Help me source an OTTB for dressage

I’ve seen trainers/resellers galore for OTTBs for eventing and hunter/jumpers. Are there dressage trainers known for restarting and showing OTTBs for dressage? I’ve only seen a couple very talented TB dressage horses in person over the years. Would love to give one a try as my next partner to bring up the levels…just don’t know where to start. Thank you.

I have a young TB mare I am bringing up the levels in dressage, she is really incredible and I think that is great you are wanting a TB!

The same pros who source them for eventing etc should be able to identify the ones who would be superb at dressage.

Benchmark Sport horses would be a good start, or any of the re-homing organizations.

I would also maybe check the results for the dressage portion from the Retired Racehorse Challenge/TB Makeover. You can see who is a pro and who specializes in dressage that way. I highly recommend watching the TB Makeover finales on Youtube if you have time. It gives you a good idea of what the trainers are like and how amazing these horses are.

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I think there is a place in Kentucky that sources and starts some dressage prospects. I’ve definitely seen some Thoroughbreds. I do think they are usually in the $15k-$20k range, not sure of your budget OP.

I bred Thoroughbreds for sport for 20 years and reluctantly switched to warmbloods because of the market. I stood 2 really good Thoroughbred stallions who were wonderful sires of sporthorses and showed their babies. I was a trainer at the track and retrained alot of OTTBs for sport including dressage. Kudos to you for looking at them!!! My 2 stallions aged out and passed away a number of years ago but I still have grandkids and one daughter. I know that isn’t much help to you, but my Thoroughbreds were successful in dressage and I hope you find one that will work well for you. Retraining them is not hard, so many go into sport so easily from the track - it’s a falsehood to think they just want to run and are hot. Just train them like any other horse. They are sooooo smart and willing to please!

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Our barn gets a couple OTTBs in per year as jumpers. I love them and agree they are so eager to please and learn quickly. I’ve helped several retool their flat skills, but only 1 really had “wow” gaits, and I wasn’t in the market back then. I schooled my last WB to PSG, so I can do the training. I need a source that has started retraining enough to know the prospect has a great brain and elastic gaits vs. something that just raced. Although it’s a tall order for an OTTB to win over a nice WB, I’d like to try and at least be competitive. Will also look at the RRP videos!

Good luck and kudos to you for considering them. I think that TBs can have very good brains and while they aren’t as elastic as WBs, they are trainable and could do well. I would probably look for a good mind, in addition to the right conformation.

I’ve often considered looking for one as a project horse, as I like to keep my main competition horse along with a project that I can put some good training on and then sell as a nice amateur horse. I’ve steered clear of TBs just because they never seem to generate interest or profit. I wish that wasn’t the case.

But I would love to see more people on them, so good luck and keep us posted on your search!

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I’ll second the recommendation for Jess Redman/Benchmark Sporthorses. She has an excellent eye, and will give you an honest option about dressage aptitude for her sales horses.

I have followed Jessica/Benchmark and some others for quite some time. I can tell she knows her stuff. My only hesitation is most of the horses sell quickly/sight unseen. Most in the $3500-$5500 range. If she gets a very nice mover, it’s off her site within 24 hours. As we all agree, a great brain is just as important (if not more so) than gaits. Can even an experienced trainer assess temperament within 24 hours on a horse that’s just come off the track, no rides? Yes, people buy sight unseen, but many are also flippers/resellers themselves. I just don’t know if I can do that. I’d prefer a source that gets a few horses in, works with them for at least 3-6 months, where I could go and ride 1 or 2. I’m willing to pay $10k vs $5k for this extra time/training/assessment.

FYI: I did call Benchmark previously about a horse on their site. By the time I heard back, the horse was sold. Even if she had gotten back to me before the sale, I would have had to say yes or no right then. It’s awesome that she can sell so many OTTBs that quickly, but getting a horse is a big personal investment for me!

I found my OTTB locally through a friend of a friend. He was also posted on the OTTB sales pages. I can’t really comment on his aptitude as a serious dressage horse yet as I’ve only had him a couple months but he has nice gaits and an absolutely stellar brain.

The OTTBs do sell very fast, which is really intimidating. I guess the market for horses in general is very hot right now but they can sell in less than an hour sometimes. I know I definitely couldn’t do a sight unseen purchase that quickly. I recommend putting out feelers and seeing if there is someone local that resells TBs so you can meet them and sit on them. Even if they have no or minimal retraining you can learn a lot about their mind. It will definitely tell you more than an impressive liberty video can.

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My thoughts on this in her case are yes, she can. Now I am assuming this, so I can easily be wrong but for myself, I have friends of the track who can tell me how the horse is. Most of my TBs I have taken on because someone who knew them or worked with them told me about their great personalities/work ethic/etc. I would think, Jess has that many track connections that the people passing her horses are also giving her the run down of what the horses are like. I believe people who work on the track or train the horses are for the most part honest because in the end they all want what’s best for the horse.

I’m sure there are other sellers out there too, but you could always ask her (or someone else who has a good reputation) what you are looking for and to find you one?

What geographic areas would you consider going to for seeing the horse? I’ve seen some beautiful movers on anbequine.com and also Elysian Meadows. These are smaller barns with what seems like less turnover. I have never dealt with either seller, but it’s either marketing or a very strict picking criteria but some of them are pretty damn nice. They do upmark the horses a lot - I literally saw an ad on Canter for a horse I liked for $800, less than a week later the horse was on one of the websites for $8500… Then again since that would be my only horse, budget permitting, I’d happily pay that if I can see them run at liberty, do a full PPE and perhaps even do a trial ride.
I was looking for a jumping horse this year and I second what’s been said about the nice ones going fast and trouble getting one from Jessica or the likes of Ballyclare farm unless sight unseen. Personally I’d rather get one with known issues that I can deal with rather than a complete unknown. I ended up buying one that had been for sale close to half a year. I was on the fence on whether I’d be able handle the horse myself (horse was restarted and not a simple ride), but I saw some potential for what I wanted to do and the pedigree was encouraging.
Since the horse was [clearly!] not a resale candidate anytime soon, I made sure that horse is a fit for me personally and to vet check everything with x-rays and proper sport horse vet before the end of trial. In retrospect I feel I underestimated the rideability part. Granted, my horse came across as pretty difficult to begin with, but I wouldn’t necessarily brush off the difficulty of retraining them even if they come across as docile/sweet on the ground or during a trial ride. The first few months might be easier, but then they put on muscle, the massages and the new diet starts kicking in and the real horse creeps out :grinning:
Also FWIW on my trial ride the horse had the most ugly shetland pony trot, but after several cycles of shoeing and more of the above, the movement, especially in trot, has noticeably improved! Clean gaits aside, I’d almost pay more attention to the conformation rather than with how much suspension and elasticity they move because they’re often not shod for it, and can be pretty stiff and sore, especially if straight out of track and/or have lost a lot of muscle especially on topline… Granted, if you get a nice moving horse to begin with, I’d expect the movement to come out even better in a few months.
Finally, it seems like you could buy a horse today, because there are so many of them, but if you’re picky it will take much longer… It took me something like 3 months of active looking and I got a “project”. It probably would have taken longer if I had wanted a 4 y.o. big, well moving gelding with lots of chrome, unbeatable jump and for $2000, owner willing to ship out for a trial. Good luck!

I am in the midwest, so could go WI, IL, IN, KY, OH pretty easy. In the past I have flown to MA, NY & FL, but with covid, would like to limit myself to driving UNLESS I saw an absolute unicorn who’s been in some type of program. Yes, I have seen horses on anbequine, Ballyclare, etc. Most not restarted or maybe 2 rides, 3yrs old and $8k-$10k + an airplane trip. Hoping to source something closer like Lexington, KY. I think PA, VA, areas are pricier. I’ve brought several youngsters up the levels, but no longer willing to take on problems, broncs, bolters, etc. I am willing to listen, talk to folks and with patience hopefully find the right long term partner :slightly_smiling_face:

I got my guy from Jen Ruberto at Wire 2 Wire TBs. She has a good eye, and competes dressage herself, as well as having a family owned racing business, so she has good connections in both disciplines. She’s in OH, so driveable, distance wise. You probably still need to be prepared to move fast on a nice looking horse, but you could at least sit on it and vet it. If you let her know what you are looking for, she can let you know when something is coming her way that might interest you.

I would also look into Secretariat Center in KY. I have friends who have gotten horses from them and they have worked out well. They tend to put more training and time into each horse than some of the other rescue/rehome groups, and work hard to find the right match for each horse.

I will say that normally, horses move slowly this time of year, but you may find that its easier to pick up a TB later in spring, solely because of the Makeover. Especially in the midwest, lots of TB people aim for that (especially the ones looking for really competitive TBs), and the registration deadline is approaching. Once that passes, most of those folks will already have their ‘project’ for the year, and the fancy ones may not be flying off the shelves quite so quickly. Good luck!

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I’ve seen some nice horses advertised by Ashley Lilley on fb (also Phoenix Sport Horses) https://www.phoenixsporthorse.com/blog and I think she’s somewhere in that area. Just noticed it’s actually MI so might be too far for you… Anyways might be worth getting in touch with her of she knows others in said areas… Good luck!

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Thank you @helent623 and @tohorse for your recommendations! I will look into both of your suggestions.

I’ve adopted two from the Secretariat Center, and they’re in Lexington (at the KHP), so it’s in your stated area. It would be worth a look, anyway! Normally they shut down for winter, but this year they are staying open. https://www.secretariatcenter.org/

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Thank you for this recommendation!

I completely agree with this. I bought a horse from one of the very reputable resellers mentioned on here and he ended up being anxious and so dangerously explosive that my very brave, experienced trainer told me he wasn’t worth my life. The seller had advertised him as safe and sane enough to be a foxhunting prospect. :rofl: I don’t think the seller was deliberately dishonest but it seems impossible for any person to throughly assess temperament in the hours/days some of these OTTBs are in the reseller’s barn. Ideally their track connections are being completely honest, but their standards of good temperament may still not be in-line with yours. I am still tempted by the beautiful horses sometimes but it was too expensive and heartbreaking an experience to repeat.

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