Tuesday, April 7, 2015

who jumped it better: brief thoughts on OTTBs

A few bloggers are posting about OTTBs, and whether or not they're suitable horses for adult amateurs. It's provoked a lot of really positive discussion, and has been interesting reading everyone's opinions.



SprinklerBandits made the case against, and Lauren @ SheMovedtoTexas made the case for. Nicole from Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management added her thoughts, as did Calm, Forward, Straight. (Did I miss anybody? Lmk and I'll add it!)

I don't want to recreate that wheel, but had my own little thought based on observations from a recent lesson. This will take the form of, "Who Jumped it Better" (except not really bc it's not a competition - just a comparison). I'm approaching this from a mercenary and superficial point of view - just to see what people think.

So below are two pictures video stills** and gifs, with minimal context. They are both accurate representations of each horse's typical way of going. And, for the sake of comparison, let's say all other things are equal - health, soundness, price.

(**My apologies in advance that the stills aren't the same angle or phase of take-off. But I still think they demonstrate.... something? maybe?)



  • Isabel is an experienced and game nearly-14yr old <15hh (terrible that I don't know the exacts!) Arabian mare who has a 'been there, done that' attitude. She's got hops and doesn't care who knows, and will crack that back of hers over the merest of crossrails. She's show-ready today, tomorrow, yesterday, whatever.



  • Wick is a green-as-grass 7yr old 16hh OTTB (26 starts, last raced in 2013) who has been jumping regularly with B in lessons for all of 10 weeks. He literally just figured out how to actually, ya know, JUMP two weeks ago when we ran him through a chute. No matter tho - his long back and legs make him a smooth ride even when he has to scramble a little. He's got a great brain and a whole heart full of try.


So. If you're looking for a jumping prospect, which do you choose? Why?

Does your answer depend more on your immediate goals? Or long-term goals?


There's no right or wrong answer here (honestly I'm not entirely sure what my point is, if there is one, except that maybe tall athletic horses like OTTBs make it look easier even when they maybe aren't doing a very good job yet). 


But still, I'm curious about what everyone else thinks. 

My thoughts? I suspect that, given different circumstances (as in, I wasn't already leasing Isabel and totally crazy about her) I'd give young Wick a try. I showed primarily OTTBs in college and absolutely love them. Their size and sheer power bolstered my confidence, saying nothing about their brains, work ethic, etc - topics already covered in other posts. 

Isabel is plenty athletic and has abilities well beyond what I've tapped into, but my first hand experience is that jumping 2'6" on her looks and feels a LOT different from the leggy OTTB I showed at that height in Rochester. 

'i'm flying jack!' - isabel (11/2014)

'speed bumps ahoy' - lad (9/2014)

26 comments:

  1. Gotta say. I think it depends on what you are looking for long term. If you're looking for something that is going to be safe and confidence building at lower levels, take Isabel. If you are confident in your own abilities and want to see if you can make a crack at the mid to upper levels, take the OTTB prospect. I think this comes down to known quantity vs. unknown potential.

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    1. my thoughts exactly. isabel is a great option for someone who needs a horse that can be ready for them NOW without a lot of complication. wick might be the better choice for someone who's looking to develop talent for down the line.

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  2. It all comes down to personal preference! A horse like Isabel isn't going to make it to the upper levels of jumping competition, but if you (like me!) enjoy the way a smaller horse rides and jumps, and you need a horse with experience, then she's the right choice. If you want a training project and want to see how far you can go, or just prefer a bigger horse, then Wick is the answer. That's what's great about riding - there's a perfect horse for everyone out there!

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    1. haha i agree - and actually think there might be a FEW perfect horses out there for everyone :)

      it's interesting bc i fall squarely into the 'prefer a bigger horse' category, and i'm also not sure i'll ever really want to jump the big sticks... so green beans can be a nice way for me to continue to grow and challenge myself as a rider. one day tho... obvi i'm not done with izzy yet!

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  3. Well thought out! I know that personally, I'm just not in the right mindset to help train a horse (yes yes, I know, every time you get on a horse you're training it and all that...but you get what I mean). Many of the girls at my barn have OTTBs and are doing incredible things with them- jumpers, hunters, eq medals, all that stuff. We even have a baby 7 yo OTTB who does EVERYTHING with his rider- cross country, dressage, foxhunting, eq, hunters, jumpers, bridleless jumping, you name it (they seriously have so much fun); but they have done everything under very close trainer supervision. I think it comes down to the individual horse and how they click with their human!

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    1. i think it's awesome (and so so important!) to know that about yourself as a rider. so many students at my lesson barn say they want a 'project horse' bc they think it's cool, but they also say they want to show sooner rather than later... those two things don't often happen with the same horse!

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  4. Honestly, I've had nothing but good luck with TB's. I don't have a lot of the troubles with them that other people claim to. That said, I grew up riding TB's and other very sensitive horses, so I feel very much at home on a TB. I know how to ride them and my style suits them. To me they're really easy. But I can understand how someone from a different background, who has only ridden/dealt with a very different type of horse, would find them intimidating or difficult. I would take a good TB over anything else, all day long. The key is "good" - you have to know how to evaluate a prospect to see through all the track junk. A lot of people never have the opportunity to develop that eye.

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    1. i tend to be in agreement, and have every expectation that my first ever horse will be an ottb. i've just had so many positive experiences with them! the funny thing is when i met isabel (and knew nothing about arabs except that they can be 'hot') i tried to ride her like a tb and it did not work at ALL haha. so i had to learn a whole new way of communicating with sensitive horses lol. all the same tho, i don't see myself seeking out another arab

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  5. Interesting take on the "debate" -- although, interestingly, my answer to this question is the same as it is for OTTB or Not in general. It all depends on the horse itself and whether or not I want to train.

    Currently, I'd probably pick Izzy because I'm not interested in a training project and green horses make me nervous. Although, I can tell you right now that I would not ride her NEARLY as well as you do!! I'm not good at riding those back-crackers, lol.

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    1. it is pretty awesome to be able to just hit the ground running with a new horse, and i'm grateful to have a mare that allows me to just focus on improving myself as a rider. the back-cracking bit.... well yea i had to get used to it too and there are some priceless moments caught on video of me not doing such a great job.... but it's pretty fun all the same :)

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  6. Definitely depends on rider skills and goals. Like I don't necessarily need a been there done that horse, but one day I might. Especially if its scopey and catty and I'm ready to hit the Jumper ring.

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    1. that makes sense - i definitely appreciate how broke isabel is while i try to figure out this whole 'eventing' thing haha

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  7. So much involves the rider with a decision like that. Izzy is jumping like a school master, and I will say that she jumps well above average when compared to the typical Arabian. If I wanted to play in 2'6" (give or take) land and wanted something seasoned, i'd go with her in a heart beat. If I had higher aspirations, I'd go with the greener OTTB.

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    1. sounds like a pretty solid assessment to me!

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  8. Here's my thought(note that this is coming from someone with no experience with OTTBs). Regardless, from all the success people have with them, I'd say that I am a fan of them. All other things being equal, my answer as to which to choose would depend on my long term goals. My long term goal is to compete in upper levels of eventing, so based on that I would pick an OTTB. However, if my goal was to be able to confidently ride anywhere, be successful at low to mid level shows, and just have fun, I would pick a horse like Isabel that knows his/her job and will take care of the rider.

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    1. i also agree that the OTTB would be the better choice of these two options for a rider looking to keep moving up.

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  9. I'M FLYING JACK. You crack me up.

    My thoughts have already been detailed, I think, and everyone here has valid thoughts on the merits of both horses! I am not so secretly glad that you also love ottbs.

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    1. oooh i do love them :) isabel is awesome and has turned into a great horse for me for right now - but she's never something i would have chosen under different circumstances

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  10. Great post, great comments, I especially agree with Austen's assessment of "known quantity vs. unknown potential." Right now in my horsey life I prefer known quantity.

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    1. i like that assessment too. and it's interesting - if someone had asked me before i met isabel, i would have gone for the 'unknown potential' (and actually, at the time i met isabel that's exactly what she was!)- but these days i'm pretttttty happy with my 'known quantity' horse lol

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  11. I used to be all about the potential (hence Ms Gingersnap). My current preference is apparent by the fact I actually ride my much greener and much less athletic (but SAFE and FUN and predictable) pony almost every day while Ginger just hangs out in the field when I'm not in a lesson with her. I have to admit that I've learned nothing from this - I know I would still be tempted to go for potential again if I was shopping! It's nice knowing your horse could take you as far as you can go, and nothing beats that effortless feeling of having a horse under you that finds it all easy.

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    1. that effortless feeling is pretty addicting, isn't it? the whole idea of 'safe and fun' coming first and foremost is newer to me, and rose in importance right around when i realized my confidence was gone haha. one day tho i think i will want to seek out new potential again, but izzy is pretty good for now :)

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  12. Yes! sometimes you need an Isabel!

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  13. I am completely biased toward ottbs (on #3) ... but dang Isabel's jump is soooo cute in that gif!

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    1. haha she really does love jumping, i think. that gif is actually from the day we realized she was sick, and she's still out and about doin her thang like the very good girl that she is

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