Wednesday, September 14, 2011

my favourite kind of shopping

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 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?


  1. Always check the pedigree! If you have knowledgeable friends who can point you to which lines make certain types of horses that can help. If you talk to the riders, grooms, they usually know more about the horse than the owners/trainers do. They do most of the handling and will be honest and candid.

  2. always expect ulcers! this is without a doubt the best thing you can expect from ex-racers.

    do NOT let them show you the horse on a lip chain - ask for it over the nose. the lip chains can prevent behaviours from displaying themselves.

    bring mints! ;)

    downtime is a DEFINITE bonus, and will help weed out potential issues with "mystery" lameness showing up - i'm seeing a lot of horses retired "sound" but show up with lameness 2-3 months later from compensating for other things (way of moving, shoeing, training methods etc)

    go to the local HBPA office and ask for recommendations for well-liked and respected trainers and mention you are looking to purchase - they will know the ins and outs of the trainers (I know ours does!) and your friend on-track will probably have a good idea about that as well! the HBPA may also be able to point you towards horses that are looking for homes too.

    otherwise I think you have a lot of good information in your list too - and your experiences will help as well

    Oh and one last thing - trust your gut instincts!!!

  3. A horse that is at the track will not have had any down time. CANTER has horses that have had some time off and can guide you in that direction.
    I worked at a track a long time ago and noone was allowed to get on a horse unless they were working there so you may not be able to actually ride a horse that is still on the track.
    Remember that you are walking into someone's work day and their work is prepping horses for races and not selling horses.
    Going to the track to check out CANTER horses, I would contact CANTER for info on what you can expect at that track.
    Good luck, hope you find something nice.

  4. Great tips/advice so far, thanks everyone. Barbara, some of the horse we're looking at only truck into the track to train, but they live on their trainers farm. These are the ones we're most interested in. Two of them are ridden on trails regularly, one has been started with some dressage training and over xrails in the off-season (they don't ship these ones to FL for the winter circuit). So though they are currently training to race, they also have a bit of retraining already. I believe they will be on the farm this weekend so if my friend can get on them, that would be great.

    Anon and Veronica, great points. I will have a look at our top picks' pedigrees and I will make sure to be aware of use of the chain. Really good ideas I hadn't thought of. Thanks!

  5. I totally agree with your advice to get the horse thoroughly vetted and not to skimp on the radiographs! The advice to check the bloodlines is great too.

    Make sure to ask what drugs the horse is currently getting and ask if it has a history of being a bleeder.

  6. I know of an OTTB named Braygorn. He is very sweet, has been let down in pasture for a couple of months, and has been trail ridden recently. I think his adoption fee is around $600. The person who has him is a TB race trainer who does rescues in her spare time. She knows a lot of shippers who give her good deals.


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