The OTTB – The Horse I See, The Horse Some Don’t. – Part ONE

This will be part of a 3 part series I’ll be writing, about OTTB’s, the negative stigma that seems to surround them and some other observations..

As I sat shivering and cold yesterday, soaked from meandering throughout the property at the barn – First, walking Errika and her fellow cougar mare friend, KC, down to shelter and then helping another boarder with her horse – I was determined to stay and watch the future events unfold.  In front of me, a 7 year old Thoroughbred, 2 months off the track was being brought into the arena by it’s rider, ready and eager to participate in the clinic. 

I was curious how the trainer/clinician, who I had never seen work, would approach this situation.  First and foremost, my feeling was that this clinician was pretty brave and was open to jump into whatever horse or rider came his/her way.  I liked that.  I’m not going to go into talking much at all about what the clinician did.  Tid bits here and there that stuck with me that either I’m re-thinking and re-playing or things that I felt good about overall.  But, I was more concerned with what the horse was doing and what it wasn’t doing.  I wanted to learn from the horse.  It’s reaction from the things that the rider and clinician were doing and what worked and what didn’t and why.  I have never had a chance to watch a fairly, fresh off track Thoroughbred be worked and trained from a spectators perspective.

When the horse first came in, I studied the conformation, I studied it’s apparent disposition and most importantly it’s eye.  I had an up-close, personal, yet in-personal opportunity to watch a horse who I was not connected with, move, respond and work.

Instantly, I liked the horse.  I didn’t like it’s way of going or essentially how it was put together.  However, I was aware that, in time, much of what I didn’t like, would change.  Not the conformation, obviously, but it’s way of going to a degree.  So I discarded that thought.  But I did like the horse.  At seven, this horse had been further around the block than most OTTB’s.  I wasn’t expecting the horse to jump through the rafters, [unlike] to the surprise that some exhibited (and were probably thinking) when the the horse traveled willingly around.

The rider takes the horse to the mounting block and it’s apparent that he [the horse] hasn’t been introduced to the idea of standing at this mounting contraption.  It’s hard to teach an OTTB that sometimes, because they are so used to doing things quick and on the move, including mounting.  But the horse did a couple things that made me instantly appreciate and respect him.  Standing, was beside the point.  The horse was kind but prepared.  He was already anticipating the riders presence on his back, ready for the next step.  He shouted, “I want to please!”  to me.  I don’t know if anyone else saw that or not, but I did.

Let me talk about the owner/rider for a moment..  I talked to this lady a couple times.  In her fifties, a mother and fairly new to owning horses again (I say again because she said she had one when she was growing up, but is just getting back into owning and riding for the second time in a while) I was impressed with her go-get-it attitude.  She was open-minded, sweet and so happy to be doing what she was doing with her horses.  I liked that.  She rode well, despite not knowing much.  I respected that.  Nothing else mattered or matters to me.  But others felt different.  It was a little disappointing that we as horse people can so quickly cast judgement on others.  In a way I felt bad for the lady.  She was so eager and seemed almost innocent to the horse world, just beyond her smiling face, that can be unforgiving and judgemental.  Nothing is perfect.  No rider, no horse.  But to me, someone who takes a positive approach, wanting to learn for all the better of herself and the horse, is definitely respectable.  The rest comes in time.

What more do horse people want?  What more do you need to, be happy for someone who is traveling a similar path that we ALL once did, at some point?

I am very much turned off right now, with the disappointment and frustrations I feel for the horse world that hovers over, jealousy, strife and narrow-mindedness.   

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5 thoughts on “The OTTB – The Horse I See, The Horse Some Don’t. – Part ONE

  1. Keri, one of the things I've learned to look at is the “180-degree” position. Often what people say or project is the complete opposite of what they really feel. And we all know people who make themselves feel better by talking down others.

    That being said, and having a certain amount of camaraderie with the woman in your story, I do notice a lot of the attitude you mention.

    Recently, in fact.

    I was talking to a friend about our trip to Slide and how good Bar had been and how proud I was of him. This person said, “Oh, Lena must be rubbing off on him.”

    Um. No. In fact, we sort of hope that isn't the case some days!

    It did make me realize that there are people who will NEVER give Bar credit, no matter how far he comes. I could be grumpy about it, but instead I'll just feel sorry for them. They will never know this horse the way I do, and that sucks. For them.

    Looking forward to more from you!

  2. It is too bad that egos are not a good thing in the equine world, seeing as how they are so readily available. I've encountered more critical, pompous know-it-alls in the horse industry than anywhere else in my life. It boggles the mind. Most “horse people” do not seem able to overcome their own egos (and agendas) to get to the heart of the issue; a deep bond with their horse. I do not have but one horsey friend (offline) for that very reason; I'll take bonding over bossing any day of the week *grin*. I hope your new friend is able to stick to her guns and focus on what really matters – her relationship with her horse.
    I have discovered that I would much rather muddle through on my own, than subject myself to eye-rolling criticism and disparaging remarks. After all, the horses will tell me if I get it wrong (and in a much nicer tone than most people, too :o)
    While we don't have an OTTB we do have a Tennessee Walker who was sored, so I am thinking I will definitely be able to relate to this. Goodness, I've rambled – so sorry. This is a wonderful topic for a post; I can't wait to read the rest!

  3. I definitely got my share of attitude when I had my OTTB. Luckily I am young, resilient, insanely driven to educate myself, and (eventually) I learned to be very, very patient.

    I still wish I knew more when I owned my OTTB, but I learned enough. I don't think he was your typical OTTB– he was quite underweight (not just racing fit) and he was NASTY about brushing, tacking up, blanketing…and he bit. So of course a lot of people thought we were crazy 🙂 Still, by the time I sold him three years later, he was a pretty solid citizen. I didn't really know anything about dressage back then but he would reliably w/t/c (dreeeeam of a canter, omg) and jump 2'6 – 2'9 courses.

    So I'm always happy to see someone working with a horse that has potential. I've dealt with a lot of doubt with my other horses, too – the funniest is everyone wondering why the heck I bought this greenish Appendix mare with a sketchy rearing history, and then two years later everyone wondering why the heck I was selling my nice Appendix mare in order to focus on our other horse 😉

    I think some people just don't have enough experience turning things around with horses to see through the current situation. I'm sorry you had such an unpleasant experience with other people about that TB!

    And I'll shut up now since this is getting looong…

  4. I'm always surprised by the competitive and jealous nature of some horse people. We all love horses (at least I think most of us do) so why not be supportive of all horses and riders who are trying to get it right. People who do well by their horses are to be commended no matter what type of horse it is. We've had many different breeds over the years and really tried not to have preconceived notions of how they would act and just take each horse and work with that horse and his particular situation.

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