Fall is here, cool weather, happy horses now with energy. Where am I going with that? We take in lots of thoroughbreds here at Hope for Horses, Inc. Most of them are off the track, ready to begin a new life in a new discipline. So as this cooler weather comes on, these high energy horses are eager to move. I was just talking to Alison, a young woman trainer here at the ranch; she starts our horses, about just that. She has mostly ridden Quarter Horses, Mustangs (since she’s been here) Gypsy’s and Friesians. It’s her first experience with Thoroughbreds. Alison commented about the young Thoroughbred she was riding, seemed easily distracted, her words “he seems ADHD”. I happen to think that thoroughbreds are over achievers and need to be kept busy, so riding circles isn’t enough. To me, they just need variety in their training, as a great horseman once said, repetition is the key to learning, but variety is the spice of life, mix it up. We talked about that, so off she rode and got this horse busy, doing changes of direction, speeding up/slowing down and poles on the ground. He looked very happy and Alison had his attention.
Myth Buster: Thoroughbreds can do anything, not just the English disciplines. There are several ranches out in Wyoming that only use thoroughbreds as their ranch horses, because of their stamina and eagerness to “do”. Barrel racing and gymkhana games are another area where the thoroughbred can excel, although some slow stuff needs to be included or these over achievers just get “hot”. I have seen some show quite a bit of cow savvy too! We have several here. I know that thoroughbreds are not for everyone, but more and more, they are coming back into the equestrian mainstream as good willing equine partners. If you are looking for a horse with lots of try, and lots of energy, then look at the Thoroughbred, ever an Off the Track Thoroughbred.
Just for the record, the training that a racehorse gets is lots of walking from the barn to the track and back, lots of trotting, and yes, lots of cantering, but not a lot of fast stuff; that needs to be saved for the race. They mostly give to the bit, bring their heads down and can be ridden like any other horse. They don’t steer well, and are not taught to “whoa” or back-up, and they can get excited in company with other horses, but all horses need to be taught that kind of thing. If you think about what a racehorse has to get used to; coming out of the saddling paddock with people milling around, crowds of people yelling at the finish line, trucks, trailers, the ambulance following them as they race, the starting gate and the winner’s circle. That is a lot of exposure. Arenas are easy and trail rides are a breeze. Our riders here get to ride these horses and help get them ready for new homes, they teach the horses to steer, slow down, and stand for mounting. We try to continue their education and training, filling in those gaps from their training at the track. There are many of us Rescues taking in ex-racehorses and helping them get into other disciplines. Organization’s such as CARMA (California Retirement Management Account) holds the annual Thoroughbred Classic Horse Show down in southern California where everyone will compete in various classes. This year it will be held again at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank December 10-11, 2016. You can go to www.carma4horses.org for more information.
There is a national momentum bringing awareness to Thoroughbreds. A woman, Valerie Ashker, from Georgetown, California is riding her Thoroughbred across country doing just that. She is travelling with another person and the two of them started in Georgetown, and are now in Indiana. You can check out her journey on Facebook.
At the end of October, October 27-30, 2016, in Kentucky, the Kentucky Horse Park will be holding the Retired Racehorse Project, where one lucky horse will become “America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred”. Last year, the horse that won this, won it doing Trail Trials, and the freestyle was showing off this mare’s jumping ability, dressage work, working on spins and turns, along with tarps, obstacles many scary things, all in a western saddle. The runner-up, was a gelding that won in Eventing and the freestyle performance was done with groundwork without any head gear, and a bridleless jumping demonstration. It was amazing to be a part of this. Most disciplines are offered, Show Hunters, Show Jumpers, Field Hunters, Eventing, Dressage, Freestyle, Polo, Working Ranch, Barrel Racing, and Competitive Trail. Hope for Horses, Inc. will be going again this year, and although we are not taking any horses we are going to volunteer and help out this great cause.
Hopefully, this has opened your mind to looking into a Thoroughbred or an OTTB. If you are looking for a new horse, you can go to www.canterusa.org/california and see what might be available close to you. Looking at your local rescue might also bring you good luck. There is lots of OTTB’s looking for new careers in all disciplines. You might just find your dream horse is an Off the Track Thoroughbred.