View Full Version : Need advice for OTTB

30-05-07, 06:25 AM
Hi Everyone,

About 6 weeks ago I purchased an OTTB gelding who had been completely turned out and untouched for 12 months prior. He has absolutely no fizz in him at all and has a wonderful temperament and so far no behavioural problems whatsoever. He is completely green and uneducated of course so I've started on some of the basics. A bit of flatwork - circles, figure of 8's and some trail riding just to get a feel for him and some extra non-racing miles on.

However, that all being said, I haven't done any serious riding for years and every horse I've owned previously has been somewhat educated. So I guess my main question is what are some more specific exercises I should be doing with him. He does well at a walk and holds his head nicely but its a completely different story at a trot. Although his trot has calmed down beautifully his head carriage is still terrible.

His canter is another story. There is no collection and no lope. He is so messy and I am exhasted after just a few rounds, either trying to get him to stay at a canter or trying to ease him back to rocking horse status! Any pressure on the reins to ease him up (even with leg pressure applied and a crop tap) and he drops straight back to a trot. Of course not complaining about the soft mouth but how can I achieve the type of canter I want - not to mention the head carriage (without ruining his mouth)! I'm obviously doing it all wrong so any advice any of you have would be great. I know there are people out there that have so much more experience in this area than me.

Thanks in advance!!


30-05-07, 06:58 AM
Hi Vanessa,

Congratulations on getting one of the good ones off the track :)

Trouble with these horses is they have never had to work like a normal riding horse - they are unbalanced in small areas and generally have no idea about what correct head carriage is!! It takes time.....and proper education.

My only suggestion is to get an instructor out to give you a few lessons - this is assuming you are unwilling or unable to get the horse trained by someone else, which of course would be the ideal situation...

Sometimes having someone on the ground pointing things out to you is much better than trying to fix these things on your own...sometimes it is the little things they point out that you may not even notice

Suzie Q
30-05-07, 06:59 AM
He sounds like a lovely horse.

He will not physically be able to canter slow.

Being a racehorse he has been taught to cover as much ground as possible, not to collect as they do with a 'slow' canter.

He doesn't have the strength for it yet.

To start with you ask for him to go on one track. Teach him a circle and a straight line.

Hang on and I will copy the German Scale for you.

1. Rythm
2. Looseness
3. Contact and acceptance of the bit
4. Impulsion
5. Straightness
6. Collection

So as you can see asking him to collect in canter (slow canter) is last on the list.

30-05-07, 08:43 AM
I purchased a 3 yo OTT and spent the first 12 months doing only trot work and walk on a long rein so horse could work out their own balance and build up muscle. This combined with regular lungeing, and free work did wonders for her developing her own ability to control her pace without leaning on or fighting me. 1 year later we have progressed to some basic canter work, again on a loose rein with her learning to balance herself and develop natural carriage. Getting them to work on a long rein with virtually no contact other than through your seat requires you to be fairly confident and a well balanced rider as at first their natural instinct and exuberance is to go fast as soon as you ask for an upward transition but as soon as they realise there isn't for them to pull against they soon relax and settle the pace down. If your horse does start gathering speed on a loose rein do a one rein small circle to slow the pace down and then allow them to continue forward on a loose rein. I firmly believe an OTT needs time to learn balance and self carriage themselves whilst being ridden.

30-05-07, 09:44 AM
i'm glad someone brought this up. i recently purchased a tb mare interstate and was told she was for nervous beginner (not that i'm either so it doesn't matter) and that she'd had basic dressage training like shoulder in and traverse etc.
yeah right, and i'm the queen of england!!!!!
she fortunately has a friendly temperament and is fair to work with (though head strong and pushy) but it will take a lot of time. i haven't even ridden her yet and it's been a few weeks. i might hop on in a couple weeks. i'm concentrating on lunging and just walking around with her, grooming her, putting a saddle on and off. getting her used to things. then when i first ride her it will be a walk only. i will progress as i feel her readyness to.

30-05-07, 10:48 AM
I just got a TB gelding who finished racing in November 2005 and prior to my getting him has basically been ridden by kids with no great experience. On one hand it proves he's quiet, but he has no training. He has a weak sacroiliac, I'm so spelling that wrong :P, nerve in his back so I've done a lot of lunging with him and taking him for walks on the roads - yes as in my walking on the ground not riding :D
I'll start riding him in a couple weeks and it will mainly be just a lot of circles and figure 8's, etc, getting him bending and flexing. Without those items established there is no point in expecting to be able to produce a great trot or canter straight up and there is certainly no point in jump training him (I bought him to event). I've used this principal on my young horses/horses that have been out of work and it's worked everytime. I do, however, work in conjunction with an instructor who can point out the subtle things in each horse and suggest a slightly different tact that will get faster results.

Good luck :)

Our ability to dream is what sets us apart ~ Our ability to achieve those dreams is what makes each of us extraordinary :)

31-05-07, 05:45 AM
Hi Austin,

I'm agreeing with everything the others have said here.

Just wanted to let you know, 5 years ago now I purchased a TB mare, rising 7yrs at the time and was lead to believe she'd had a lot more education that what she did.

We spent the first 12mnths or so just in walk and trot....what I'm trying to say is that it takes time. Now, just on 5yrs down the track I have a nice riding horse and I'm now just starting to get out and compete at Level4 ARC or prelim efa.

Good luck to you.


31-05-07, 06:37 AM
Canter work with an ottb needs to have plenty of room - no 20m circles, as they do not have the balance or type of strength. Out in the paddock, big cirlces, oblongs whatever and just concentrate on going forward first, frame and stuff later

Lisa an Gypsie
31-05-07, 07:05 AM
Ok, first thing you need to do when you get an OTTB is forget about arena size exercises.

When I first got my latest OTTB he couldn't trot a 20m circle let alone canter one....

You need to do lots and lots of biiiiiiiiig trot circles and forget about canter for at least a few months. For now it's all about teachign the horse better balance and how to carry itself with a different rider position etc.

Try and encourage the horse to relax in the trot and streach it's head down long and low, they need all the encouragement you can give them to get them to relax. When stressed etc OTTB's will rush foward to avoid the situation, you must be confident enough to bring them back, reasure them and try again.

Always take small baby steps and DONT over do the learning session, I have found that OTTB's cope best with one or two new things learned per session, no more as they often can't cope with more (this is obviously a generalisation).

Be VERY obvious with your praise, if a horse gives even a fraction reward it instantly by releasing the pressure. You must be instantanious with the reward or they can become frustrated and switch off.

If you find they are switching off to you immediately switch to doing something easy that they know how to do, never pick a fight with an adrenalised TB as you will never out last their stamina once they get worked up...it just takes time. One trick I use with my fella is to bore him to death if he begins to get over excited, if we are jumping and he becomes too strong and starts to become over excited then we return to a very small cross rail and just cirlcle over is until he settles, it used to take about 45 minutes for him to settle down, now it takes aout 2 minutes if that, as soon as I start circling that cross rail he relaxes.

It will also take time for them to "accept" and trust you, once you get their trust you must never let them down by putting them in a situation where they become frightened and scared, it takes a long long time to build up their trust and they would probably never forget. Unfortunately they are not particularly forgiving if they become very frightened and they remember that for the rest of their lives. I have had my fella for 3 years now and he is still whip shy from racing.

Ok sorry about the essay :) if you have any questions feel free to PM me, I have been there many times and am just starting the process with the new horse :)



31-05-07, 07:53 AM
I agree with taking your time, and you're doing the right thing by going out on the trails. If you do want to canter early on, don't be afraid to get off his back if you need to. It might only be for the first few strides into canter until he balances himself, but with the OTTBs, it can really help them (and it's what they know).

I don't particularly like taking OTTBs straight into the arena as it is (usually) totally new, and putting a TB under pressure (asking it to work in a new manner) in an environment where it still doesn't know what is expected of it can actually slow progress down or cause problems.

The TB brain works best when the horse knows what is expected of it. So work with something that the horse knows, which with OTTBs, is walking to and from the track, and steady trot/canter work in straight lines. We can replicate that by walking down the road on a LOOSE rein and trotting/cantering in a steady and controlled manner. No pressure, and with the rider treating it as routine rather than something out of the ordinary. As a natural course - and as you get to know each other - the leg, seat and rein aids will come into play more and more and the horse will learn the correct responses to these.

Once there is FAMILIARITY, then the whole thing can be brought to the arena and some basics introduced. This way, the only new thing is the venue...as opposed to new venue, new work and new expectations. There have been occasions when I have had no option but to work an OTTB in an arena first up and in these cases, I go in with the mentality that the arena is simply a smaller racetrack. That does NOT mean I go around fast...just that I ride in a manner that I would if I were riding the horse on a track.

There is a misconception out there that racehorses are taught to run fast during trackwork. This is not the case. They are taught to go STEADY at whatever pace is being asked of them - trot, canter or gallop. In many cases, "rushing" by an OTTB (particularly in the canter) is purely due to the horses lack of balance and muscle, not because it is trying to run off.

It will all come together after time, and some horses quicker than others. Just remember the importance of the loose rein walk, and that your inside leg is your best friend.


31-05-07, 08:46 AM
Yes i understand your problem totally, I have one off the track too!! I don't do any head carriage stuff for a while. I concentrate on getting flexion( not vertical flexion) and suppleness from the 'whole' body. I make sure I have control over sholder, rib cage and hindquaters as to do anything with horses you need this control. I also only one ren stop them whenever coming down from a canter or trot, as this does not wear you out, only them, and it also helps with flexion, as long as you do this correctly. Further, they also assist with the horse listening to you and becoming more resposive, as you go say from canter 1/2 circle to one rein stop to canter straigt away on other rein and then one rein stop and so on. The one rein stop is one of the most effective excercise you can teach your horse as it is a calming exercise, so even if your horse is calm, there will be times when they are set off by something and by one rein stopping them a few times, they calm down relatively quickly ( I understand that not all are the same!). I also do alot of side stepping out of circles and getting the horse used to moving their hindquaters in and off the track. Also do work with bring hindquaters under them, withour vertical flexion. They will increase the rythm, but they need to find out 'how' to work those hindlegs, and that yes they do actually work!! As you must understand that when teaching 'vertical' flextion, you are not really teaching the head to be lowered, however it appears to be the only noticible difference ( however when looking closer it is not), you are actually teaching the horse to step through with their hindlegs. I am happy to send you a few exercise if you like, but I think I have written enough here, so let me know as they do take alot of time writting! And yes time is a major issue..... Don't rush things and remember each horse learns at different rates, so what one horse picks up on another may be quicker or take much longer and require alot more work! But good luck, trust me you learn so much along the way, in some ways more than the horse! Best of luck! Katie