Lauren Nethery is back with part 2 of her series, which endeavors to explain why some off-track thoroughbreds act the way they do.
“Why Does My OTTB (insert weird quirk here)?” Volume II
Have you ever been unceremoniously dumped on your behind in the warm-up when your OTTB detected a cantering presence in his general vicinity? Does your OTTB pout like a toddler in timeout when you are gone from the barn for just a few short days? These woes are common place in the world of the OTTB and I am here to do my best to answer all of the questions about these endearing, hardworking creatures that you have always been too embarrassed, afraid, or freaked out to ask. Enjoy!
Why does Charger bolt in warm up if he can even so much as hear another horse breathing? (Question compliments of EN reader Maggie Miller)
With age I find that OTTB’s begin to relax in the company of other horses but after the first few years of their lives as racehorses, it is hard to shake the mentality of go-go-go when they are in company of any sort. I try to warm up in an isolated area for all dressage tests. Be it a back field on the show grounds or an unused dressage arena or even a paddock, I try to stay out of everyone’s way as much as possible. I have found that, if possible, riding in company at home in their normal environment can help expedite the process of acclimating to working in the company of other horses quietly and in a relaxed fashion. This may even mean having people trailer in to your farm if you horses are at home just for some extra company.
Why does Snuggle Bunny cling to me at every possible opportunity and pout for days if I leave for even a weekend? (Question compliments of EN reader Celeste Coulter)
At the track, TB’s often don’t have their “own people.” Their grooms, riders, trainers, farriers, vets, and owners are usually in constant state of flux and because of this, I think that OTTB’s really latch on to the first person that becomes a day in/day out presence in their adult lives. When my now-11-year-old OTTB was just off of the track, his separation anxiety was so bad that he slithered beneath a divider on a four horse slant and jumped out of the trailer over the butt bar to satisfy his urgent need to be ringside near me. They say that kids say the darndest things. It’s a good thing horses can’t talk sometimes because I am certain that they would give those kids an expletive-filled run for their money.
Why does Courtney scream (not whinny) when she gets stressed?
Racetrack barns are kind of like kindergarten classes, full of a whole bunch of youngsters all clamoring to be heard. There is a constant melody of whinnies, nickers, snorts, and bellows. Some horses really learn to project in order to be heard.
Why does Sweetpea prefer to straight tie (or to ground tie) but dances around like a child on a sugar high in cross ties?
Cross ties are impractical on race tracks because horses are constantly cooling out in the shed row or walking around with their riders up before going to the track. All racehorses are tied to the wall on a short tether and groomed, tacked, and bandaged this way. It is the first thing most yearlings learn to do.
Why does my Loony Tune load great but can’t stay still once on the trailer?
Racehorses are not typically shipped on normal trailers. They are either hauled in large box stalls or commercially head to head on tractor trailers, almost always with company. While they know how to stand, they usually aren’t fond of doing so if alone. Just food for thought on this one. Might be a more horse-specific thing. This also accounts for the fear that many OTTB’s experience when learning to load into dark, narrow, confined “bear caves” also known as slant and straight load trailers.
I do hope that some of my answers to the questions above have demystified at least one of your OTTB’s strange quirks and I encourage you to send any further, horse-specific questions to me via email ( LMNRacing@gmail.com) for more in-depth and on-point answers. Stay tuned for the next installment of “Why Does My OTTB (insert weird quirk here)?” which will feature such enthralling epics as “Why does Moe always drink like he’s…well, drunk?” and “Why does Princess treat my 5 year old like fine china and my 15 year old like a cougar on her back?”. Go Eventing and go gallop a (former) racehorse!