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BeyondtheTrack-horseandriderbooks

Photo from Beyond the Track by Anna Ford with Amber Heintzberger and Sarah Coleman.

Tomorrow is the day we celebrate those oh-so-special loves in our lives. For some of us, that means extra hours at the barn with you-know-who. But others might still be looking for Mr. Right. If an OTTB has ever caught your fancy, you’re not alone…off-track Thoroughbreds are a fabulous way to do right by a horse while getting incredible athleticism in an affordable package. And OTTBs can be a great fit for whatever kind of riding you like best. Just check out our OTTB Matchmaker tips below from Anna Ford, Thoroughbred Program Director at New Vocations Racehorse Adoption. Her book BEYOND THE TRACK has been called “breakthrough racehorse literature,” “superior,” “a winner,” and “the ultimate in training manuals.”

Here are Ford’s recommendations for finding your OTTB match:

If you intend to purchase a horse off the track or adopt one through a program, I recommend you engage the assistance of an experienced friend or trainer to help ascertain the horse’s suitability for you and your discipline. Even if you buy and sell horses all the time, a second opinion is always of value.

The most important step is to ask yourself what level of riding or competition you aspire to, as many OTTBs are athletic enough to pursue any discipline at the lower levels, and most minor injuries will hold up after proper time off. With this in mind, here are a few additional guidelines to consider when evaluating OTTBs. These are generalized suggestions—there is a lot more to consider when choosing a horse for a specific discipline. And note, the examples pictured here are right off the track. Appearance changes with added weight and muscle.

The Event Horse or Jumper* 

BeyondtheTrack1-horseandriderbooks

Photo from Beyond the Track courtesy of New Vocations.

Conformation

▶ High shoulder point (the front of the shoulder is high, with a steeply angled humerus from there to the elbow; this ensures scope over large jumps).

▶ Uphill build.

▶ Medium bone structure (extremely fine bone structure is less likely to hold up).

▶ Short- to medium-length back.

▶ Short- to medium-length pasterns (long pasterns tend to break down).

▶ Well-set knees (horses that have knees that bend slightly forward or back, instead of straight, can place increased strain on tendons and ligaments).

▶ Event horses can range in height. Note that larger horses (in height and mass) can be more difficult to keep sound as they are harder on their legs and feet.

 

OTTBMatchmaker-horseandriderbooksMovement

Event horses need to be very athletic with fluid gaits. Prospects should have more action at all three gaits than, say, a hunter (see below). This often indicates it will be easier for them to move with impulsion in the dressage ring and that they will pick up their knees better over fences.

 

Personality

▶ Brave ∙ Athletic ∙ Hard-Working

Event prospects need to be bold, brave, and forward-going horses that have good endurance. Many of these horses could also be described as “proud” or “arrogant.” More energetic horses are often possibilities—as long as they are mentally sane and have a good work ethic, the extra energy is beneficial on the cross-country course.

*A jumper prospect will be very similar in build, action, and personality to an event horse. When looking for a jumper, put more emphasis on a stronger hind end and shoulder. A jumper does not necessarily need to be built uphill, but he should have a high shoulder point.

 

The Hunter 

BeyondtheTrack2-horseandriderbooks

Photo from Beyond the Track courtesy of New Vocations.

Conformation

▶ Long, sloping shoulder.

▶ Neck ties in well with the withers and shoulder.

▶ Small, attractive head.

▶ Flat topline.

 

Movement

Hunters should be light on their feet and have as little action in their legs as possible. A long, low, rhythmic stride that easily covers a lot of ground is desirable. The horse’s head carriage should be long and low.

 

Personality

▶ Easygoing ∙ Consistent ∙ Stylish

Hunters are judged on rhythm, style, and manners. They need to be calm in nature and consistent in gait and attitude as they move around the ring and over fences.

 

The Dressage Horse 

BeyondtheTrack3-horseandriderbooks

Photo from Beyond the Track courtesy of New Vocations.

Conformation

▶ Withers set back from the shoulder.

▶ Short back.

▶ Uphill build.

▶ Strong, well-built hindquarters.

▶ Neck ties in well with the withers and shoulder (avoid ewe-necked horses).

▶ Neck should be medium to long.

 

Movement

The horse should naturally engage and drive from his hind end. A regular, even, four-beat walk is ideal. At the trot he should demonstrate natural impulsion and extension while remaining light on his feet. Look for a canter that is not overly “large”—a shorter stride is easier to maneuver around the dressage arena and eventually teach clean flying lead changes.

 

Personality

▶ Hard-Working ∙ Sensitive ∙ Sensible

A dressage prospect should be a sensitive yet sensible horse. He needs to be very responsive to leg, seat, and rein aids rather than dead-sided or hard-mouthed. He cannot become overwrought every time he is confronted with a new task—the ideal horse likes to work and accepts new challenges eagerly.

 

 

Beyond the Track NE REVFor more guidance in how to choose the right OTTB and transition him from the track to the ideal riding partner, check out BEYOND THE TRACK, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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New Vocations Racehorse Adoption has a new "champion"! Metro Meteor, the Painting Racehorse, will be on the TODAY SHOW April 4, 2013. Tune in and check it out!

New Vocations Racehorse Adoption has a new “champion”! Metro Meteor, the Painting Racehorse, will be on the TODAY SHOW April 9, 2013. Tune in and check it out!

New Vocations Racehorse Adoption was founded in 1992 to offer retiring racehorses a safe-haven, rehabilitation, and continued education through placement in experienced, caring homes.  The New Vocations focus is on adoption versus retirement, believing that each horse deserves to have an individual home and purpose. Close to 4,000 retired Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds have been placed in qualified homes through New Vocations’ efforts since its inception, including 429 ex-racehorses that were placed in 2011. These horses have come from 18 different states and have been adopted by families throughout the country.

New Vocations Program Director Anna Ford expanded the organization’s reach when she wrote BEYOND THE TRACK: RETRAINING THE THOROUGHBRED FROM RACEHORSE TO RIDING HORSE, alongside cowriter Amber Heintzberger. Their marvelous book provides the most thorough, clear, step-by-step system for successfully transitioning ex-racehorses to new careers, providing thousands of horses (and their lucky owners) the opportunity to enjoy each other in both recreation and sport. In addition, a portion of the proceeds of the sale of each book goes to support the New Vocations program.

Now New Vocations has a rising star in the art world on its side: Metro Meteor, a contemporary artist who, while you may not have heard of him yet, is about to break into the big time when he appears on the TODAY SHOW, April 9, 2013.

Although he has only recently been recognized for his artistic eye, there is already a waiting list for Metro Meteor’s abstract paintings…and 50% of the proceeds from all sales go directly to New Vocations! Why does this emerging artist choose to champion the cause of racehorse adoption? Well, because (of course) he started his life on the track (did I forget to mention he’s a HORSE?)

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Metro won his first race and placed in his first stakes race as a two-year-old. Running turf races out of Saratoga and Belmont, Metro won eight races and $300,000 in purse money. But he was prone to bone chips in his knees and underwent two surgeries during his racing career before his knee issues led him to only racing in low-level claiming races. Luckily, the manager of the racing partnership that owned him retired the horse and put out a call for a good home—and Ron and Wendy Krajewski took him, hoping for a trail horse.

It wasn’t long, even with only light work, before Metro’s veterinary prognosis indicated he needed to be retired completely from work. Ron’s bond with the horse inspired him to find other ways they could spend time together, including groundwork and…painting! Ron is a painter by trade, and using clicker training concepts, he taught Metro to target and “swipe” a canvas with a brush. Ron chooses the colors, but the layering, texture, and form is all Metro.

On a whim Ron offered a few of Metro’s pieces for sale through a local gallery, and they were a hit. He decided to continue marketing Metro’s work with half of the proceeds going toward paying his ex-racehorses expenses and veterinary bills, and the other half donated to help fund New Vocations and their mission to find other “Metros” new careers…and unexpected ways to share time and space with humans.

When Ron contacted New Vocations to explain what he wanted to do, Executive Director Dot Morgan was amazed and excited. “It was an interesting email that became downright inspiring!” she says. “Ron described his adopted Thoroughbred Metro Meteor, how he’d taught him to paint, and that he wanted to commit part of the proceeds to New Vocations. But then he went on to say that six paintings had sold the first week and he was sending 50% of those sales to New Vocations! In addition, an article about Metro’s mission had appeared in the Gettysburg Times and just been picked up by the Associated Press!

“He included a link to a video of Metro painting in his stable studio,” Dot continues. “I watched the video and was astounded! This was potentially one of the greatest awareness building stories I’d ever seen. It was obvious that Metro’s ability to help horses beyond the track would far exceed his numerous accolades at the track. Here was the high profile spokesman that racehorses needed, and it was one of their own!”

You can watch Metro and Ron painting here:

And don’t forget to tune in and watch Metro Meteor’s story on the TODAY SHOW, April 9, 2013.

BETHTRBEYOND THE TRACK, a book that was called “breakthrough racehorse literature” by Liz Harris of Thoroughbred Charities of America, is available from the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

Amber Heintzberger, cowriter of BEYOND THE TRACK, has a new book coming out—again featuring off-the-track Thoroughbreds! You can preorder MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON by CLICKING HERE.

And, our new Brookmeade Young Riders fiction series follows the adventures of Sarah Wagner and her off-the-track racehorse Crown Prince. You can order the first two books in the series Practical Horseman called appealing “not only to young beginner riders but also to older and more seasoned horse lovers” by CLICKING HERE.

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