There are many reasons to consider an off the track thoroughbred (OTTB) when beginning the search for your next equine partner. From the high-end lines in their pedigree which produce some of the equine world’s greatest athletes, to the absolute heart and resilience of a racehorse, hundreds of thoroughbreds retire from the track every year that require second careers, downtime, rehabilitation, and forever homes. If you’ve set your sights on a OTTB as your next equine partner, here are a few tips to ensure your success.
It can be challenging at times to learn the full history of an ex-racehorse, as many exchange hands throughout their careers. Take your time to do the research on prospective horses by tracking down previous trainers, jockeys, and owners by using programs like Equibase or the Jockey Club.
Know What You’re Working With
Due to the rigorous nature of life at the track, it is highly recommended that you opt for a Pre-Purchase Exam (PPE) before making a commitment. OTTBs withstand many injuries ranging from career-ending to minor, and it’s important to know if an OTTB you’re looking at is in proper condition for the second career you have planned for it. For example, a career-ending injury by track standards may not inhibit the horse’s ability to succeed in dressage.
OTTBs don’t often receive time to just be a horse. One of the biggest keys to success is giving your new partner downtime to allow him/her to decompress after life at the track, remedy any soundness issues or rehab old injuries. Many OTTBs also aren’t turned out in large herds, so allowing an ex-racehorse to learn herd dynamics is important for socialization as well.
Find the Diet that Works for Them
Determining the perfect diet for a horse that has retired from the track can be challenging. In addition to having a high-performing metabolism, horses at the track have different needs and require different types of calories and higher amounts of grain for increased energy and the work expected of them. Finding a grain with cooler calories to combat their energy and supplements like beet pulp, timothy-alfalfa cubes, or oil dressings to help them put on weight is a good place to start.
Know That it Takes Time
As you’re letting your new equine partner have some much-deserved downtime, understand that retraining takes time. Celebrate small milestones, appreciate the journey, and never underestimate the power of reward and positive reinforcement.
Restarting the OTTB can be a challenge, but by ensuring you know what you’re working with, learning your horse’s history, providing them with the proper downtime, and understanding that restarting takes time will ensure that your relationship gets started on the right foot and that the process of restarting is successful.
Have you restarted an OTTB? What advice would you give to a new OTTB owner? Let us know by leaving us a comment below.