The off-the-track Thoroughbred is finally starting to be recognized for its versatility and talents rather than its stereotype. Contributing writer Eileen Cody describes five shades of OTTB you may recognize.
Few things have made me happier in the past few years than to see the stigma of “crazy ex-racehorse” start to dissipate as off-the-track Thoroughbreds continue to pop up and excel in more and more disciplines, from eventing to barrel racing to the hunter ring. Because as any Thoroughbred lover will tell you, these quick-footed and quick-thinking animals come in all shapes, sizes, ability levels… and personality types. From the hot-head to the dead horse walking and everywhere in between, each one has something incredibly special to offer, quirks and all. How many of these types have you encountered?
So excited to get the job done that sometimes she just can’t contain herself. “What a great day to work! All right, we made it to the arena, what’s next? That oxer looks awesome, can we do that? Okay, I guess we’ll get to it later. Hey, why are we still walking when everyone else gets to run? Have you noticed that everyone else is running? That means it’s probably not walking time anymore. No?… how about now? Not to be rude or anything, but I don’t know if you’re aware, everyone else is RUNNING. No, I know you call it ‘cantering.’ I call that ‘less fun running.’ Oh, okay, FINE, we can just trot for now. I’m nothing if not a great compromiser. But I’d better get to give that oxer a try.”
You’ve met this one if you’ve ever had a conversation that went a little like this… “Oh my god, are you sure you were a racehorse? Did passing butterflies make it over the finish line before you did?” “Listen, lady, the job will get done. All in due time, I always say. All… in… due……… time. Whew. There we go. The shouty trainer lady said she wanted a seven in that five-stride line, right? Oh, she was talking to the pony kids? Well, what can I say, I guess I’m just too good a listener.”
She wants to be good, but the world won’t let her — there are just so many birds, and pine cones, and light gusts of wind, and particularly aggressive-looking dandelion patches! It’s impossible to stay mad at her when she’s always so apologetic every time you end up on the ground with your brand-new breeches covered in mud, but come on, can you blame her? That squirrel could have been rabid. You probably didn’t notice the horse blood dripping from its ten-inch fangs, but you can bet she did.
Brawn to spare, but pretty light on the brains. You know, the one whose voice in your head sounds exactly like the quarterback from your old high school football team? But every eye is on him from the moment he enters the warm-up, and just look at the scope on that thing. He might not be the quickest on the uptake, and new concepts have to be introduced veeeery sloooowly so as not to overload his sweet little head, but when you’re that gorgeous and talented, you can pay other people to do the thinking for you.
The Gentle Giant
This guy is worth his weight in solid gold. Sure, he might have only come off the track six months ago, but he’s more easygoing than your most seasoned schoolmaster. His answer to every question is a resounding yes: freak thunderstorm in the middle of a trail ride through unfamiliar woods? “All day, son.” Tractor backfiring next to the the arena? “Just call me a cucumber, because I’m that cool.” Birthday party full of screaming toddlers running directly at and flapping their arms like they’re about to take flight? “Oh, hello there, smaller human friends. Let me just get my nose down to your level for some petting.” Now, if only he’d just stay sound… and where’d that front shoe get off to? No, the right one. He lost the left one yesterday.
Go OTTBs, and go riding!
Eileen’s love of reading goes back almost as long as her love of all things equine, and while her literary interests are about as varied as her equestrian ones, horse books naturally dominate her shelves. Find her a horse book she won’t read or a discipline she won’t try, and she probably owes you a drink or something.