Back in November I wrote a post about an inspirational trainer at Suffolk Downs, Lorita Lindemann, known as the Angel of Suffolk Downs. One of the things that struck me was how hard Ms. Lindemann had to campaign with her fellow trainers to encourage them to rehome their horses.
As buyers, let’s not discourage these trainers from working with us, the general public. They may decide it’s easier not to try. In fact some trainers will only sell to dealers; others, sadly ship straight to slaughter.
On the CANTER New England Website there is an excellent page that talks about what NOT to do when you want to buy from a trainer at the track. I’m going paraphrase here, but it’s worth reading in its entirety:
- Don’t call and make an appointment and then not show up. Anyone who has sold a horse has probably had this happen at least once and it’s incredibly annoying to have someone waste your time like that.
- Don’t try to tell trainers what their horse is worth or ask them to give you a horse for free. The horses on the CANTER site are being sold because the trainer needs the stall or doesn’t want to feed a non-competitive horse. But that doesn’t mean it’s a giveaway.
- Don’t ask trainers to ship the horse for free. Or ask if you can trade another horse, tack, hay or anything else for the horse. They don’t need stuff, they need cash for the horse.
- If you buy a horse, offer to pay the trainer a day rate to feed and care for the horse until you can have it shipped.
- Don’t ask if you can make payments or take the horse on trial. Be prepared to pay the full purchase price in cash, via wire transfer or with a cashier’s check.
- If you make an offer, be reasonable. Don’t offer $500 for a horse listed at $2500. Even at the killer market TBs are bringing $650.
- And finally, don’t assume that because you buy a retiring racehorse that it’s a “rescue”. Most of these horses have been well cared for and loved by their trainers. The effort to find them a new home is another example of how these trainers are committed to finding their horses new jobs.
If an OTTB does capture your heart. Please do a pre-purchase exam before you finalize the sale. Vets are available at the track or you can bring a vet or an experienced friend or colleague with you to examine the horse. Getting an informed opinion up front can save a lot of heartbreak and hard feelings.
Race horses experience wear and tear that is different from horses of the same age in less strenuous disciplines. Many are sound, others have injuries that may or may not impact their long term use. Often horses coming off the track are body sore and do best if they are turned out to “let down” for several weeks or even months. Know what you’re getting into before you hand over the cash!
Oh yes, and you should know that many OTTBs exhibit some behaviors that don’t always fit into commercial boarding facilities such as cribbing or weaving. Much cribbing behavior can be controlled with a cribbing strap, but if you strongly object to owning a horse that cribs, make sure you are certain that the one you bring home does not! My OTTB cribs AND weaves. He does very well in a barn where he can live out 24/7 but probably wouldn’t thrive in an environment where he was confined to a stall.