15.08.2017 – The OTTB – Part Two

This is Part Two of a series of blogs I am writing on OTTB’s and tips for training them. Please refer to Part One if you have not seen it.  So Part Two has been the biggest struggle of mine; Patience.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am not patient. I don’t try to work out whether this is an innate or a learned trait of mine, I just accept that it is who I am. I am impatient. There, I said it.

I have been able to spin this into a positive though. It seems to be a strength and a weakness. Whilst I admit that I am not patient, I also am goal oriented and self-motivated, so really I like the fact that I am a little impatient as it is a huge positive to me and my life. I accomplish so much and always have a full mind of “what’s next!”.

But when training the OTTB it is a negative as being Patient is key to success! I have had to master the art, through NLP and truly understanding my own behavior, of being patient and seeming patient; even if I am not.

Retraining an OTTB is a slow and steady process. It can also be a long and tiresome process, so you have to stay patient and focused on the long term goals here. OTTB’s are usually highly strung after they have come from the track and quite sensitive. I find that being patient enough to desensitize them is the best place to start. This can take anywhere from 7 days to “how long is a piece of string” depending on your equine partners mind.

Desensitisation of an OTTB is not for the faint hearted!  I actually at times question what the hell I am doing at 40 years old trying to have the boldness of a 20 year old and do this, ah but I love it 🙂

First things first; You have to be able to successfully and safely catch your OTTB. I always say that catching your horse is the thing you do the most, so why not make it easy.  Chapter Three in my book “So you bought a horse, now what?” is how to catch your horse. I mainly use the approach and retreat method.

I do not use treats all the time, I use treats at random; even now when the horses can be caught. I do not hide the halter and lead behind my back; I am overt and transparent with them. They do not like surprises so be upfront and honest from the out-set.

Once I am able to catch them successfully every time (and this will require patience), I bring them in and teach them how to tie up and stand still. This is something you need to be careful with; this is where if it isn’t done correctly, both you and your OTTB can get hurt.


  1. Never, Ever tie your horse directly to anything; use hay string.
  2. Never, Ever leave your horse when you tie him up, Ever!!! Your OTTB could strangle himself in your absence.
  3. At first, do not tie your OTTB up at all, practice having the rope just lay over a railing and when they move, correct them, put them back where you asked them to “park” and repeat until they get it.
  4. Learn how to tie a quick release knot. I found a good video on YouTube here.

Once you have caught your OTTB and tied your OTTB you then need to move onto leading your OTTB. OTTB’s are renowned for walking all over the top of you or pulling you into the distance. This behaviour is unacceptable! I personally will not allow my horses to do that. It shows a lack of respect and also demonstrates where your OTTB sees you in the pecking order; underneath him. You need to be the alpha in your relationship and that means you lead and they follow; end of story.

If your OTTB walks all over the top of you and pushes you from behind you need to turn to face him and ask him to move out of your space, do this by being confident and then asking with your mannerisms and the lead rope for a few steps back. Then turn to walk again and ask your OTTB to walk with you. Your horse should walk beside you shoulder-to-shoulder.

If your OTTB pulls you and storms out in front, not only is this disrespectful but it puts you in a very dangerous position, right near the hindquarters; a quick leap or spin and you are in target for a kick. You need to correct this behaviour by, pulling on the lead rope and turning the horse toward you. This move will instantly take you out of the danger zone and also you will then have the attention of your horse. Then position yourself shoulder-to-shoulder and ask again. Use the lead rope and be firm, not cruel, firm. There is a massive difference!

I still practice ground skills with my horses at least once or so a week. I walk a step, then see if they will walk a single step. I walk two steps, they should walk two steps. I back up or move and they should move out of my space. It is how the body language of horses works in the herd and if we mimic it and speak their language we understand them, but also communicate in a way that they can understand.

This can take some time, again be patient, but if you master this discipline on the ground it will carry over to the horse when they are under saddle.

Patience is key to training your OTTB, it can be time consuming and take a lot of energy from you as retraining is often harder than training a horse that knows nothing of the world. You have to undo bad behaviour and retrain good behaviour. At times, the tantrums your OTTB will throw is nothing short of a 5 year old child that has been refused lollies. But persist as this fantastic breed of horse will be a unicorn soon enough.

Next topic is Your Riding Skills…

Happy Riding & Keep Smiling

Mel x






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