Thoroughbreds: A Beginner’s Primer

With so many Google searches leading to Retired Racehorse, I see that a lot of people out there are looking for a basic idea of what an OTTB is. With that in mind, when I received this thoughtful guest post, I decided to add it to the blog. For the newbies out there, welcome! The Thoroughbred world is a wonderful, wonderful world. We’re going to take care of you, so just follow along and ask lots of questions, okay? Here’s some background on the Thoroughbred horse:

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A Thoroughbred horse literally means one that is of purebred blood. These horses are extremely popular and mainly used for horse racing and other sport events such as dressage and combined training, as well as show jumping. Thoroughbred horses are also the preferred horses for polo players and fox hunters, thanks to the horse’s stamina, athletic body, sensitivity and energy.

As the racing season dawns, a look at will explain the staggering bets placed on thoroughbred horses. While enthusiasts bet on the Kentucky Derby online, they ensure to check on the participating horses’ breed and past records before placing their wagers.

Thoroughbreds are extremely energetic as well as athletic, and certainly dominate international horse racing. Those who have an experience in handling horses would know that it is not easy to tackle these horses. But they are tremendously intelligent, and an understanding of their past history will help new handlers learn to work with their Thoroughbred.

Thoroughbreds are now bred in a way so that they mature early, as the prime age of these horses for competing in professional racing events is 2-3 years. All horses participating in major horse racing events such as the Triple Crown events: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes, are Thoroughbreds. Although other horses are bred for racing around the world, Thoroughbreds dominate American horse racing.

As they generally have a fast metabolic rate, they need to be fed frequently, so that they are able to maintain good health and stamina. However, the frequency of feed largely depends on the purpose of breeding the horse. In case the horse is intended to remain docile and inactive, two feeds a day are usually enough. On the other hand, horses meant for an active purpose require more feeds as well as special food aimed at increasing their stamina and maintaining good health.

Thoroughbreds are trained in a completely different manner than other horses. You’ll find a lot of information regarding their training on this blog. They know exactly how to react to the actions and signs of their jockey, and are trained specifically for this purpose. This makes it even more important to care for them in a special and more focused way. As they are very energetic, it is difficult for a beginner to handle them. Hence, it is best to work with a trainer if a relatively new horse-person wants to re-train a Thoroughbred for horse showing or sports.

For proper grooming, it is important to ensure that the horse is provided with daily hoof care in order to prevent any foot infection. Thoroughbreds are known for having “problem feet,” but in reality this could mean anything: feet could be too dry, feet could be too moist, feet could be too flat, feet could be too upright. Only regular consultation with a farrier, and checking feet daily, can keep hooves in order.

If the horse comes in from the field or work out muddy, be sure to wash off all the muck to avoid any mud rash. It is best to wash it off with a dandy brush and a soft sponge, along with some warm water. At the racetrack, a horse would typically have his feet hosed off every time he comes off the track, and after hotwalking in the shedrow as well, and then have his legs toweled dry. Many Thoroughbreds come off the track with sensitive skin and they’ll be prone to “icky” spots if they aren’t carefully cleaned and dried regularly.

As these horses are extremely athletic and used generally for competition and racing events, they are very prone to accidents. One needs to be cautious to ensure that the horse is not pushed too hard during training, as it could lead to exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage or, in simpler terms, bleeding of the lungs. Excessive exercise also develops bone-related problems such as arthritis. Take care to ensure your horse is physically fit enough for the work you’re asking of him. If he hasn’t been in training for a while, he probably isn’t ready to go out and gallop a mile.

Thoroughbreds from the racetrack are usually accustomed to being kept in a stall, but they have lively social interactions with the horses they share a barn with, and can usually see other horses around them. It’s nice if the stall you move your Thoroughbred to has a webbing instead of a door, or at least a half-door instead of a full one, so that the horse can have glances of the surroundings at will. They’re going to want to look at everything, so don’t be surprised if they seem to pace from window to door to hay and back to the window. It isn’t so much claustrophobia or nerves as an abiding curiosity that comes from living in a very active place.

Change of place and environment is another factor that is very stressful for Thoroughbreds and, therefore, it is essential to allow them to blend in as naturally as possible. A novel such as Other People’s Horses offers a great insight to the life of these horses both on the tracks and off the beaten path.

A Thoroughbred today is, undoubtedly, very similar to a warhorse of yesteryears and has to endure much in its life during the breeding, training and racing years. Hence, it becomes important to ensure that one respects these horses. It certainly requires great courage to stand at the opening gates of a race and sprint when the shot goes off. Not only does it require great strength and stamina, but a great deal of courage as well.



Filed under OTTB Basics

2 responses to “Thoroughbreds: A Beginner’s Primer

  1. In June I will own a very special OTTB for two years now. When purchased he was off the track only 5 months at a size of 14.2 hands. In these 2 years he has grown to be at least 16 hands at 8 years on March 12th of this year. Sun Hunter has become a powerful pet. He is intelligent and well cared for. As an owner my perception on OTTB’s is that is you take your time to be kind and get to know them they will become your friend. I think he looks as much forward to our visits with him as my husband and I do him. He offers a beautiful ride with a kind gentle hand and I am convinced he prefers the bit-less bridle we use.

  2. interesting blog entry! I’ve had my OTTB for 4 and a half years now, he’s a 2005 model. I have not experienced much of any of the above, other than it has been a learning curve to learn how to feed him properly (we’re on a QH farm, and feeding him like the horses on the farm did not work well). He has good feet, abhors being in a stall, and does not seem to be accident prone at all, thankfully!
    I was definitely a beginner when I adopted him, and still have much to learn. He keeps me honest. I have learned to listen to him. If I do not get the response I want in an exercise, it is because I did not ask properly. He is not the least bit hot, but he does demand to be treated fairly in order to get a good result.
    And that’s part of what I love about him. If he was easy-peasy and I could ask sloppily, I wouldn’t improve, myself.