I admire blogger’s who puts controversial topics out there, because it’s something I do myself a lot. I also respect the following blog, but I really disagree with the case against the OTTB from Sprinkler Bandit last week.
Now before I write my rebuttal, I want to place a few caveats to the following.
A) I have potentially the world’s safest OTTB. I admit this. I am no star rider, and Simon makes up for my flaws in so many ways. I’m extremely lucky. This is why I will treat him like a prince for as long as he’s alive.
B) The warnings in that post can apply to any horse, and I agree with them in a general way. Are you a novice amateur rider who wants something solid you can show 3′ – 3’6″ with in a year? You should probably by a made horse – of any breed.
C) Every horse shown in this post is an OTTB with an amateur rider or child.
Aimee made the case against the OTTB, but I’m going to make the case for them.
If you want to be decently competitive in dressage/eventing/hunter/jumper and you have $0-$4,000 to spend… buy an OTTB.
Can you find amazing Quarter Horses in that price range that can win in one of those disciplines? Yes you can. Did your friend find a former show star Warmblood that needs to step down to a lower division but will win in intro dressage? I’m sure they did. However, the fact remains that if you are on a strict budget (aka almost free), you want something young with at least an average amount of athletic ability… an OTTB is usually your best bet.
“It’s a big breed with many different sub-types.”
The above is a quote from from Aimee’s post, and she’s absolutely right. This is the case for a lot of horse breeds these days. For example, if someone wanted an amateur friendly 3′ hunter… I would suggest looking at a hunter under saddle reject Quarter Horse or Paint. I wouldn’t say “Get a QH” because a 14.3hh roping horse isn’t going to make the hunter that a 17.2hh leggy bay QH might. Yet, they’re considered the same breed!
The same goes for OTTBs. Do some research about bloodlines and conformation. There are types of OTTBs with quieter brains, and types with hotter ones. Some lines have better conformation for X, while some are for Y. You shouldn’t go into a decision to buy an OTTB blindly with no idea about the horse’s genealogy, but you shouldn’t go into any decision to buy any horse with 0 clue about bloodlines.
If repurposing a life matters to you, buy an OTTB.
I don’t consider buying/obtaining an OTTB a rescue. Most Thoroughbreds are kept up very well at the track, and trainers are doing more and more to help ensure the welfare of their horses after track retirement. You are, at least in my opinion, repurposing that horse and giving it a new job that is more useful to a wider variety of people. I have always thought a (sound) horse that’s good at its job is typically a safe horse. A horse that can w/t/c and show in some classes for an amateur rider is more appealing to more people than a horse that can run a race and not win. I personally enjoy adding jobs to Simon’s resume, and it makes me feel good in an animal rights/circle of life kind of way.
If the journey is more important than the destination, consider an OTTB.
Notice I said consider instead of buy, because to me buying an OTTB you click with is on par with buying a green Warmblood or switching a western pleasure horse into a low level hunter. It’s not going to happen over night, and it’s going to take some work. In my experience, you can’t push Thoroughbreds too fast without disastrous results. If you want to buy a horse you can take to a horse show and win with tomorrow, an OTTB isn’t a good choice for you… but neither are those other options I mentioned above.
If you have a knowledgeable trainer with a solid program, consider an OTTB.
For all the reasons above (and more), OTTBs make great sporthorses. They don’t make great sporthorses in a vacuum without a knowledgeable rider and/or trainer. You know what other breeds can turn disastrous when a person buys a horse without a trainer and a plan? Oh yeah, EVERY KIND OF HORSE.
I guess I feel passionately on this subject, because I don’t believe in blanketing horses (or people) by a wide sweeping label. Like I said earlier, Simon is quieter and less reactive than my fancy bred Quarter Horse. I’ve never been scared on Simon, while Beckett dumped me more times than I could count.
Another OTTB in my life is my very first horse, which I don’t blog about much. She was a hot mare that needed a program, and I became scared of her. When I sold Lydia, my original OTTB, I said I would never own another Thoroughbred again!
Never say never. OTTBs aren’t for everyone, but I wouldn’t trade Simon for anything. If you want to throw him in a giant bucket of “Don’t buy an OTTB”, then you’d be missing out on a treasure.