I was recently reading a thread on the chronicle of the horse when someone posted a video of a horse recently off the track that moved very funky in behind. Most people said something was wrong with the horse but a few people said ottb’s tend to take a lot of time to become normal in the hind end after racing is over. I thought the horse looked like a typical racehorse who was letting down from the track but was going to be quite awesome with some time to remuscle and good old trot work to rebuild the hind end.
I have always said it takes a special person to look at an ottb and envision what it can and will become. Horses at the track don’t do a lot of work in the trot so their hind end muscles tend to support cantering and galloping. They aren’t taught to work over their backs or how to travel with the hind end underneath themselves. Often the shoeing leads a lot to be desired as well so their feet are out of balance.
You bring them home and they go through a phase where they lose all the muscle they had and then they just plain look yucky and the hind end really lacks muscle. They tend to be very weak in the stifles because of the way they were ridden and muscled and when you start to build the new muscle they can get very sore and you often find the compensation from the muscle soreness makes the rest of the body a bit out of whack.
Houndy’s new owner had posted a picture of him on facebook (totally stalk former CANTER horses on facebook 🙂 ) and he looks fantastic. Someone remarked how much better he looked so I had to post the picture of him when he arrived at my farm. Holy moly he looked awful. Pencil thin neck, every rib showing, non existent hind end and other than his color he was not an attractive horse. He had about 2 months to let down at that point so he had lost all his racing muscle. I find that they tend to look worse at month 2 and month 3 than any other time. I had to look back at that picture just to remind myself once again how drastically they can change.
The same thing happened to Shoes and he was so ugly we all joked we wanted to hide him in the furthest field. Let’s do a little photo review.
Very end of June after his arrival from the track
Now he is looking even better but his body is going through the OMG I am using new muscles and it hurts phase. I had made this video of my ride the other night and I have debated posting it because I know he is not 100% sound in this video and I don’t want people to think he is not sound. I know he is sound but I’m always reminded that sometimes my version of off the track sound and a show persons version is not the same thing 🙂 However, this blog is about the good, bad and ugly side of retraining Tb’s and we really don’t hide anything. I’m always very upfront about my horses. Matter of fact when I sent the video of Houndy to his new owner I said you are probably going to think I am nuts but I promise he will be just fine. He moved a lot like Shoes in this video..very body sore, lack of forward and just a funky gait. You don’t quite know what to think but at liberty I watch them in the field and know what they will become.
Here is Shoes
He was being so good..I pulled up in that last canter because the cats were running up the telephone pole 🙂 Ignore that canter bucking stuff it will all go away here shortly as he gets more comfortable in his body and stronger in behind. He also thinks being bad gets him off the hook so we cantered until he behaved and then stopped..well stopped before we approached the telephone pole that cats were running up. My horses will be bomproof to chaos and crazy cats.
I showed it to Allie and said what do you think and she asked if he had seen the chiropractor. He had when he arrived but he wasn’t in work yet and I was already on that wave of thinking so the chiropractor was scheduled yesterday. It’s neat to not really say anything to them and see what is discovered. She starts working on him and said oh boy his muscles are pretty sore and showed me some of his areas that were causing discomfort. Bingo! His whole left side was sore especially near the rib area and his left hind. She always goes over the whole body and we jog them before and after (she is a vet) so it really helps to have her eyes and hands on the horses. She agreed it is all just muscular and he looked sound so just keep slowly increasing the work. I figure as I started to work on the lunge line and teach him how to stretch it worked a lot of new muscles just like a person who is just starting to work out after sitting on the couch.
It’s easy to panic when you see them moving short and looking funky but you have to gently push through the discomfort with lots of trot work on straight lines continuing to build the muscles as you go. I always feel like it’s okay to help them out with a bit of bute because we take some ibuprofen when we use our new muscles and are increasing our work load. I’m not for masking pain at all just helping the horse get comfortable as you recondition.
We also did chiro on Jacob J who was also quite uncomfortable. I’ve never seen a horse shake and lick their lips but he was doing it out of enjoyment after his adjustment. He almost seemed suprised he could look to the right and we all got a good laugh out of that. She adjusts them and then asks them to bring their head around and when he did the right stretch he just stayed in that position like OMG I can bend to the right. He is such a cutie and I will get some more recent video of him. He is going really well and looks cute with his new clip job. He has the advantage of having been off the track for a lot longer so he isn’t muscle sore but his body needed some adjusting. He was ponying horses at the track and I imagine you get slammed around quite a bit doing that job!