So you’re looking to adopt an ex-racehorse?
Many thoroughbreds race only for a few years and then are eventually retired from their job at the track. There are several reasons for this, though most include unsoundness, lack of running ability, or intended use for breeding. That being said, sound racehorses can be retrained to be wonderful competition or riding horses. Unfortunately, there are so many thoroughbred colts and fillies born each year, and only a handful of people willing to take them and retrain them after their racing careers are over. On the bright side, though, there are countless numbers of success stories out there, and OTTBs usually end up being quiet, athletic, and dependable mounts.
There are many options when purchasing an ex-racehorse. Thoroughbreds can be for sale by trainer, by private owners or horse farms, or adopted from an organization or agency. Some reliable OTTB adoption agencies include ReRun, Inc, (rerun.org), New Vocations (horseadoption.com) and CANTER (canterusa.org). These nonprofit organizations will gladly discuss your abilities to help you determine if adopting an OTTB is right for you, and can even help you find the right equine depending on your situation and experience level. It’s best to have a knowledgeable friend, horsemen, or trainer tag along with you if you feel you’ll need a second opinion in your decision-making process.
The second option, which requires a little know-how, is purchasing a retired racehorse from the track directly from a trainer. Prices can be as low as a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. Some trainers with horses for sale may contact dealers and buyers they have previous sale experience with to get their racehorse’s name out. Many people find the right horse purchasing directly from a trainer, but many are accomplished horse people who have extensive experience retraining thoroughbreds, and have the knowledge behind them to identify a decent riding prospect without sitting on their back.
Seriously consider your abilities in evaluating a horse’s potential before taking a trip to the track. You will not be able to ride the horse before purchasing, as it will have little to no traditional under saddle training, but a trainer may be willing to jog or gallop the horse out for you. You should certainly ask questions, and be aware of any anti-inflammatory drugs which can mask and hide unsoundness or pain. Most trainers will allow a physical exam to be performed. Do a thorough leg evaluation; keep a look out for any swelling, heat, lumps, or bumps. Ask about workouts, steroids, joint injections, previous injuries, and temperament. Racetrack-life can stressful for a horse, so these factors all need to be considered before purchasing.
If you feel going to a track to make a purchase is overwhelming, it may be best to take a trainer or another experienced horse person with you. Even if you have the know-how, it’s always valuable and reassuring to have a second back-up opinion.
Beyond the Track. Anna Morgan Ford. Print.