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She writes...

I am going to adopt a Ex Race Horse next Summer probably May maybe sooner...What do you think is the best way to restart it.... I heard you had a good training method from a friend..right now I am collecting all the info I can...please reply soon... thank you ...

When I give people a list of things to avoid if they want to increase the odds of having a LONG trouble free relationship with a horse, the OTTB (Off The Track Thoroughbred) is right up there.

I usually go on record and tell people unless you have a lot of horse experience OTTBs can quickly get you in over your head for a number of reasons.

The first thing is age issues. These horses are subjected to some pretty heavy demands at a young age. For an unquestioned expert's thoughts on young horse development check out "The Ranger Piece" on Dr. Deb Bennett's site. I actually personally knew Ranger and was able to concur with Dr. Bennett's assessment.

The second thing is conformation issues. These horses are bred for one thing and one thing only and that is all out speed. They are usually streamlined with little physical padding which makes them more susceptible to tack fitting problems. No big deal when a light jockey is astride with a small racing saddle but it sure can be when sat on by deep seat rider on a Stubben, the like, or not as often, on a western stock saddle.

The third thing is that they are bred for one purpose - to go flat out during one race after which they require a recuperation period. People then get thinking they'll make jumpers, endurance horses, speed event horses, and so on. They are not bred for these types of disciplines. They next thing you know the horse is replaced, usually for another OTTB.

Many OTTBs are disciplinary nightmares because the only training they get is the training they need to race. A farrier friend once told me a race breeder client told him in no uncertain terms to only lead his horses to the left because he did not want his horses knowing they could make right turns. It seems odd that a race horse breeder wouldn't know that a horse makes right turns all the time when it is in the pasture. Yes, I realize this is just one anecdotal story.

OTTBs are the number one surplus horse. They are so plentiful, they are usually readily available at pretty much any race track around the country simply for the hauling away.

Racehorse breeders often breed every mare they have in hopes of producing a winner. If a horse has potential to be profitable, wins races, it is kept. If not, time is money and breeders tend to cut their losses and send their rejects down the road as conveniently and profitably as possible.

On restarts with a OTTB, or any other horse for that matter, one begins from the beginning even if the horse has had some general training. Starting from the beginning as though the horse has had no training lessens the possibility of something being overlooked. By starting with ground work such as despooking, ground driving, etc., and then gradually moving to the under saddle stuff you make sure the horse knows what it is supposed to do. You don't go to the next step until you are solidly convinced the horse is ready for it.

It is a many step procedure to put horses under saddle. There are more steps than one can easily put in a single page, especially when each step can require a lot of detail.

In the racing industry, time is money, the sooner you can get a horse running AND winning the better. If there is ANY doubt, the horse is simply discarded as quickly as possible. It's called "cutting your losses."

Does this mean OTTBs are worthless? No, not at all. It is just that on a percentage basis they are more likely to have problems than many of the other "colder" blooded breeds. So here's where horse experience comes into play.

And, not everyone agrees with me.

Sometimes I don't even agree with me. That shows you how far out I can be at times.

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