Mz. Manners’ Guide to Racetrack Etiquette

Photo courtesy of New Vocations. Photo courtesy of New Vocations.

CANTER bridges the gap between the race and sport world; we offer a safe outlet for retiring ex-racehorses and an opportunity for sport and pleasure riders to find quality prospects well below their market value, creating a mutually beneficial arrangement.

For your entertainment we have compiled an advice column regarding racetrack shopping based on real life situations. This is not directed to any specific person, we just hope you can appreciate a good laugh and a new understanding of the purchase process.

Dear Mz. Manners,

I brought home the prettiest OTTB; I love him. Unfortunately, we don’t have much in common. I only have time to ride once or twice a month and I want to unwind on a quiet trail ride. Unfortunately, while I just want to mosey along, the moment I put my foot in the stirrup I hear my horse’s theme song “Running with the Devil.”

We are drifting apart… literally, I can’t stay on. He never does what I ask and complains that all I ever do is nag. Is the honeymoon over?

Separated in San Juan

Dear Separated in San Juan,

Finding the right equine partner is not much different than finding the right life partner; just because you both are lovely individuals does not mean you are meant to be. We’d suggest you approach a trainer or other experienced horseman to help evaluate whether you and “the Devil” have irreconcilable differences.

If you can’t find a compromise, it may be time to find him a home with someone who has similar interests and will appreciate his drive. It’s important that you create a safe and mutually enjoyable relationship.

Dear Mz. Manners,

I was watching late night TV, browsing the CANTER site and saw the perfect horse; I know you need to act quickly so I texted the trainer. I waited ten minutes and then called the CANTER volunteer. She mumbled something about, “Is this an emergency?”

I explained that a trainer hasn’t responded to my text and I need more video of a horse. At that point I heard, “Bless your heart” and the phone disconnected. What gives, doesn’t everyone watch Conan? He’s a riot.

Sleepless in Seattle

Dear Sleepless in Seattle,

Sleep is an elusive concept to horse people, something to be cherished. Your objective in horse buying is to win the seller’s affection such that they negotiate with you and ultimately sell you their horse. Waking up their household is not the best way to make new friends.

Try to keep those calls between 8am and 8pm, EST. Please also keep in mind, it is rare that a trainer would be able to provide additional photos or video of a prospect; we find the best way to view horses is in person.

Dear Mz. Manners,

I was shopping at the racetrack last week; found a horse that fit my bill. Everything was going well until the trainer told me I couldn’t take the horse for a test ride. I could never buy a horse without first putting him through his paces. How else will I know if I like him?

Bucked Off in Bronson

Dear Bucked Off in Bronson,

There is too much liability in allowing buyers to ride horses while they are on the racetrack; these horses generally do not have any after track training so they need to be re-educated to the discipline of your choice.

If you aren’t comfortable purchasing a horse without first riding, our program isn’t the best fit for you. Not to worry, there are endless programs out there that offer horses who have been reschooled and you can first try out before adopting.

Dear Mz. Manners,

I’m having a tough time finding a new horse. I’m looking for a 17.2 hand, 4 year old, bay gelding with chrome and immaculate legs that, at a minimum, will jump a 4’ course and poop rainbows. I’m a serious rider, I refuse to entertain a horse with any type of blemish and prefer something with less than 10 starts.

I hear that there are a lot of horses at the racetrack who need good homes but few are what I’m looking for and when I do approach trainers, they refuse to give away their horses.

Unrealistic in Utica

Dear Unrealistic in Utica,

While it is true great deals can be found at the racetrack and you can sometimes find free horses, trainers have learned through experience to be suspicious of strangers requesting free horses. Even more so, our ultimate goal is for trainers to be incentivized to retire their horses sound, when at all possible.

These horses have value as quality sport prospects. Please be respectful and polite when negotiating.

Mz. Manners’ quick tips to becoming a quality buyer:

1. Keep appointments or call to notify the trainer if you cannot make your scheduled appointment.

2. “Please” and “thank you” goes a long way; common courtesy is greatly appreciated.

3. Shop only when you’re ready to buy; scour the web-site daily, but avoid looking for horses until you have stabling, funding, etc. in order. Trainers do not have the facilities to hold horses for months while you try to sell your existing horse or find boarding.

4. Be honest. If you are not interested in a horse, there is no shame in that. We do ask that you tell the seller this isn’t the horse for you and avoid stringing them along thinking that they shouldn’t show the horse to other buyers who may have genuine interest.

5. Be knowledgeable and financially stable; horses are expensive, be prepared for unexpected vet bills and seek out assistance if you have questions about horse care or training.

6. If a horse doesn’t work out, find another suitable home for the horse. Low end auctions and dealers do not guarantee safe homes for horses.

7. Please be polite; treat sellers the way you wish to be treated. Build a relationship with the seller; if they don’t have the horse you want today, maybe they can refer you to someone who does or call you the next time they have a nice prospect.

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