One of my frustrations is the stereotype that Thoroughbreds, and particularly OTTBs, are hard keepers.
At one point in my life I rehabilitated and resold horses off the track. I still do it when a connection has a horse they think would suit my market, but it’s no longer my day job. But I have a tremendous amount of experience feeding OTTB’s.
Feeding OTTB’s processed feeds creates a vicious cycle. Not only are they prone to being reactive to soy, flax, corn and wheat, they DO metabolize feedstuffs into energy easily. Perhaps energy you aren’t interested in dealing with during the retraining process or perhaps never, depending on your riding goals. Sadly it’s been accepted that Thoroughbred and particularly horses off the track are spooky, nutty and reactive.
There is a definite adjustment period necessary for some of them to wind down from a busy lifestyle and some of them truly are hardwired for high energy, I won’t deny that. But the majority of them are not, and I have found that many eventually have ZERO interest in galloping again, sometimes even cantering is a stretch! And quiet – wow. These horses have seen everything from a young age. If they make it out sound, no amount of riding through pool noodles and “desensitization” clinics can equal what they’ve seen, done and been expected to handle.
In short, the reason OTTB’s are challenging is usually because of what they are fed, how much turnout they receive and the experience of their handlers and riders. I’ll save that last sentence for another post but I will add that what most OTTB’s want is what they had – a firm expectation of good manners and professionalism. Horses on the track are not abused; but bad manners are not tolerated. Horses can be and are ruled off the track for bad behavior.
So if you have an OTTB and he’s hot, ulcer-prone, difficult to train and keep weight on – you should start with revamping his feed program to one that is forage and nutrition based first, calories being focused on last. The usual recommendations to put weight on an OTTB focus on calories fed through processed feeds and this backfires – so much that there is a fortune being made in selling supplements with names like “Cool Calories”. The amounts required to be fed to meet all the nutritional needs of any horse in a processed feed are designed for you to feed A LOT OF FEED – so you buy more feed. Horses stomachs cannot process more than 5 lbs of feed at a time – and this is pushing it – so it’s a recipe for ulcers and malnutrition, not weight gain and a quiet minded horse.
I hope if you are struggling with an OTTB you’ll contact me. I love the American Thoroughbred and would like to help you enjoy yours. I can be reached at TheWholeHorseNC@gmail.com
Ownership credit of above gorgeous, fat OTTB goes to Amy Bissinger.