New horse on the block
Published 12-14-2012 1:40 PM | Fernanda Camargo
It is not uncommon these days for horse people to take in a new "project horse", finish training it and then reselling it for a higher price. This "horse flipping" (compared to contractors flipping a house) has become very frequent with Off The Track Thoroughbreds (OTTB) that were not very successful race horses. Although it is a good trend for the industry to "rehabilitate" or "retrain" or "find a second career" for these horses, one must pursue it safely!
Before getting on any new horse (whether an OTTB, or any other breed), or purchasing a horse, you need to ask some questions to the current owner so you don't put yourself in jeopardy.
Typically, a horse that is being sold for very cheap or given away has not been an Olympic winner, and therefore may have some behavioral or training issues. Beware of those. It may also just be that the horse was not a good racer and the current owner needs to get him going to a new home and off his feed list. That's why it is important that you ask the right questions! And hope for honest answers...
Some questions to ask are:
1. Why are you selling (giving away) this horse?: Here is where you will try to learn if the horse has behavioral/training issues, or if they can't afford to keep him sound, or if he simply was not suitable for their needs.
2. Has this horse been ridden before? How much was he ridden (30 days, 60 days?)? When was the last time he was ridden? What kind of tack is he used to (western, english?): You need to know if this horse was saddled and someone rode him at a walk for 10 minutes once, or if there was some consistent riding/training done prior to your getting on him.
3. Are there any quirks I need to know about before mounting this horse? Has he ever reared, bucked or bolted?: The eventual playful buck may not be a behavioral flaw and some people can live with it, especially if they know it's coming... but a horse that bucks or rears as a form of protest to everything you ask of him, may not be the horse you want to take home with you.
4. Has this horse being mostly ridden in an arena or out on trails? Does he play well with others? Does he get turned out often?: I used to board in a barn where they couldn't turn out this one show horse because he would break himself down by running and crashing onto fences. To me, this is a training flaw, in that this horse has spent all his life locked in a stall to the point that he doesn't know how to behave outside.
5. Does this horse have any medical issues, or is on any medication?: A horse that has had a neurological disease (West Nile Virus, EPM, etc), while he may have survived and responded well to treatment, he may have sequela from the disease and continue to have neurological deficits, which may make him not suitable to perform certain tasks, such as jumping or high level dressage.
Ask as many questions as you can so you don't get stuck with a horse that may be a problem or simply not suitable for your needs. And before you get on any horse it is important to know if this horse is "bombproof" or just "green broke".
Don't forget to wear your helmet and be safe!!