There’s something I realize I haven’t brought up before: the fact that I had never, ever, in a million years, thought that I would own an ex-racehorse. In fact, I would even say I had a stigma against TBs in general and OTTBs in particular. They have a reputation for being hot, spooky, nervous, hard keepers with thin skin and crumbly feet, who likely come with injuries and have no manners.
Ironically, I had my sights set on getting an American Saddlebred as my eventing horse, an uncommon breed for the discipline especially on the west coast. My own bias against OTTBs is especially baffling in light of the common stigmas against ASB: that they are hot, spooky, nervous, hard keepers who have whites around their eyes and are half-crazy from training with chains and firecrackers. Here is my post promoting ASBs as sport horses – they truly are an amazing breed that has gotten a bad rap due to saddleseat training methods.
|Thoroughbred – 2012 Kentucky Derby winner
Horse: I’ll Have Another, 3 years old
Jockey (Rider): Mario Gutierrez
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Owner: Paul Reddam
|American Saddlebred – 2012 World Grand Champion 5-Gaited
Horse: Bravo Blue, 10 years old
Trainer and Rider: Rob Byers
Owner: B&T Vonderschmitt
Well, the universe has a way of humbling us. I am still promoting ASBs as excellent potential sport horses, while having to eat my thoughts regarding OTTBs. Biases tend to start with a small nugget of truth. Let me give you my honest 2-cents about OTTB stigmas versus reality, insofar as my experience with Bohemian.
Temperament -Bohemian is well behaved, quiet, and calm 99% of the time. I’ve seen other TBs wig out on occasion, but not significantly more than I’ve seen horses of other breeding wig out. They’re animals.
|My snuggly Bohemian.|
Weight – TBs are naturally tall and slender, and tend to show more ribs even at a healthy weight as compared to other breeds. Bohemian certainly came to me underweight, but that was due to the change in feed from his retirement as a racehorse – a common but very fixable issue with ex-racehorses.
Skin – Most TB owners will tell you that their TBs are more sensitive to bugs and skin irritations than their horses of other breeds. Bohemian certainly is.
Feet – A good number of TBs have hooves that require more care than other breeds. Bohemian gets hoof conditioner regularly to help maintain hoof health. But overall he has great feet.
Injuries – This one is more legit than the others. Racing training starts before the horses are full grown, which common sense and research shows is not healthy for joint and ligament development, therefore creating a propensity for injury later on. Its also no secret that horses get injured during races all the time, and injury is one of the main causes of retirement from the track.
Manners – There is a circulated idea that some racehorse trainers view pushy ground manners as related to a horse’s ego, with more pushiness translating to more competitiveness on the track, so they don’t correct common ground manner violations. However, Bohemian and all the other OTTBs at my barn have had no ground manner issues whatsoever. Maybe west coast racing trainers don’t hold that particular view, or maybe they do but are keeping all the horses with bad manners since they’re the more competitive horses (after all, we’re adopting the racing rejects).
Overall, I am very pleased and proud of my OTTB. I hope all horse people will strongly consider both TBs and ASBs for their pleasure and performance mounts, or at least try to dismiss any lurking biases that might be tucked away in the back corner of their mind!