which is why her owners likely "donated" her before they wasted any more money on her racing career. The kind of horse that is its own worst enemy, without any serious injuries, but continually finding a way to do minor damage to itself that prevents it from being usable.

              Since you have the option, I'd probably get out while you can. I've learned this lesson the hard way myself too many times to count. She is sweet and personable and will hopefully find a companion home, and you will spare yourself a lifetime of vet bills on a horse that is unrideable more often than not.
              Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


              • #8
                I'd cut my "high $$$" losses and send her back. Too many bad signs for me. ps....TB race horses NEVER wear/race in pads so someone is BSing you about pre-existing problems!! So sorry for you, but there are plenty of sound, sane, 15.2 TB mares around. You know this one has issues!!
                Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma


                • #9
                  I'd send her back. I'm not sure I would have taken her in the first place with all the different "issues" you experienced prior to purchase.
                  No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. - Eleanor Roosevelt
                  For you to insult me, I must first value your opinion - Unknown
                  Pleasure Portrait 1989-2016...sleep well my girl


                  • #10
                    Joining the "send her back" chorus. There have been too many bad steps, you already have too many doubts, and you have stated you are not interested in a rehab project but in a riding project. I think the fact that you've already decided not to spend any more on vetting or diagnostics is telling. Also, I'd probably go ahead and ship as soon as possible - before you get any more attached and before she has a few good days and really confuses the situation.


                    • #11
                      I agree with everyone else- I'd send her back. You can spend a TON of money trying to figure out a NQR horse, I wouldn't go down that path from the get go if I could avoid it.


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by Texarkana View Post
                        I used to both work on the track and flip TBs off the track regularly. A lot of horses have come through my hands. I would bet money that this horse is one of those perpetually NQR TBs, which is why her owners likely "donated" her before they wasted any more money on her racing career ...Since you have the option, I'd probably get out while you can. I've learned this lesson the hard way myself too many times to count.
                        Texarkana Thank you. Your input is EXACTLY the type of input I was looking for. I'm going to private message you.

                        Originally posted by SuzieQNutter View Post
                        All I will say is that with the paddock walking she is keeping herself fit and muscled when you are unable to ride due to weather, illness or work.
                        Um... no. That is not how that works out. :-\

                        Originally posted by crosscreeksh View Post
                        ps....TB race horses NEVER wear/race in pads so someone is BSing you about pre-existing problems!! So sorry for you, but there are plenty of sound, sane, 15.2 TB mares around. You know this one has issues!!
                        I/They didn't say she came off the track with pads, the adoption facility said they padded all their horses in the winter due to snow-balling and frozen ground - the facility is up north. I'm from the south, so I have no idea what frozen ground and months of snow is like. *shrugs* Thanks for your 'sympathy' (!!)

                        Originally posted by Magicboy View Post
                        Do you really think she will suddenly become sound? I'd probably send her back.
                        Magicboy - Nope. I did not think she'd take the 600+ mile trip south, get off the trailer 24+ hours later and suddenly be sound. I did take a gamble that being on softer (non-frozen) ground, and being turned out 24/7 (vs being stalled) would relieve any trauma from throwing a padded shoe, and striking her heel during stall-walking (as well as relieve her OF the stall walking - the adoption agency did not say she pasture-walked) and that by the end of the 21 day quarantine she'd feel better and we'd get on with the business of getting her 'off the track' feet sorted and in a light work program.


                        • #13
                          Cut your losses. Far to many already for a horse who was NQR way before the start of the trial. A previously known stall walker to boot.

                          You'll have close to $2,000 into this trial mare by the time you return her, plus it sounds like 2 months of your time. Unless time and money don't matter, consider not spending your time and money on vetting if the horse is not sound (not a video showing 5 strides down the aisle where you can't tell if sound or not), and only do a trial on a sound horse who has passed a vetting.


                          • #14
                            There are a lot of nice TBs out there that are pretty reasonably priced. I would definitely start with one that's sound.


                            • #15
                              You have been trying to talk yourself into this horse from the very beginning, which is never a good thing. IMHO, you can keep throwing good money after bad on this horse or cut your losses and find another that is sound.
                              "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederatcy against him."


                              • #16
                                How much down time did she have after leaving the track? It's possible the walking will calm down with R&R.

                                But yeah, there are lots of TBs out there that have perpetual mild soundness issues. I have one of them. Expensive to diagnose and then what? At the very least, this sounds like a very expensive horse to shoe.


                                • #17
                                  I will only add that the place she came from, the adoption/rescue, doesn't seem the most... astute? reputable? The shenanigans with not calling you when she was off/lost a shoe etc is worrisome.
                                  I wonder if they would do the work up on this girl if they get her back, or try to rub her off on the next unsuspecting adopter 'as is' ?
                                  I wonder if they would go halfsies on the block/rads with you? If she goes back the rads go with her... if you keep her, they insured they had a good adopter who was looking to do what was right for a horse that is, in effect, theirs.

                                  Yo/Yousolong April 23rd, 1985- April 15th, 2014



                                  • #18
                                    Don't let any seller, rescue or private one, keep trying to convince you to keep a horse that is unsuitable for you, just because you tried it out.
                                    The principle of trying a horse out is that you are trying the horse, returning it if it is not suitable a perfect common sense, ethical way to go about this on your part, no matter how much the seller may not want you to.


                                    • #19
                                      Padding all of their horses for an adoption/rescue facility just for winter seems like an unnecessarily extreme cost. I don't believe the thoroughbred adoption places where I'm from in Ohio do this, was the facility you got her from significantly further north of Ohio?

                                      I would return the mare.
                                      "The best of any breed is the thoroughbred horse..." - GHM



                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by mmeqcenter View Post
                                        Padding all of their horses for an adoption/rescue facility just for winter seems like an unnecessarily extreme cost. I don't believe the thoroughbred adoption places where I'm from in Ohio do this, was the facility you got her from significantly further north of Ohio?

                                        I would return the mare.
                                        I live in Canada and I can assure you that snow pads are not an "unnecessarily extreme cost". If you have any significant snow on the ground for any length of time, a shod horse needs to be padded to prevent snow balling up. Horses without pads walk around on "stilts" of ice/snow that has built up and frozen to the shoe. They can slip and fall or injure a tendon walking around on ice balls. Plus, snow pads just aren't that expensive. My farrier charges $30.00 for a pair and they last the whole winter, they get reset when the shoe does.

                                        OP didn't say what kind of snow pad. If it was just a rim pad, I would say those were for sure just for ice/snow protection. According to my farrier there is no corrective or other purpose to a rim pad. If the horse was wearing full pads, then it could be simple snow/ice protection (some people still use full pads for that) or it could be something else.

                                        I'm assuming the OP got the horse from a more northern state, or even Canada (I know a thoroughbred adoption agency that I have personal experience with being less than 100% honest with their adoptees. Of course, some of it was pure ignorance on the part of those running the program, not deliberate lies, but still . . .)