Showing posts with label Second Careers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Second Careers. Show all posts

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why an OTTB?

“Thoroughbreds are the best. They’re lighter, quicker and more intelligent. The best of any breed is the Thoroughbred horse, the best of that breed is better than any other breed." -George Morris

Longer ago than I care to admit, I was offered a scholarship for the crew team at Washington State University. I only bring it up here because I will never forget what the WSU coach told my basketball coach. She said "I can teach her to row, I can't teach her athleticism." It didn't matter that I knew absolutely nothing about the sport, just that the ability to do it was there.

I believe in the same theory when it comes to Thoroughbreds. They are bred to be athletic. If there is athleticism, movement and form can be developed.

The horses at the track endure so much from a young age that, if they make it off of the track sound and sane, it gives you an advantage. Most of them have seen it all and aren't spooky. A rider doesn't have to spend time worrying about exposing them to everything. Usually, the focus can mostly be put into the training itself.

Obviously, I am also a fan of warmbloods, but there is just something very rewarding about taking an OTTB and moving them on to a second career. The horses I have worked with seemed to appreciate a new challenge. They had an amazing work ethic, eagerness to learn, and a desire to please. I haven't been run off with by an OTTB (the ones still in training at the track are a different story) or dumped by one, knock on wood.

Thoroughbreds are also affordable. Usually, straight off of the track, they are going to be free up to about $4,000. Those that have never raced typically are easier to sell and can cost a little bit more. Even with training, they will usually be about half the price, or less, of a warmblood at the same level.

There are tons of horses coming off the race track that have the potential to have very successful second careers, yet it can be almost impossible to find them homes. For the most part it is no longer prestigious to own a thoroughbred as anything other than a race horse. They aren't very popular in the competition world anymore. There isn't much of a demand for them outside of racing.

I've always believed that the breed doesn't matter, if the horse can do the job you want them to. For the most part I have had pretty good luck with thoroughbreds off of the track. With programs like the Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program, The Retired Racehorse Training Project, the Thoroughbred Classic Horse Shows, and several others that are now out there, I hope that thoroughbreds can make a comeback in the competition world.

Here are few OTTBs I have worked with:

Aweful name, nice horse. He was one of the horses we had in training at the track. He is smart and athletic, but isn't the type of horse a person would just look at and think "Dressage"  . At the time, he wasn't cutting it racing, so the owners wanted to sell him. I kind of figured it could be difficult to find a buyer. Beefheart was well-behaved, sound, and pretty. He was also a little long in the pasterns and not very big, only 15.2. I threw my dressage tack on him and took him for a ride out on the track. He had three good gates and didn't kill me, so my fiancĂ© and I decided to buy him. I'm so glad I did! I bought him the winter of his four year old year, gave him about a month off, and then started riding him. After about three months of training and a couple of rides with a clinician,  I took Beefheart to his first show. He was awesome! He never spooked at anything and didn't do anything wrong. The first day Beefheart was slightly tense, but the second day he had figured out his job and scored in the low to mid sixties at training level. I wasn't able to take him to another show for a long time after that. It didn't seem to matter. The next show he scored 70's. Beefheart was definitely worth buying. And no, I'm not going to change his name.

I can't really take much credit for this one because he was easy. Which is exactly the point I'm trying to make about OTTBs. Folsom had an amazing mind. He improved with every ride. An eventer ended up buying him and he went to his first event shortly after. I went to watch him a year later and couldn't believe how quickly he had advanced. He is a truly amazing horse!

Gunner is our pony-horse at the track. He had been turned out for about six years before we started ponying on him. So, he had a REALLY long break between being a racehorse and becoming a saddle horse. He is pretty nice as a pony, but can still get a little hot on the track. Two years ago I decided I might as well try some dressage with him. He was a natural! I put a few rides on  him here and there since then, just for the fun of it. Mostly he just ponied. My trainer needed a demo rider for an "L" judging educational seminar and my three year old wasn't ready for it. My two older dressage horses are in Phoenix, so in step Gunner. I figured I should ride him in a dressage arena at least once so he could have a chance to be ridden in a more confined area. I hauled him out to my trainer's and he was really good. A couple of days later we went to the demo ride and he was awesome! The judge would make references to the other thoroughbreds and the typical challenges they face in dressage, but never mentioned anything like that about Gunner. I'm not sure she even realized he was a thoroughbred, much less one off of the track. She did however comment on his suspension and potential. I'm going to take him to a show in a couple of weeks. If we get beat it won't be because of lack of talent, but because of lack of training. It's a lot to ask of him, but I am confident that he can handle it. No matter how Gunner does in dressage, he is still worth his weight in gold.

My 84 year old grangrandfather going for a ride on him.

Ponying the Black Nasty.

With his students, Denver and Sammy. He did pretty well teaching them.