5 things to consider before buying an OTTB

horses on white wooden fence under blue sky

Buying an off the track Thoroughbred is an exciting and rewarding adventure, but there are some things you should take into consideration before you purchase an off the track thoroughbred.

Here are 5 things to think about before you buy:

  1. Get a PPE (Pre Purchase Examination)

For those who don’t know a pre purchase exam (PPE) is when a veterinarian does an evaluation of the horses overall health and soundness. You can get a basic PPE or a more extensive PPE based on what you are willing to pay for.

A basic PPE includes an overall physical exam which includes temperature, pulse, respiration, conformation, and testing the hoofs. The veterinarian will use a tool that puts pressure on different spots on the hoof to check for sensitivity.

The next level of a pre purchase exam includes a lameness evaluation which consists of flexion tests. Flexion tests are to examine the horses movement. The veterinarian will flex each joint in their legs, one at a time putting pressure on that joint for 60 seconds, proceeding to jog the horse in a straight line and evaluate for lameness.

The most in-depth PPE consists of the other two elements plus radiographs, bloodwork and sometimes ultrasounds based on the recommendations of your veterinarian. You can get as specific to radiographing every single joint in your horses body to check for abnormalities. An ultrasound can check for any tendon or ligament damage, and bloodwork, to drug test and get a better overall picture of health.

Deciding how far you want to take your pre purchase exam is up to you. It depends on and how much you want to spend, and what level/discipline you want to do with your horse. Someone that is looking for a trail horse may only want to do a basic PPE vs. someone who is looking for a Grand Prix prospect. But either way, I always recommend at least a basic pre purchase exam to make sure that the horse you are potentially buying does not have any major issues that you could be taking on. Make sure to always consult with your veterinarian on what you plan on doing with your OTTB so they can help determine if the horse is suitable for you. I know that there are people out there that have success stories and never did a PPE, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

2. Have a Trainer

Unless you are a professional trainer yourself, I highly recommend working with a trainer when you buy an off the track thoroughbred. Many OTTB’s have no other riding experience other than being a race horse, and transitioning them to a new career takes professional guidance. Make sure that when you are looking for a trainer you find one that is familiar with working with off the track thoroughbreds since they can be different to work with and train compared to other breeds. Having a trainer will also help with the next recommendation as well.

3. Ask Questions

Ask the current owner as many questions as possible to try and understand the horses background as much as you can. Before you take the horse home you want to make sure you are aware of any issues it has had in the past, and what it’s current daily routine is.

Make sure you ask basics like:

  • Why they are for sale?
  • How long have they owned them?
  • What is their overall demeanor?
  • Feeding amount and schedule?
  • Turn out routine?
  • Behavioral problems?
  • If they wear shoes/ have feet problems?
  • Medical issues?

Having a trainer that has experience with OTTB’s will help you with this process.

4. Buy from a reliable seller

Unfortunatley there are sellers out there that are not truthful, and sadly will try and mask lameness (another reason for a PPE), or lie to you about a horses past, which can make for a dangerous situation. Ask your trainer and other people in your circle if they know the person selling the horse and if said person has a good reputation. The horse world is small and the word gets out fast about people who are shady.

For a guaranteed reliable source check out well established and accredited rehoming programs. One example is New Vocations Race Horse Adoption Program, they evaluate each horse in their program, and will be fully transparent with you about the horses athletic ability and level of care.

5. Plan Financially

Remember that buying a horse means you are committed to caring for that horse even, during an unexpected illness or injury. Vet bills are not cheap, so make sure your factor that in, on top of the board, and the shoes, and the training fees, and the shipping costs, and horse shows.. you get the idea.

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