A few days ago I was scrolling through Facebook when I came across a post titled “10 Reasons Not to Buy an Off-The-Track Thoroughbred”. My scrolling immediately stopped as my eyes darted over the post.
You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought. Surely this is a joke.
The reasons the author gave were nothing more than breed stereotypes, with no credible evidence to back up the claims. With each line that I read the angry voice inside my head got harsher and harsher. Bad feet? Tell that to my 3 barefoot OTTBs. Vices? I don’t have a cribber or weaver in my barn. Body condition issues? 3 of the 4 Thoroughbreds in my care are fat!
I consider myself an advocate for the breed; I currently own 3 OTTBs, work in the racing industry, and spend my free time working for one of the largest Thoroughbred adoption agencies in the country. I devote nearly all of my time day in and day out to these amazing horses, and nothing angers me more than people trying to undermine the breed, citing stereotypical fallacies as their rationale.
So, I’m here to set the record straight. And rather than counteract every point made in that article, here’s 10 reasons to buy an off-the-track Thoroughbred.
They have heart…
The heart of a Thoroughbred is unlike any other breed. They give their all for their connections, racing their hearts out and giving it 100% every time they step onto the track. And you can expect that same amount of try in their lives post-racing.
Off-the-Track Thoroughbreds are making their mark in dozens of sports. They have long been revered in the Eventing world, as their athleticism and stamina suits the discipline perfectly. But you can also find an OTTB out on a ranch working cattle, loping around the hunter ring, bringing home the money running barrels, and even dancing around the sandbox with a dressage rider. There is nothing these animals can’t do (see reason 1).
Thoroughbreds bred, raised and trained to race require athletic ability second to none. Whether a sprinter galloping their heart out over 5 furlongs or a steeplechase horse, galloping and jumping over miles of course, there is no question Thoroughbreds are incredible athletes.
OTTBs are mentally and physically tough. They are expected to perform at a young age and must hold up to the rigors of strenuous physical exercise day after day. They know how to work and thrive in that environment. All breeds are susceptible to injuries and illnesses, but if you want a horse built to last, consider a racehorse. There are plenty of “war horses” who have raced over 50 times over several years and have proven to hold up in even the most demanding career.
Each and every Thoroughbred is different; their personalities and attitudes towards things vary just like any other breed. But if you want a best friend who will listen when you talk, loves a good snuggle, and will always keep you laughing, don’t pass up an OTTB.
Thoroughbreds are extremely intelligent, with exceptional sensitivity to their surroundings. This can cause people to classify them as “hot” or hard to handle. That sensitivity, however, is one of the biggest assets once understood and managed. At the core of an OTTB is the desire to understand your expectations and to please you. Once they understand what’s expected of them, that intelligence and sensitivity makes them once of the easiest breeds to train.
If you have experience with green horses and want to make your mark in the discipline of your choosing, you don’t necessarily need to spend 5 figures on a fancy warmblood. Coming off the track, Thoroughbreds are significantly cheaper to purchase as prospects than other breeds. I pride myself on having developed some lovely sport horses that have gone on to be successful show horses, and I’ve never spent more than $1,000.
They’ve ‘been there, done that’.
OTTBs have seen it all. From the huge crowds on race day, flapping flags and blaring horns before post, to goats, chickens and other companion animals meandering around the backside, Thoroughbreds are exposed to a lot. Bonus: they usually are already great at loading and hauling, standing tied, being seen by the vet and farrier, being tacked up and groomed. It’s all in a day’s work for a race horse. You can thank your local Thoroughbred trainer for doing all the hard work for you!
There is no better feeling than watching your hard work pay off. When you put the time and energy into working with an OTTB, taking a horse whose whole life was running fast to the left and teaching them a new skill set, there is no shortage of warm and fuzzy feelings. From their first day off the track to their first blue ribbon, to moving up the levels or teaching a youngster how to ride, those milestones are second to none. Watching all of your hard work come to fruition with a horse who loves you, tries for you and makes you happy day in and day out…well, it doesn’t get better than that.
To protect a life.
Even with all of their amazing qualities, there is still a stigma surrounding OTTBs in careers outside of racing. And while organizations like the Retired Racehorse Project are working hard to prove how wonderful these animals are and how well they can transition into any new career, many Thoroughbreds still find themselves retiring from racing with nowhere to go. So, rather than buying into breed stereotypes and bypassing these incredible horses, be a part of the solution. Rescue, buy, adopt, love an OTTB.
About the Author
Lindsay Gilbert is the owner of Transitions Sport Horses, based in Lexington, KY. She specializes in repurposing OTTBs for careers in eventing, jumping and dressage. She also publishes a blog chronicling her road to the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover.