26.08.2017 – The OTTB – Part Five

This is Part Five of a series of blogs I am writing on OTTB’s and tips for training them. Please refer to Part One , Part Two,  Part Three and Part Four  if you have not read them as yet.  

Part Five, get ready for it; Ignore the Haters. 

Everyone has a bad OTTB story. I tire at times. I think that not even half of the stories are true. I think the rest could quite possibly be inflated stories. I’m not trying to dismiss accidents I am just trying to be realistic.

Remember that most of our Gold Medals at the Olympics have been won on the backs of ex-racehorses. Just saying. 🙂

Granted, I have to admit it,  there are possibly a few OTTB’s that deserve their bad wrap. These may be the OTTB’s that were not rehabilitated or retrained properly or with the care and attention to detail they need and they have gone sour.

Buck Brannaman, who I think is phenomenal told a lady to destroy her horse on a video I saw once as he was a lost cause. If he can say that, maybe there is such a thing. That horse lost his chance because he was not rehabilitated properly. 

I take for example Sunline, the racehorse. She apparently hated people, bit her trainer, bit stablehands and jockeys; but she was a freak and could run like the wind. All the rave is about Black Caviar who had earnings of $7,953,936 in her career, but Sunline is still second on the list (to Makybe Diva) and had earnings of $11,351,607!!

Sunline’s racing career ended in early 2000’s and the prize money was less then than today. 

All I am saying is that yes, talent and nice manners aren’t always in the same room, but Sunline still never killed anyone nor was she involved in a major fall / accident. This means she is a good mount and partner despite all of this. And who knows, perhaps after racing, Sunline was a cool cucumber who loved people; maybe she hated racing. 

I am not having a go at the racing industry, but OTTB’s are there to make money plain & simple and if they don’t make money then they are not wanted anymore. In this environment, how could the true gentle nature of the OTTB shine? The racing industry provides me with good cheap horses who have a heart of gold.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a massive fan of the OTTB. I think they are unicorns! The one thing I have learned over time, is to ignore what other people say about them.

I will do a disclaimer here though and I have said it in the series already. If you are a beginner or a first horse owner, an OTTB is not for you, this isn’t because they are dangerous, this is because they need to be taught some manners and you have to be horse savvy to accomplish this. If you cannot afford or do not live near a trainer, a stock horse is a much better choice. An OTTB has to be in the right hands to be able to have this gentle nature brought to the surface. If you are a beginner you could always purchase your OTTB and then send them to a trainer/coach for training; that could work also.

The best thing about an OTTB is that if they can handle life on the track and still be sound, you have a really good horse to begin with. Their agility, strength and mental stamina is amazing and they can be used for so many horse related activities once re-trained. Also, once out of the racing environment, given some freedom and lots of kindness their true gentle nature comes out.

I really do believe that all horses, including the OTTB are kind. Horses are not malicious, vengeful or hateful by nature. Prey animals just aren’t like that and the horse is no different.

OTTB’s are given the wrap that they are spooky and unpredictable. I’ll give you a big nod to that, yes they are. 

'I am Prince Fiffleniffle II, my lineage can be traced back 300 years and I am worth millions.'

But probably no more spooky or unpredictable than a Fresian or Warmblood at their first dressage show either.

The problem is if an OTTB spooks and you can’t handle it, you have a horse that is trained to run over 70km/h underneath you, so this is going to scare the banana’s out of anyone (I’ve been there, done that, I even bought the T-Shirt). 🙂

I found the best way to get an OTTB to settle is trust. It is the same as any relationship really. You have to trust each other and you have to trust your OTTB in his decisions, even if you don’t understand them. A good friend doesn’t deliberately scare their friends.

For example, I am afraid of clowns, there I said it. This awesome fear comes from my Sister who I will thank now, Thank you !!!! :/

We had been to a local show and my parents bought my sister a clown mask. I don’t remember the purchase of said item. What I do remember is her waking me up that night and me rolling over to the most downright scary clown mask I have ever seen. It was white with big scary crosses for eyes with yellow hair on it and she was making  ghost noises.

Again thank you!

Every time the circus is in town I can barely look at the poster, even at 40 years old.

So, don’t deliberately scare your new friend, your OTTB. If you see a person coming with an umbrella, a small child with a toy bike or a dog that is yapping maybe walk around them in a large circle. Don’t let things come up behind your OTTB and scare the willies out of them. Think like a friend and he/she will not spook. 

Once you gain their trust, you then have a super fit athlete who can jump the moon and have the trot of a dutch warmblood (ok, maybe not exactly lol) but you will start to have better competitions and you will slowly but surely go up the placings and the grades.

I saw a shirt the other day. It said “You don’t scare me, I ride an OTTB”

Riding an OTTB and training him/her takes guts because you have to untrain and retrain something. That ain’t for the faint-hearted. So go you if you are doing this. 🙂

Happy Riding & Keep Smiling

Mel x



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