For some people, adopting or buying an ex-racehorse means saving a horse from an uncertain future.
For others it means getting an athletic prospect at a low price.
Whatever your reason it’s important to understand the pros and cons, and how to find the right horse for your needs.
Ex-racehorses or “Off the Track Thoroughbreds” (OTTB) are bred to be strong, forward and agile, making them ideal prospects for many riding disciples.
The generally have good conformation and are often over 16 hands high.
Since they are a hot-blooded breed, Thoroughbreds are known for being very sensitive and once properly trained, require only very light aids.
Their stamina and endurance gives them a district advantage over some heavier breeds, such as Warmbloods, in 3 Day Eventing.
It’s often a “buyers market” for ex-racehorses, and in most areas they are plentiful and inexpensive.
Despite all the pros for buying an ex-racehorse, there are also many cons which deter inexperienced buyers.
It can take several months, or even years, for a horse to fully recover from the physical and mental stress of the race track.
They will require a lot of patience and help from an experienced trainer to really excel.
Due to their sensitive nature, Thoroughbreds are often flighty and easily excitable which is not ideal for a nervous rider.
Also, the breed is notorious for not being an “easy keeper”, meaning they may require more care and feed than the average horse.
Understanding the cons can help a buyer choose the right horse for their situation.
When you’re looking at ex-racehorses for sale or adoption the most important question should be “why are they no longer racing?”.
If unsoundness is an issue a pre-purchase exam done by a qualified vet can help predict the recovery time.
Some Thoroughbreds may never be completely sound for heavy riding and showing, but could still be a great match for a rider looking for a trail riding partner or companion horse.
If the horse was too excitable to race it may still be worth pursuing. Some may have a completely different temperament when moved to a facility that includes daily turnout, low energy feeds (preferably free choice hay) and some time off to relax.
Of course, this situation is always a gamble and would be best suited to a rider that could handle a challenging horse.
For many horses, they simply weren’t fast enough to have a career in racing, which often makes them good candidates for retraining.
Some have never even been raced at all , which can increase the chance for success.
However, even if everything seems near perfect there are always risks involved with buying and retraining any horse.