Post Traumatic Racetrack Disorder
Written by: Susan Wagner
An Oregon case worker found two-year old twin boys inside a crib with a piece of plywood covering it. The smell resembled a cattle auction.
Their mother, an addict, was doing her best to hold it together but just couldn’t manage them. In her mind the crib was her best option.
They had been this way for two years. Occasionally they were let out and had rudimentary crawling skills. Their list of PTSD triggers was unending.
When my dear friend of Japanese heritage and her husband fostered these boys, they had no idea of the mind trip coming. Foster care training does not prepare one for a situation like this.
Exhausted, they were ready to give up and put the boys back in the system.
I tell you this story because some racehorses have a similar path and it’s not their fault.
Many factors at the track, and even after can blow a thoroughbred’s brain and body. Some can recover, like these twin boys ended up doing. But the PTRD is cemented and it takes intuition, patience and a whole lotta’ love to help these horses find a new life.
I have been a sucker for these OTTB’s. My father spent his life on the racetrack and I have tried to help as many as I can.
So what do you do when you are struggling with physical and behavioral problems with your OTTB?
These are my top three suggestions:
#1 Minimize Pain
#2 Find a routine
#3 Take your time
Minimize Pain because who likes to get out there and work when it hurts? Or do fun stuff when it hurts. I’m a migraine sufferer and I cannot function on those days no matter how much fun stuff is tempting me.
Check Teeth, Check for Ulcers and Check Saddle Fit. These are the top three pain points for OTTBs in my experience.
Find a routine because just like people, ex-racehorses find security in the predictable pattern of life. This does not necessarily mean a pattern of daily riding. This means a pattern of food, space to roam in a low stress environment, and other horses nearby.
Take your time because damaged ex-racehorses have a lot of baggage. Many times related to pain and frustration. It takes time to build some sort of trust. Horses do not need to be ridden and I find the really tough ones need at least three months on the ground. Quality time together, no expectations, simple ground work and manners for safety.
My friends ended up officially adopting these twin boys. They are seven now. Other than some slight learning difficulties and PTSD triggers, you would never know they spent the first two years of their life in a dark crib riddled with their own feces. They have overcome enough to find a steady life. When they have setbacks, my friends have learned to remind themselves of why they are like this and be patient.
Having this same patience with your OTTB during the difficult times will pay off. You will find your way forward and it will be rewarding! Plus these big horses have an ocean full of love to give in return.
Susan Wagner is a wife, mother and OTTB lover.
She and her husband are semi-retired and reside near the beach in Todos Santos, Baja Mexico with their two ex-racehorses Razz and Silver.
You can find practical OTTB tips, encouragement and wisdom by following them on Instagram @razz.the.ex.racehorse