Top 10 Reasons Why OTTBs Rule

One Tuff Storm, or "Tuff", enjoys his new life at Bit of Hope Farm in St. Louis. Photo from Ashley K.

Happy week before Burghley, everyone! I found it quite difficult to not write a Burghley themed post this week, but I think I landed on a topic that’s just as good, if not better. I think I speak for the vast majority of Eventing Nation (and really, all of Horse Nation) when I say that we all have a big soft spot in our heart for the wonderful creature that is the OTTB. Whether we own one, aspire to own one, have owned one in the past, or simply admire them from afar, there are so many things that make these horses among the best in the world. Here are just a few reasons why:

1. OTTBs are a bargain shopper’s dream.

I don’t mean that statement to be demeaning in the least. I am the first one to admit that my bank account suffers from acute anemia, and window shopping for OTTBs seems to make it more plausible that I will once again become a horse owner at some point. While the costs of vetting, letdown, and re-training can pile up, OTTBs are nonetheless a great opportunity for someone to really take on a project and reap the potential benefits.

2. Thoroughbreds ooze athleticism.

Even at a small little track like local Fairmount Park here, it is hard not to see the athletic potential in these horses. While a racing fit horse is not the best way to be able to see what an event/jumper/hunter fit horse will look like, it’s easy to spot the athletic potential. I have stood many a time at the saddling paddock and kept a mental running list of those that I would gladly take home with me. If only there were a trailer big enough…

3. OTTBs are constantly inspiring us.

After venturing so many times to Rolex and watching the likes of Courageous Comet and Anthony Patch storm around the big track like it were a crossrail class, it is hard not to imagine yourself taking cross country by storm aboard your very own OTTB. At every event, every weekend, there are countless OTTBs who have transitioned so easily into their new careers. It is truly inspiring to see the patience and hard work that has been put into each and every horse that was at one point a “racetrack reject,” and it is even more inspiring to see the smiles of pure joy as these hard working horses never stop amazing their riders.

4. There are endless opportunities for support and recognition as an OTTB owner.

The Jockey Club recently introduced the Thoroughbred Incentive Program, which provides awards for ex-racehorses who have transitioned to a new career. This program, and others like it, have been met with rousing success and support from the masses, and I would hope that it only continues to grow.

5. Bloodlines and breeding are always fun with OTTBs.

I used to be a huge racing fan. Back in the days of Skip Away and Silver Charm (yes, I loved dappled grays too), I was all about the Thoroughbred industry. Now, it’s surreal to see horses with the blood of my teen horse idols coursing through their veins. I saw an Afleet Alex gelding on CANTER awhile ago and loved him right away – if he had half of the heart that Alex did when he won that Preakness Stakes, I’d take it in a heartbeat. Idolization aside, there are many prominent Thoroughbred stallions who are known for infusing their offspring with good sporthorse potential. If you see a Fappiano horse out there somewhere, drop me a line and I’ll find a way to buy it!

6. It’s all about attitude.

While we have all dealt with our fair of crazies, I have observed that Thoroughbreds in general tend to have wonderful brains and work ethics. Bred for athleticism, these horses know how to buckle down and work. I’ve heard so many people remark about the great mind and kind eye that their horses off the track possess, a quality that is invaluable and not to be taken lightly.

7. CANTER, New Vocations, Three Plain Bays…. the window shopping options are endless.

I hope no one from my place of employment reads this as I say (with no shame) that I peruse the listings on these and many other websites on an almost daily basis. I usually hover somewhere in between wishing I was actually shopping and being thankful for my lack of resources that will most surely help keep me from going on an insane and unhealthy horse buying spree. Kidding aside, though, there are so many countless opportunities to find quality horses that are looking for a new career. Major probs to these organizations that keep our dreams fueled!

8. The Retired Racehorse Training Project.

EN guest blogger Jessica Bortner-Harris, Rolex competitor Allie Knowles, and the always friendly Erin Sylvester are among the 26 trainers participating in this year’s challenge. This exciting venture provides an opportunity for ex-racehorses to benefit from quality training as they transition from life on the track. This project is yet another great opportunity to increase exposure and opportunities for OTTBs.

9. There is no better reward than seeing your hard work pay off.

This may fall under the inspiring category, but I think it deserves its own. Remember that old, beat up car that your boyfriend loved so much in high school? He spent hours upon hours transforming it from a seemingly useless hunk of metal into a gorgeous, restored beauty. A friend of mine has spent months rehabilitating the horse pictured above, Tuff, bringing him back from a near starvation state and she is finally able to begin retraining him. It is so encouraging to see these horses taking to their new jobs with such enthusiasm, and I look forward to seeing my friend reap the benefits of the work she is putting into her cute young project.

10. OTTBs are an opportunity for us to give back and give a horse a new lease on life. 

There are far too many horses in this world that have drawn the unlucky card of enduring a tough life. Racehorses are no different, and while many have long and successful careers, followed by equally successful and lucrative breeding careers, countless others find themselves in a situation that does not breed success. Race trainers have long held a partnership with CANTER and other organizations, understanding that sometimes their horses need a different career path. As an OTTB enthusiast, I am eternally grateful to the race trainers and owners who give their horses the best possible care and who will help their charges find a new home if racing turns out to not be their forte. These horses deserve the world, and I hope I speak for every OTTB owner or aspiring owner when I say that the new leases on life that we are able to give ex-racehorses are the perfect way to give back to those who would give us everything in return.




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