Buying off track thoroughbreds
Here’s a quick guide to the process of buying off-track thoroughbreds.
Be realistic about your ability and experience
- Do you have enough time, money, patience and experience to deal with the demands of a former racehorse? For instance, did you know most racehorses come off the track needing costly treatment for ulcers?
- An ex-racehorse isn’t a novice ride and shouldn’t be seen as a cheap way for children to move onto horses.
- Thoroughbreds are a sensitive breed For example, a cut that probably wouldn’t bother your stock horse may blow up on a thoroughbred, making them more expensive to own.
Understanding the former lifestyle of off-track thoroughbreds
- They may not be used to conventional riding techniques. A racehorse will be unfamiliar with long stirrups and a heavier saddle and is unlikely to understand seat and leg aids until they are retrained.
- Jockeys are often given a leg up while the horse is walking. So an off-track thoroughbred is unlikely to stand still for you while you mount from a block.
- Ex racehorses aren’t used to being exercised alone. They’ll associate riding out in company with their former life on the gallops.
- All-day turnout will be a new experience that should be introduced gradually.
- It’ll be used to being in a busy yard and might be overwhelmed by your individual attention.
Patience is the key
Most importantly, you must be willing to give your off-track thoroughbred plenty of time to adjust to its new lifestyle. Not every horse will readily adapt to new disciplines and most will always retain a racehorse mentality to some extent.
Where to look for an off the track thoroughbred
- Directly from its owner or trainer. You can buy one at the sales, or from a retrainer either by buying it or loaning it.
- Look up the horse’s record. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Look for gaps in the record that might indicate time off with an injury and how many times it raced. However, don’t count out a horse with a lengthy racing career. If it managed to stay sound for a long time, the chances are that it will continue to do so.
- Request to see it ridden and ride it yourself. Is it the type of horse you want? Will its conformation stand up to what you would like it to do? How does it behave in the stable and when being tacked up? Ask to ride it. It may not know much about flatwork, but is it willing to do what you ask. Does it move reasonably well?
- Find out about the horse’s temperament and personality. Ask about injuries and why it has retired from racing.
- Should you decide to buy it, make sure you get it vetted as you would with any horse.
- Don’t expect the horse to be given away, if it is, then you have to ask yourself why. If it’s likely to have a chance at succeeding in any kind of career, it’s worth a price, like any horse.
Reviewed and amended April 2021