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converting race horse straight off the track to pleasure horse

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  • converting race horse straight off the track to pleasure horse

    I just got a 16 hand race horse 6 years old she does not bend, stop, respect you while
    you lead her. Can I eventually get her calm enough to ride pleasure.
    Big Thoroughbred. Need advice. What kind of bit should I use on her.

  • #2
    Just the fact that you are asking these questions leads me to believe that you may need help from a trainer. She should be able to do what you want with help from someone experienced with tbs off the track.
    McDowell Racing Stables

    Home Away From Home

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    • #3
      Send her out for 90 days of training with someone you respect.

      You're asking college work of a first grader. Giving her a graphing calculator (a bigger bit) won't make her understand the question. She just needs to be taught how to respond to what you're asking. It sounds like you're not real sure how to get her there, so it's time to bring in a pro.

      If you post your location, the people here might be able to help you with a recommendation for a trainer.

      Comment


      • #4
        Well, just on the basic issue of leading, put a chain over her nose. Lucky doesn't even really NEED it but when the chain goes on he knows it's serious business time. It also gives you some leverage.

        Also, how much time off has she had? Based on my experience with my first OTTB (from a hunter/jumper trainer who prided herself on having them jumping courses six weeks off the track) I basically gave Lucky a month or two of doing basically nothing. He got groomed, and hand-walked, and I did let BO's friend use him for her EMT 'graduation' project as he was very body sore from a hard race season, but no riding, no longing, just some down time to get the race mentality out of his system.

        And I agree, it does sound like you need a trainer's help. We can't say anything about what kind of bit without seeing her and her mouth, for example.
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        • #5
          Just so you know, my first big, race horse off the track, is how I met the most amazing instructor in the world, right here on COTH. I always say that horse changed the course of my life because that instructor started me over, not the horse .

          YOU also need training if this is your first TB. No matter how much you think you know. Find someone who specializes in off track horses, not just a pleasure horse specialist, to work with both of you.

          Comment


          • #6
            Give the horse a month or two months off, preferably in a field, before you do anything. Then, as advised, get a trainer and learn from them. Seriously, if you are asking these questions, you need help with this horse. If you try it yourself, you will probably damage the horse and could get yourself hurt. OTTBs are awesome, but they take a knowledgeable trainer. Over time, that could be you, but learn from someone first.
            "If you can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em."

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            • #7
              Also, you should not even be thinking about a bit right now. After a month or two off, you should start with a few weeks, at least, of ground work. You really should start from the ground up with OTTBs. They are not riding horses -- they are racehorses. When you do need a bit, use a basic eggbutt snaffle or double-jointed snaffle like an oval mouth or French link. You should never need anything harsher.

              Forgot to add: Don't use a shank over the nose unless you absolutely know what you are doing. I wouldn't use one period, but I know some people do. Get a nice rope halter that fits well for groundwork.
              Last edited by Bacchus; May. 10, 2013, 09:16 AM.
              "If you can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em."

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              • #8
                Originally posted by raspberry jam View Post
                I just got a 16 hand race horse 6 years old she does not bend, stop, respect you while
                you lead her. Can I eventually get her calm enough to ride pleasure.
                Big Thoroughbred. Need advice. What kind of bit should I use on her.
                Racehorses often turn out to be very good pleasure horses. First thing: time off. Let her be a horse in a field for a while. Racehorses are often TOTALLY different animals once they "let down" and chill out for a while. They often have body soreness and tightness that needs to work out. They have the wrong set of muscles for a riding horse, you need to let those loosen up.

                After that, they just need to be ridden properly by a skilled person familiar with how racehorses are trained (who know, for instance, that the horse trying to walk off when mounted isn't "misbehaving" but doing what it was trained to do at the track, that sort of thing). The types of questions you are asking suggest to me that you really should have a trainer work with this horse after she's had a little time off. Preferably one who will let you watch and can explain what's going on.

                I haven't been riding lots of them lately, but most of the ex-racehorses I have ridden, I've trail ridden in a plain old snaffle (usually a french link type, or a mullen, depending on the personality of the horse) within the first week of their re-education, and they're usually pretty quiet/agreeable (but keep in mind, they've had anywhere from 3-12 months off since their last race). It's not really complicated. But you have to know what racehorses have been taught, have a sense of humor, be willing to go forward, etc. If you are unfamiliar with racehorses, this will be a challenge for you with great potential to end in frustration for both you and the horse.
                "smile a lot can let us ride happy,it is good thing"

                My CANTER blog.

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                • #9
                  I'm very curious...what brought you to get a TB mare if you wanted a pleasure horse? I'm not saying it cannot happen, and some do have the mind to be "pleasurable" right off the track, but not most. I agree with some let down time and finding a trainer for both of you.

                  Do you have any idea what bit she trained in while at the track? Sometimes that can be very telling.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    And do be careful selecting that trainer. My own experience is boarding where they had "plenty of experience with Thoroughbreds", yet my horse was demonized by their fears.

                    I have ridden mostly Thoroughbreds, including dozens of green ones. But did not have the experience of immediately off the track to simply being capable of W/T/C. In the past, the green ones were obtained from trainer/dealers who specialized in taking horses off the track, and getting them their first experiences in their new job.

                    My horse now was competitive, so not such an easy, immediate turn-around. Going from years of knowing what is required of them at the track, and then changing to simply a pleasure horse takes numerous steps. Plenty of time off and a good routine at a balanced barn is key.

                    As is turn-out. Mine went from limited, to none, to 24/7, and is now at a perfect medium of 12-14 hours turn-out and regular work during the day in a pleasant barn. But it took plenty of tweaking.

                    Wondering about just the bit is only 1 of 100s of questions you'll have. Mine has easily gone on a snaffle since day 1. But that didn't mean he didn't have attitude. They need to know what their job is.

                    But can you get them calm enough to ride pleasure? Absolutely, using the time and patience your horse requires. May be 3 months. May be 3 years. Depends on the horse, the facility, the trainer.

                    But do you want a horse that is dying to know what his job is, and will do anything to do it right for you? You've got the right horse.

                    As a pleasure horse? Sometimes even the oldest OTTB may have the spark to be a handful during a nice quiet trail ride.

                    But the best pleasure horses I've ridden were Thoroughbreds. Wait, the best horses I've ridden were Thoroughbreds!

                    PS Big clue to a trainer who isn't on the right path - they'll want to longe the heck out of them to wear them out. To learn balance and communication fine. But you're looking at injury and frustration for the horse, and lack of experience or a bad attitude with a trainer determined to run any OTTB into the ground.
                    But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all. H.C.Anderson

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                    • #11
                      Most of my OTTBs have been great out hacking but it took some work to get them there.

                      Remember that you are asking your horse to learn an entirely new job and they will be confused.

                      A month or two of down time is often very helpful. This is a great time to work on ground manners.

                      It is very helpful to work with a trainer who has experience working with OTTBs. You need a structured program that allows you to build on each success and teach them what you expect.

                      As for bits? I start all of mine in a simple loose ring, double jointed snaffle or sometimes start them bitless.
                      Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                      EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Congratulations on your thoroughbred!

                        I second everyone's advice to find a good trainer with experience transitioning racehorses from the track to riding horses. Money well spent in the long run.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          OP, it definitely does sound like you need some help with your new horse. It is far too soon to say if this horse will ultimately turn out to be a nice horse for you, but it is very rare for a race-fit TB to immediately be able to turn around and do low key pleasure riding. I'm not saying they can't get there, but it will take a while.

                          As for bits, that all depends on the horse. I have not found that all TBs prefer the same kind of bits. It's a very horse-by-horse consideration. In general, I think you need to stay away from overbitting most TBs, especially at the beginning of your relationship with them. Most of my TBs have gone in some kind of pretty mild bit. My current TB, who I did restart myself post-racing with the help of various trainers over the years goes in a double jointed d-ring snaffle with a "bean" type center. I also occasionally put him in a loose ring with the same kind of mouthpiece (the loose ring helps with a horse that wants to lean and get heavy...it is harder for them to lean on that kind of bit - I used the loose ring a lot more when he was younger and less educated). The loose ring looks like this (only I think mine is the regular korsteel rather than the JP, which is curved): http://www.statelinetack.com/item/jp...bit/SLT733793/

                          Some horses also prefer a mullen mouth, like this: http://www.statelinetack.com/Search....page=1&hits=48

                          You are going to end up having to play around with different bits, probably, to find one she likes.

                          But remember, that pulling on the bit is NOT what tells her to stop. In fact, racehorses lean into your hand to gain leverage as they gallop. And, actually, you should not generally pull on a horse as the command to stop or slow down anyway...she should be learning to stop or slow down from your seat and body position. She needs to be re-educated to learn the new rules to the new game you want her to play. You really, really do need the help of a trainer that is experienced with OTTBs. As others have suggested, we might be able to help you find someone to help if you post your location.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I was going to post - but it's already been said - time off to relax and let down
                            is the best thing you can do for now. Work on some gentle, slow ground work to start forming rapport if you want. All the little track injuries or any body soreness can heal and her mind can settle.
                            Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Bacchus View Post
                              Also, you should not even be thinking about a bit right now. After a month or two off, you should start with a few weeks, at least, of ground work. You really should start from the ground up with OTTBs. They are not riding horses -- they are racehorses. When you do need a bit, use a basic eggbutt snaffle or double-jointed snaffle like an oval mouth or French link. You should never need anything harsher.

                              Forgot to add: Don't use a shank over the nose unless you absolutely know what you are doing. I wouldn't use one period, but I know some people do. Get a nice rope halter that fits well for groundwork.
                              Um....wow, I disagree with all of that. Personally I'd like to see all rope halters burned--a chain over the nose is a lot less nasty than yanking on their poll with pressure that can't be relieved, and a racehorse knows what it's there for. A lip chain, no, that shouldn't be used unless you know what you're doing.

                              And FineAlready is right about the bit--depends on the horse. Some don't like joints of any kind and find them extremely harsh. It's impossible to say without seeing the horse in question go.
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                              • #16
                                Not a fan of the rope halter either. I think they are too easy to put pressure on without meaning to and the pressure is much more intense than a chain unless you are shanking the hell out of it.
                                McDowell Racing Stables

                                Home Away From Home

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                                • #17
                                  I dislike them both, actually, but I do like a rope halter better than a chain over the nose for groundwork. I do pretty much everything in a nice leather halter (despise nylon halters).

                                  Edit: I didn't mean for her to start with a rope halter, but to use one for groundwork training -- with a trainer, which I already stated she should have. A good trainer should be fine teaching the horse to lead in a leather halter -- I'll bet the leading problem is a handler problem. If the trainer needs something else, so be it. I do not think this OP or anyone new to OTTBs should be using chains or rope halters.
                                  "If you can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em."

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Bacchus View Post
                                    Also, you should not even be thinking about a bit right now. After a month or two off, you should start with a few weeks, at least, of ground work. You really should start from the ground up with OTTBs. They are not riding horses -- they are racehorses. When you do need a bit, use a basic eggbutt snaffle or double-jointed snaffle like an oval mouth or French link. You should never need anything harsher.
                                    danceronice, you really disagree with this? Do you not give OTTBs time off? Do you not start with groundwork? Do you not start them with a basic snaffle until you know them better?
                                    "If you can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em."

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                                    • #19
                                      I will also say this: most racehorses are accustomed to being led with a chain over the nose. You don't need to pull on the chain, necessarily. My own horse will be 8 tomorrow, I've had him since he was 3 1/2, and he is still ALWAYS led with a chain. Not because he always "needs" it, but because he prefers it and is most comfortable that way (and because it is nice to have when he does engage in some antics, which does happen). When you put his halter on and start to put the chain over his nose, he lets a big sigh out and chews. He knows that it means we are going somewhere, doing something interesting, etc.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        My favorite article on point.

                                        http://www.kathyjohnsondressage.com/rehabracer.html

                                        Not only does the author advocate "down time" after the track, she also recommends "starting over" just as though the horse had never been started. I have always done this--do not take for granted that the horse knows ANYTHING--it is great advice.
                                        Last edited by Eclectic Horseman; May. 10, 2013, 02:18 PM.
                                        "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

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