Thursday, December 18, 2014

Guest Post From Schneider's Saddlery

I get a lot of offers from various people and companies who want to post things on my blog, but most of them are pretty irrelevant. Seriously, why would I want to advertise an Off Track Betting site or review a romance novel, do these people even bother to read my site before hitting "send" on the email?  
Anyway, last week I received an email from Schneider's Saddlery (Slight correction, it was Schneider's Online Marketing Firm) They wanted to post "free, non-advertorial content" to my blog.  I'm not going to lie, I laughed when I read it.  I can write my own free, non-advertorial content, why the hell would I want theirs?  I sent an email back to Schneider's Online Marketing Firm saying just that and figured that was the last I'd be hearing from them.
Surprisingly, it was not the last I would hear from them.  I received a reply the next day outlining, in excellent detail, the type of content they wanted to post and why it was relevant to my blog.  They even used my horses' names and referenced individual posts I had written. Huh, they actually read my work. In all my years writing this blog, no other solicitor has done that.  So, I said they could send me an article and I'd post it.
Moral: Flattery will get you everywhere, at least with me.
Shannon
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About the Author: After being founded in 1948 by Milton Schneider, Schneider’s Saddlery is a family owned company committed to quality, value, and customer service. The family is committed to equestrian culture; offering riders and trainers the tools they need to care for their four-legged companions. This post is brought to you, in part, by Schneider Saddlery
Off The Track Thoroughbreds: Adopting A Champion

Every year, the Jockey Club registers between 25,000 – 35,000 foals, most of which never place at the track.  Even if the horse does run well and becomes a professional racehorse, their short careers often lead to retirement as early as age six. In fact, the number of retired off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTB) is so high that more than 10,000 of them are put down each year. 
This makes the breed a popular one for riders, not only for those seeking to rescue one of these beautiful creatures, but also because their relative availability often makes them a less expensive purchase than European breeds.  This doesn’t mean that they are the right choice for every equestrian, however.       
Julie Goodnight, one of only three people to receive Equine Affaire’s Exceptional Equestrian Educator Award, claims that in order for an OTTB to be the right match for a prospective new owner, the person should be a confident rider who is not intimidated by a horse’s speed and need for retraining.
New Owner Preparedness
In addition to being a competent rider, someone adopting an OTTB must have the patience required to assist their new companion in adjusting to an entirely new, unprecedented lifestyle. During this period, you should let your horse relax and adjust to his new role and environment.  He should have plenty of time to play, rest, enjoy the outdoors and begin to understand that his life is no longer just about going as fast as possible.
Along with patience, a new owner of an OTTB needs to be able to provide an environment for their horse that will help the animal to thrive and get used to his new role.  Your ex-racer will develop a bond with other horses he’s introduced to, and will look to their behavior to model his own.  
Once your new horse is starting to adjust to his environment, you’ll likely have to spend a lot of time re-training him on how to be ridden.  If you pull on an OTTB’s reins, they will typically not respond as you might expect them to. 
On the track, Jockey’s would bridge the reins, holding them taunt on the sides of the horse’s neck.   So to your newly retired racehorse, this pressure would indicate that they should move faster.  This leads many owners to assume that their OTTB is being defiant when instead they are reacting to different training.
Common OTTB Behaviors
I spoke with Tracy Palmisano, an experienced rider with more than 30 years spent on top of a saddle. Nearly a decade ago, she adopted an OTTB named Fargo from CANTER USA, an organization dedicated to rehoming retired racehorses.  During the six months it took for Fargo to adjust to his life away from the track, Palmisano observed her horse’s behavior closely and witnessed several common traits among retired racehorses.
“Before I got Fargo, I knew that OTTBs often demonstrated some behavioral tendencies that stemmed from their tenure at the track.  Because active racehorses are kept in stalls the majority of the time, they have a lot of pent up energy that they can’t burn off running in a field.  So, they use their excess energy in other ways.  These behaviors typically continue after they are rehomed and stop or occur less frequently as the horses get increasingly used to their new homes.”
“A lot of OTTBs will chew wood, walk along a fence line incessantly, paw at the ground, weave, crib or, in Fargo’s case, walk the stall.  Fargo’s stall walking was so unrelenting that he initially lost an alarming amount of weight despite being fed more than 10 pounds of grain per day.”
This excess energy is one reason why it’s so important to give a newly adopted OTTB plenty of time to adjust to their new life.  Racing is an unforgiving career, and it can take your new companion a few months to adapt to the calmer “civilian” lifestyle.  Once they begin to adjust to their new home, however, an OTTB’s intelligence makes them surprisingly quick learners.
Health Issues
One issue that new owners of OTTB should be prepared to deal with involves weight loss.  A racehorse enjoys a diet that is high in protein and vitamins that aren’t as prominent in the fare that OTTBs ingest every day.  It’s not uncommon for well-performing race horses to receive additional supplements aimed at increasing muscle mass and stamina.  As your horse adjusts to his new diet during what is referred to as the “letting down” phase, they’ll likely experience significant weight loss. 
While this may be alarming to a new owner, this is a common occurrence that will most likely resolve itself over time.  Once your OTTB is fully transitioned over to his new diet and used to his new fare, he will put the weight he lost back on…very possibly with a few extra pounds, too. 
According to Goodnight, racehorses can develop bowed tendons and various chiropractic health issues that can end their racing careers.  Fortunately, there are treatments available that can heal many of the chiropractic maladies an OTTB might have.  Once dealt with, however, your OTTB should be able to make nearly a full recovery. 
Finding A Second Career
Obviously, OTTBs have the natural gift of speed, but their natural athleticism and intellect makes them versatile companions.  In general, these former racehorses are excellent at jumping and dressage, but they can also become reliable trail horses.  
Once they’re properly trained, OTTB’s also make excellent therapy horses due to their sensitivity to even the slightest changes in the behavior of their rider.   Their intelligence, curiosity, and playfulness makes the OTTB an excellent companion for the patient rider.
If you’re a green rider, adopting a fresh OTTB is likely something that you might wish to reconsider.  While they make wonderful companions, the stress of track and their natural love of speed could make training them difficult. 
If you are an experienced rider who isn’t intimidated by speed, getting an OTTB may very well be the challenge you’re looking for, one where you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with an intelligent, playful four-legged friend.  Because racehorses typically retire at a young age, you’ll be able to enjoy his companionship for years to come.

While not for everyone, every one of these creatures deserves a loving, fulfilling second life. If you’re interested in learning more about adopting a Thoroughbred, a good place to start is the official CANTER USA website. 

6 comments:

  1. Pretty darn nice - I wouldn't have expected that either!

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  2. I really like Schneider's -- their store is close to where I grew up!

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  3. nice! I am surprised but someone obviously knows what they are doing

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  4. I guess they did do their research! Wow.

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  5. Well written, glad they persisted.

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  6. Well written, I have always liked Schneider's!

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