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5 Myths About Owning an Ex-Race Horse
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5 Myths About Owning an Ex-Race Horse

Off the track Thoroughbreds, or ex-racehorses, can make wonderful hunters, jumpers, dressage and pleasure mounts. But many people pass them by because of unfortunate myths surrounding them. If you've admired the intelligence, courage and beauty of the Thoroughbred but were afraid to adopt or buy an ex-racehorse because of some of these myths, maybe it's time to re-examine your beliefs. Your next show or pleasure horse may be on the track now.

Myth 1: Ex-Race Horses Are Difficult to Groom

Perhaps it's because we've all seen a horse shying away from the gate at the track while watching race coverage on television. People tend to think that Thoroughbreds are cranky, moody or difficult to handle. For the most part, the opposite is true. Thoroughbreds at the track are handled daily by grooms, hot walkers and others. They're brushed, bathed, clipped, bandaged, tacked up and handled with minimal fuss. They have to be; racing stables are busy places, and prima donnas are expensive to take on. Most Thoroughbreds are people-oriented horses who love to be handled and are great in the stable.

Myth 2: All Ex-Race Horses Have Injuries

It's true that racing takes its toll on a horse's legs. But so does any equine discipline. Many Thoroughbreds are retired simply because they're not fast enough. They may have no injuries, minor injuries or are recovering from major injuries, but not every ex-racehorse has terrible injuries that will cost you a fortune to heal. A sound practice before investing in any horse is to have your veterinarian conduct a thorough pre-purchase examination with X-rays. Such an exam can pinpoint any health issues and help you decide whether or not you're capable of handling them before you purchase or adopt the horse.

Myth 3: Former Racing Thoroughbreds Only Take One Lead

Some horses naturally prefer one lead over another, but Thoroughbreds aren't naturally "left leading" horses. They're trained in both directions, and should take up either lead when asked.

Myth 4: Thoroughbreds Are "Hot" Horses Unsuitable for Amateurs

Like people, Thoroughbreds vary according to their genetics and environment. Some may be spooky, while others are pure babysitters. It depends on the horse, the rider and the circumstances. Ex-racehorses are no spookier than other horses. In fact, in some circumstances they can be more level-headed. Think about a crowded indoor arena or schooling ring at a horse show. Thoroughbreds used to the noise and crowds at the race track may be calmer in such an environment than a backyard pony who has never been at a horse show!

Myth 5: Ex-Race Horses Have Stall Vices

Cribbing, weaving...horsemen know what a toll such vices take on their horses' health. Ex-race horses and Thoroughbreds are no more prone to stall vices than any other breed. Why some horses develop vices and others don't remains a mystery, but there's no basis in fact that Thoroughbreds as a breed are more likely to crib, weave or exhibit stable vices than other horse breeds.

Why Adopt or Buy and Ex-Race Horse?

Thoroughbreds are among the most intelligent, athletic and beautiful horses of all. If I seem a little prejudiced in favor of them, thank a former race horse named With a Twist. "Cookie" as she was affectionately known in the barn was a gorgeous bay Thoroughbred mare who was retired from racing and purchased by a friend of mine to train as a hunter/jumper. She went on to become a trusted equitation and hunter, carrying both my friend and subsequent owners to many show ring championships. She had no serious vices and no injuries except for a scar that marred her appearance somewhat; she was indeed one of the best horses I've been privileged to ride. She set the bar high for me, so that every horse I ride, I compare to her. I learned a lot about retraining Thoroughbreds from my experience with Cookie and her owner and trainer, and these experiences dispelled many myths.

There are thousands of Thoroughbreds in North America, Europe and Australia that need a second career after racing. If you long for an athletic, intelligent equine partner, an ex-racehorse may be exactly what you're looking for.

IMAGE SOURCE: Jade, Morguefile.com

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  1. Maria Sorgie
    Maria Sorgie
    Great information and so true!
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    1. Jeanne Grunert
      Jeanne Grunert
      Thanks for leaving a comment!
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  2. PonyGirl
    PonyGirl
    Voted! What a wonderful and timely article. I've worked on the racetrack for years, and one of the problems of our industry is finding "after-homes" for the race horses. While thoroughbreds are a little higher strung as a breed than most other breeds, they are very intelligent and most of them mellow with age quite well. Some blood lines are a little more prone to be flighty than others, so if you need a really quiet horse, you could ask around in your area and get some idea of the horse's likely temperament. One thing I would add; thoroughbreds in the U.S. are asked to go in the left lead around the turns, and the right lead on the straight-away. It is a necessary skill for the gallop boy or girl, to ask for and to get these lead changes. So the horses should make at least 4 lead changes every time they're galloped. Most of the thoroughbreds that don't like to be brushed are just very thin-skinned and changing to a softer brush and using light pressure usually takes care of the problem. Thanks for a great article! I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.
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    1. Jeanne Grunert
      Jeanne Grunert
      Thanks so much for your comments. I really appreciate the clarification (from someone who has worked at the track) on the issue of leads and grooming. I did notice the "thin-skinned" issues on TBs but I've also encountered it on Arabs, so I just assumed it was breed-specific and not "race horse" specific, which I think it was what you are saying. Again, thanks for the comments and I appreciate them!
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  3. lady slew
    I'm so glad to know people will be reading this myth buster, these are awesome horses ,I and my daughter just adopted two ,I started working with these awesome horses in 1976 and I have never strayed far of all the different breeds I have worked with the throughbred has always been my horse of choice ,I worked track horses as well as the hunter jumpers that we purchased from the track ,as well as the breeding end of this amazing breed ,any horse can be hard to deal with but as all horsemen know you get out what you put in ,the right start is everything :-) .Thanks for the great article.
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    1. Jeanne Grunert
      Jeanne Grunert
      Thanks! They are absolutely wonderful horses for many disciplines.
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  4. danielbell
    Nice post Jeanne..I think these myths like some fault in horses always occur as we people always think that their might have some fault in these horses same like when we think of buying some second hand things.For Horse Racing,the most crucial thing is it's racing speed,which makes lot of impact on handicapping. Check out http://www.turfrace.net for more ideas ..
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