I have a question and I wonder if some Thoroughbred people can help me out. I have some experience with Thoroughbreds. When I was a spry young 20 something I worked at the North Dakota horse park a couple seasons up as a patrol judge. I videotaped the races up in my lonesome tower on the back stretch making sure there weren’t any naughty behavior from the jockeys. I did spend quite some time in the barns, and around the horses. I also spent part one season working hands on with the horses as a groom for a trainer. Seriously, not as glamorous as I envisioned. I mucked stalls, hot walked horses, fed, bathed and did a little grooming. The horses dragged me around the barn, stomped on me, pushed me, bit me, slobbered on me, and all kinds of wonderful things. The horses were all strung out and in race mode. They were what I thought “typical thoroughbreds” should act like.
At my last barn were two thoroughbreds that never made it into race training. One of them a little gelding that was never registered but had ended up at the “Second Chance Ranch” and then picked out and delivered to the barn owner as a project horse, and a younger mare that was never raced trained that my friend picked out when I went and got Piney. Those two seemed to display “typical thoroughbred” traits. They were high strung, super prancy on the way to turn out, and were a bit skittish. Once they got into training and had consistent work they turned out to be fantastic mounts. The little gelding was fun to ride. But they were still a bit spooky sometimes. I remember being in the arena on Piney, and my friend was on the TB mare, when one of the cats knocked a box of show ribbons off of a ledge, it made a big commotion. The mare about leaped out of her skin, almost dumping her rider and then stood there for 5 minutes breathing fire out of her nostrils. Piney didn’t move a muscle, he just let out a big sigh and then looked over to see what the mare’s problem was.
That was usually how Pinecone handled scary situations. (EXCEPT the trailer) If it was new and scary, he would check it out, then get over it. I rarely if ever found anything that would make him jump out of his skin. One time he was being a smart ass and started walking away before I was fully mounted, he got his foot caught in the step stool, it scared the crap out of him, he cantered for about 5 strides then stopped and that was the last time he ever did anything like that. I watched the riders with the two younger tbs and I always noticed that they weren’t’ so lucky. I saw bolts, and freak outs, and rearing, and bucking.
I guess what my question is are older Thoroughbreds, who have spent a lot of time at the track a bit more desensitized to scary situations? Are they a bit calmer and easier to handle? Piney only had 25 starts, and then 2 years off to spend in a 4,000 acre pasture. His breeders loved him and took wonderful care of him so I know that they had a factor in his personality. But I am terrified to get another OTTB because this time I am doing it without my riding instructor holding my hand. It turns out I wouldn’t have needed anyone really helping with Piney though. Some of the things I loved about Piney was that I could bathe him, and wrap his legs, and give him wormer, and his shots and he stood like a champ. He wasn’t spooky, and most things that would send a horse flying across the pasture, usually caused him to look up briefly, and then go back to grazing. A lot of commotion in the arena never did anything to him and even though he didn’t have much of a competitive streak, it completely fizzled away when he retired.
Basically what I am scared of is that I lucked out with Piney. He was easy, everything about him was easy (EXCEPT trailering). I’m so scared that if I get a TB, they are going to be a bit more like the younger TB’s I’ve worked with. Am I silly for wanting an older TB, that has spent a lot more time at the track? Probably. My thinking probably doesn’t make any sense and that it is just the luck of the draw. When my friend and I were looking at the TB’s that the Second Chance Ranch. She was looking for conformation in her horse. But her horse was not wanting to be caught and it took two people to chase her down and get her cornered in a smaller pen so that they could halter her. Piney came up to me, and was very loving right away. Even the mare I almost brought home instead of Piney, was very sweet and very interested in being with me. She had had a very, very successful career all over the country.
I guess I am just looking for some more firsthand accounts from Thoroughbred people. Any advice people have on TB’s is greatly appreciated. I am not as crazy as I sound in this post…I promise…even if any of it made ANY sense at all…