That is, shopping with someone else's money.
This Saturday, my friend Jess and I have a date with some horses retiring out of Suffolk Downs in Boston. She wants to buy an OTTB and asked me for my advice a while back. Here is what I wrote back to her:
-don't buy the first one you try (unlike I did...it worked out in the end but I had a very frustrating year or so before she actually started to be "fun" to ride)
-take someone experienced with you to videotape your ride
-ask to see all of the vet records. specifically I'd be interested in if the horse had been scoped for ulcers. most TB's off the track have them and they are very expensive to treat.
-ask what the horse eats and if it requires any maintenance or supplements.
-if you decide to get the horse, don't skimp on the vet check. it is TOTALLY worth the $$ to get the x-rays. most OTTB's will have some early arthritic changes so don't panic if you see that, but catching anything advanced before you own it could save you lots of cash and heartbreak down the road.
-some TB's have funky back conformation that makes fitting a saddle to them really difficult. some won't fit in anything except $$$$ custom saddles, so pay special attention to how the horse is built.
-try to get a horse that has at least been "let down", i.e. had some time out in turnout to learn how to be a horse and chill out a bit. basic retraining is really nice, too, and by that I mean confident w/t/c in both directions.
-ask if the horse has been trail ridden and if it likes getting out of the ring, or is it too spooky/hot?
-check out the feet and see if they look like they're well-formed and at least somewhat balanced. Lucy has three good feet and one bad one that makes me want to scream.
I have never been with someone to look at a horse that is still at the track, so I wasn't speaking from personal experience, but I was offering advice that aligned with best practices I've read and heard about.
Anyway, I also offered to go with her and she gladly accepted, so we are trekking out to the track bright and early on Saturday to go shopping! I am very excited. I will serve as a second set of eyes, photographer, and videographer. I also have a friend who works at the track who is doing some homework for us behind the scenes to see which of the horses we like are as nice as they sound on CANTER's website.
Have any of you bought a horse directly off the track? Do you have any advice?