Buying a thin horse?

So I’m horse shopping and recently looked at a young OTTB mare. Very thin, I think from being in a pasture with a bully as she was pretty bit up. Now I’ve had thinner horses before and easily fattened them up. That’s no problem.

But she’s thin enough that I worry about her temperament changing. She was well behaved under saddle but I could see her getting fiesty if she had more weight. She is thin enough that I personally wouldn’t be riding her until there is more weight. She probably needs ulcer treatment, unlimited hay, protein/fat and maybe ground work for muscle.

I’m pretty on the fence about it. A young horse is of course always a project but I just hate to buy a horse and have them not turn out like I thought.

I’m going to talk to my trainer and vet about it but thought I’d see what COTH has experienced.

Buying a thin horse is a guess. Plenty of people are very game for these opportunities. It is all about your risk tolerance and if you think that she’s so special that even a personality change would make her a rational purchase. Personally, I like to stack the deck in my favor to the degree possible. Unless I thought I’d stumbled upon something truly once in a lifetime, I wouldn’t buy something thin enough it shouldn’t be ridden. I also wouldn’t trust a seller marketing a horse this thin. I’d worry about undisclosed injuries, vices, etc.


Well, feisty is a limited-duration training challenge, not a permanent fault. Assuming conformation is good and she PPE’s ok, and if you have the riding/training skills to ride through a feisty year or two, you could end up with a fantastic partner. If you’re looking for a made horse, then no, this one isn’t for you.


I feel like buying a thin horse is inherently, always a little risky. The end result can be entirely rewarding, or entirely messy. Based on my personal experience, I wouldn’t do it again! I too was in a similar situation. I fell in love with a 5 year old TWH who was very, very thin. She was also so sweet, mellow, wouldn’t say “sluggish”. After discussing with the owner why she was thin, I felt fairly confident there was no underlying health issues and with TLC she would fatten right up. She fattened up immediately with no extra feeds, just constant access to either grass or Hay. I was so pleased with her looks but not so much her demeanor/personality. It didn’t take long for her “healthy” self to come out and oh my goodness she was a huge ball of energy and a fire breathing dragon during her time of the month. Not just under saddle (otherwise I would of suspected more of a training issue with me). She would pace fences constantly, even though she had friends and food and nobody else on the other side! She spent a lot of time on just 2 legs as well. Like I said, VERY energetic and I was over faced and had to sell her.

This is just my personal experience. I’m sure plenty have successfully bought, rehabbed, and loved that once thin horse for life. The drastic change in the horses personality/manners and underlying health issues is always a real possibility though.

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IMHO, with the terrible situations you’ve had in the past, I would buy a horse who is what you see. Not a might be, not a guess

Young and thin - how long has she been too thin during her growing years? Unless you know she was in great weight 6 months ago, and lost a lot of weight due to purely lack of food, you don’t know that her weight issues don’t have an underlying health cause


in my experience with buying underweight horses, they have only ever gotten better with weight and good health. that said, i feed more foreage than concentrate which i believe matters with respect to making them excitable. i’ve also had this experience with WBs and WBxTB, so never straight TB. I have one that I probably added almost 300 lbs to, and he only got better and was not worked as hard.


I have bought several projects that were quite thin. My now departed best horse was ‘call the authorities’ thin when I got him. None has ever turned into a hothead. They were more athletic, sure, but the same base personality was always there.

That said, I agree it depends a little on what you feed them, too. I had bad, bad luck with Ultium (this was back before Triple Crown was available out here) turning even the sweetest horses into wild eyed basket cases.


@JB yeah I kinda feel that way. I’m definitely leaning towards passing, but my friend is making me feel like I’m being too negative! People just think I’m being picky, even my trainer.

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I mean, I am picky lol. I just don’t have the kind of luck for risks.

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Is this horse in a situation where you could do a PPE? That might ease some of your concerns. I know you’ve had some bad luck, so go with your gut.

That said… If you like the horse in front of you now, that’s good enough for me. I seem to buy almost exclusively fixer uppers, so I’ve never had the love at first sight thing.

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@Heinz_57 oh I definitely will be do a very thorough PPE on anything I’m considering. I won’t tough another TB without full back and neck x-rays and feet. Everything else depends. I’m going to ask my vet but my vet also said she will be more conservative with what she will advise me to buy, since she knows what I’ve went through. It was hard on us both and really shocking.

I will say, in the end I don’t want a “project” or fixer up. I’m good with green but to me “needs wet saddle pads” and projects are different things. I really want to ride and she needs the winter off imo.

I think I just feel bad for passing because she was fun under saddle. But so many are. I do hope she finds her person but I suppose in the end, it’s not me.


I get that. It’s easier to buy something that needs a little time when you have others to play with, and you want something ready now - no harm there. Lots of people fall for the potential diamond in the rough, so don’t let those around you make you feel bad for sticking to your wishlist :wink: they aren’t the ones paying the bills!

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I think the concerns about underlying health issues are totally valid however IME, with the TB’s they go at their best when their fat and happy and their worst when they are skinny and ulcery. I think the poorer the condition is, that makes them more anxious, and doesn’t dilute their temperament.

People run into trouble when they get impatient with how long it’s taking their TB to gain weight back so they throw 9lbs of sweet feed at them. If that’s the case, then yes you’ll have a very different, and more difficult horse. But if you’re doing things the right way like it sounds like you plan to (forage first, low NSC, protein+ fats, etc) that should not make her personality unmanageable or drastically different.

Also as far as the concern about her current weight, I think it totally depends on her living arrangement where she is currently. If she’s living out in a field with minimal forage, with pasture bullies, and not getting blanketed while it’s -4 degrees outside with no shelter, then to me, that wouldn’t be a red flag that she can’t keep weight on. No Tb would in those conditions. However if she’s got access to a high quality round bale, she lives alone, she’s got shelter, she’s already on a fortified feed, etc… then I’d be scratching my head and want to know what’s up.


Say you don’t buy her, and it takes you until April to find a horse who fits all your needs and wants. Is that mentally better than having a horse you won’t ride until April?

Is it possible to post a picture of her without incriminating anyone?

How thin is “very thin”? How young is “young”?

If you “hate to buy a horse and have them not turn out like I thought.” then IMHO I wouldn’t buy a youngster, at least not 3-4. 5 is still young and not as likely to change a lot in terms of temperament.


It sounds like you need a horse that already is what you want since your heart and purse cant stand a gamble.
OTOH if this mare really speaks to you, the question becomes can you (and do you want to) handle a bit more “feisty”? And would you be open to doing the ground work and then light saddle work for the months it takes her to fill out? At that point you may have enough training together to work through things. In case the heart wants this one!


I could send a photo private messager but she’s like a 2 or 3 on the body scale. Probably a 3.

I don’t know, I’m so used to buying green horses but I’m just wary of this one. Seller hasn’t had or known her long, 2 months. And someone already backed out after a PPE due to her weight and the same worries (according to the seller.)
I just feel with my budget which isn’t great but in the $10/$15k range, I’d rather find something that isn’t such a project.

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I think part of it, is I took a chance on my last TB who needed some TLC, not weight but everything else. I was concerned but liked him and trainer and a vet talked me into him. No one is to blame for the Wobblers, but his feet were a HUGE battle and I think neglect of care was a major reason for some of those issues. And whe he wasn’t thin, he lacked a top line. Seemed like no big deal but turns out that probably was due to spine arthritis (and later, neck issues didn’t help.)

I just unfortunately think I have to pass. She’s cook, I’m sure she will find her home and hopefully be healthy next year!

Ok, this seals it. You came here looking to be talked into this horse :slight_smile: That’s ok! But now that you’ve talked over several things, it’s really all out here - she’s not the horse for you right now.

That horse is out there :slight_smile:


@JB you are probably right. I do feel guilty passing on her, mostly because I know I can give her that TLC. But in reality, I don’t want to be that person right now. Not this time. Just because of everything prior!

Thank you guys
Hopefully she finds her spot.


I personally can’t say I’ve seen temperament change dramatically with weight gain. Sure, they might have a little more pep in their step if they are feeling :100:, but a sensible horse will still be a sensible horse. A kind horse will still be a kind horse. A confident horse will still be a confident horse. And sometimes, a flighty, insecure, or aggressive horse will become kinder, gentler, or more confident when their needs are being met.

I think temperament is more likely to be impacted by a significant change in living situation. A thin horse living out 24/7 with an aggressive friend and not enough food is likely going to become a fire-breathing dragon if moved to a stall 23 hours a day with an hour of individual turnout in a small paddock and increasing fitness.

I’m not implying that’s what you are planning to do, I’m just throwing it out there that a big change in her turnout and living situation could change her temperament far more than her weight alone.

The weight part wouldn’t even make me blink. It’s really easy for young TBs to get skinny in a hurry. And unfortunately, a large percentage of the horse-owning population does not understand the calorie demands of a thoroughbred.

On a side note, I’d be happy to look at her pedigree for any temperament insights, if you feel comfortable sharing it on the thread or through a message. While pedigree is only a tiny piece of a picture and you always have to evaluate the horse in front of you, there are some lines with a predisposition to throwing easier or more difficult temperaments.