EN Today: The most dangerous game – thoroughbred edition

Fresh off an OTTB shopping spree, Lauren Nethery shares some tips for locating and purchasing the CANTER cutie of your dreams.

From Lauren:

Happy President’s Day, Eventing Nation!  If you have the day off of work, it’s probably Tuesday now before you’ve gotten back to the office and are reading this post while ignoring the ‘In Box’ stacked full of papers…OK, so I don’t work in an office and I don’t know if they really have those boxes in offices.  For your sake, I hope not!  This week I bring you a tale of mystery, wonder, and OTTB shopping success!  These sort of shopping trips are never just plain Jane, vanilla, come/see/conquer type endeavors so, without further ado, I bring you (in my best TV announcer voice):


Okay, so by “game” I mean shopping spree.  My phone rang early one morning in late January and on the other end, Alison Wilaby, one of EN’s biggest fans and most dedicated supporters in more ways than I am allowed to mention, had finally gotten up the nerve to buy a new horse.  Having recently sold her longtime Two-Star partner to a Dressage home and graduated college, the time was right to welcome a new family member.  I hear this story a lot, folks.  Doesn’t sound like you?  Are you living in an 800 square foot roach trap near campus or recently divorced or going through a mid-life crisis?  There is never a bad time to buy an OTTB!  As long as you can still afford to feed, clothe, and house both you and your steed, cruise those CANTER sites and call people like me!  I digress, though.  CANTER Kentucky had just listed a dozen new horses and Ali and planned a pony perusing rendezvous pronto.  Of course, in the spirit of complicated horse trips, I need to at a ski resort in Indiana to get my feet wet learning to race around gates on skis at Mach 1 at 6:30 that evening.  Of course, the witching hour for horse sales is towards the end of or just after morning training hours at the racetrack.  What, oh what is a girl to do?  Ride shotgun from Lexington to Cincinnati in the morning with truck and trailer in tow, return to Lexington complete with pony shortly after lunch, feed horses, and drive to Indiana at warp speed during rush hour.  Piece of cake.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  So Ali and I, on our smartphones, scrutinized the CANTER KY listing zooming on and out on fetlocks and shoulders and tendons like crazed gamers with our thumbs and forefingers stuck in a holding pattern of baby bird mouth movements (try it, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about).  Then we had our short list.  At this point, EN readers, you may want to get out a pen and paper…or open the Notepad/Sticky Note App on your smartphone.  So far, the order of operations goes:

    • Identify reason to search for OTTB (any will do really)
    • Call up your closest friend with OTTB know how
    • Together, peruse every website known to man that lists OTTB’s
    • Plan a trip to the nearest racetrack/training center/breeding farm/all of the aforementioned
    • Make a short list of horses you want to see.

Are you all still with me?  Okay, now learn at least one non-English language, preferably Spanish.  More than a decade of early mornings trying to communicate going 35 miles an hour into a headwind with a jockey on a horse next to me that speaks only dirty English words has taught me all the Spanish I ever need to know (atrocious grammer/spelling/punctuation and all) or at least enough to broker horse sales with trainer of all shapes, sizes, and ethical outlooks.  Between Ali and I, we set up appointments to see six different horses and set out on a quest for the America’s Next T.I.P. Model (for those of you that have not yet stumbled upon this wonder, The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program is the key to fame, FORTUNE, and schwag for you newly minted OTTB).  Upon arriving at the track, we roamed from one dimly-lit, pooly-ventilated, orange-cone studded (to denote the vicious, teeth-snapping equines) shed row to the next.  We could easily have coined a new song entitled The Twelve Lames of Backside-Mas with all of the angular limb deformities we laid eyes upon.  Even beyond bows, fractures, firing scars, and curbs the most stunning atrocity that we beheld was the farrier work.  Holy mother of mile long toes, inside hoof walls INCHES higher than their outside compadres, and ten nails in EACH foot.  Some of these horses literally were walking miracles.  One such horse was for sale for 5 THOUSAND dollars, in fact.  Apparently, here in Kentucky, five G’s will buy you 5 years of corrective shoeing.  Who knew?  Somehow, we managed to survive the onslaught of desperate trainers with dilapidated horses, dodge the skeezy male trainers with less than noble intentions, and find a barn full of happy horses not trying to maul us with a good farrier, reasonable prices, and an understanding trainer willing to let us TAKE HORSES ON TRIAL!!!  Heaven on earth?  Yes siree, Bob!  In short order, Ali’s newest bestie, Atomic Speed (from the barn of trainer Burton Sipp), made his way back to Lexington for a test ride from yours truly and a thorough vetting from EN favorite Dr. Chris Newton.  Really, it can be that simple!  Ultimately though, this is a cautionary tale for one very important reason: the OTTB bug is HIGHLY contagious.  Just being around Ali and her affliction infected me and while we were doting on Atomic Speed (now affectionately known as Myles), his fantastic farrier (responsible for the most solid and well balanced feet I’ve seen on a racehorse in YEARS) stopped by and introduced me to several of his horses, a gorgeous 5 y/o with four white stockings and a blaze named Jacardi included.  The moral of the story: Ali and I are now deliriously smitten with our newest four-legged loves and you can be to!  To complete the bulleted checklist started above, make sure to do the following:

  • Learn some version of Spanish
  • Subscribe to T.I.P. emails
  • Hook up trailer and drive to nearest racetrack (maybe also buy padlock for back doors so that uninvited TB’s can’t be snuck on while you’re in the barn)
  • Wear enough clothes to hide even slightest feminine curve… a ski mask and ugly Carhartt beanie might help too
  • Study up on every lameness known to the Veterinary World
  • Drain your ‘special OTTB savings account’
  • Find a great partner-in-crime/enabler, trainer, and vet
  • Be ready for OTTB awesomeness.

Good luck, EN readers, and if you need ANY help or enabling when it comes to OTTB hunting, shopping, viewing, or purchasing, please do not hesitate to ask ([email protected]).  Go buy a former racehorse so you can GO EVENTING!



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