It is important to make sure you do your research before choosing your new OTT partner. Speak to owners, breeders, trainers and track work riders if you can. Take an experienced and knowledgeable person with you to view the horse to make sure they are fit for purpose both with conformation and temperament. I took my good friend and dressage coach Kerrie Swan-Bates with me to view Pringles. I spoke to track riders about what she was like when they dealt with her and I also knew her owner and breeder Rhonda Hall. So with all this information, I was able to make an informed decision if Pringles and I would be a good match.
Make sure you have a good vet. OTT horses will often require veterinary treatment. I was fortunate that Pringles retired from racing sound. However, as soon as she came home I got my vets to come and check her over. She was due for a dental examination which showed that she had a retained baby incisor tooth which needed to be removed. She was also started on a course of ulcer treatment.
Have a knowledgeable farrier. Whether you want to go barefoot or shoes, I have found that a high percentage of OTTs come with poor feet and may require corrective shoeing. This can be for a number of reasons, however it is important to understand that it can take a good 12 months to rectify. Make sure you have a trimmer or farrier willing to work with the horse to keep it sound and happy.
Pringles had the typical flat thoroughbred feet with contracted heels and thin soles. I had my vet x-ray all of Pringles feet to check all of her angles so that my farrier had something to work with. My farrier has done a wonderful job with Pringles’ feet and I have found she is going well with just front shoes on at the moment.
Bodywork, bodywork, bodywork!
These horses have essentially been elite athletes and their bodies have been trained to go a certain way. We then get them off the track and expect them to totally change the way they carry themselves. It is important to make sure that the horse is physically able to perform the tasks you are asking. Remember horses don’t do things just to be ‘naughty’. They may be struggling to physically perform a certain task due to weakness, confusion or something else. Always listen.
As part of the Tasracing Off The Track Tasmania program, we were fortunate to be given a Cavalor pack and also support from Hygain. I highly recommend taking up these opportunities. I have found Gary at Cavalor great to deal with and very knowledgeable about the products. Pringles has been going great on the Cavalor Nutri-Plus. I have also been really happy with the results from the Hygain Microspeed. It can be quite easy to become overwhelmed with feeds and additives as there are so many on the market. However my advice would be to keep it simple. Treat all horses as individuals, as what works for one may not necessarily work for the other. But definitely take advantage of the resources Tasracing offers.
Find a coach with whom you can work well, and who understands you and your horse. The Tasracing Off The Track program gives people and their horses access to knowledgeable coaches to assist riders and horses in their transition from race horse to pleasure horse. I am fortunate that I have a wonderful dressage coach who I trust and knows when to push me and the horse and when we may need to back off.
Start off simple
Remember it takes time to build a relationship and trust with your horse. Do the ground work. Start off with short training sessions to build confidence and strength. Cross train with poles and hack outs or try different disciplines. It’s ok to make mistakes – mistakes are how we learn. Never take your anger or frustration out on the horse. Training in the early days is tedious. It can be frustrating and sometimes you may feel as though you have plateaued. This is ok! Never be afraid to ask for help.
Things don’t need to be perfect straight away, any progress is good progress.
Most importantly please take your time. This is something that I will admit in the past I have not always done well. All horses are different and need to be treated as such. It is very easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and feel we need to be doing the same. Patience and consistency is the key.
Long story short
When purchasing an OTT do your research and remember that it is important to understand that rehabbing and training an OTT does cost money and time. Make sure you create a village of people to be there to help and to ask questions along your journey. There is always so much to learn!
I look forward to many more adventures together with Pringles, and I hope our honest updates of our highs and lows of training have helped others.