OTTB Health issues - a conglomerate of information

Note and disclaimer: anything in this thread is simply a conglomeration of anecdotes. Nothing is guaranteed, presumed to be a governing fact, or implied to be a dominant genetic issue.

Id like to start a thread dedicated to OTTBs and their health issues. Please use this thread to post about your OTTB’s problems, including exceedingly poor foot quality, etc.

For this to be useful, we must have bloodlines. Please post the horse’s JC registered name, and a link to their pedigree where possible.

Conformation type photos, or photos of defects, are welcomed. This is not a brag thread, so please keep the random pictures to a minimum.


I’ll start.

My late mare, Pew. By Rock Pulpit, out of El Portal by Exit to Nowhere.

Summary: Bay mare, ~16hh, raced 47 times.

Health issues: Cutaneous lymphoma. The masses would ebb and flow, but a few stayed the same all the time (the ones on her lip, and the one that was removed twice due to girth interference).

Cause of death: euthanasia - her left hindquarter was atrophying rapidly and she was beginning to go neuro. After a necropsy, no direct cause was found.

I spoke with the breeder of this mare, and he stated she had a half sister that had to be euthanized due to a large cancerous/tumerous growth on her face.

Conformation shot:

Photos of masses - never did do chemo or radiation, just prednisolone.

Atrophied hindquarter. I had spent a fortune on this mare and she was never going to be right. I decided to let her go while she was still in good spirits rather than follow the path any longer.


Burn the Mortgage. Born 2009. By Kitten’s Joy, out of Mortgage the House by Chester House.

Overall, lots of the same complaints that many other OTTBs suffer, but nothing too wild or hard to deal with. Feet could be better, but does OK. Prone toward worry/stress/uclers. Weaker hind end.

A harder keeper–and I say that as someone who has had other OTTBs in the past. I’ve heard that some siblings were/are as well. Not impossible to deal with just something to be aware of.
Also has several small warts on his body. Mostly neck/chest/sides. They are small enough to look like a tick at first glance. So far no “issues” from them, but I do notice a new one or two every summer.


Thank you for starting this. I’m so sorry about the loss of your mare.

Seattle Slew seems to have passed on the cervical issues he struggled with as he aged. It affected several of his sons standing at stud. It does not appear AP Indy inherited it, which is how most horses have Slew these days.


Had some mental issues growing up, very reactive and definitely mentally matured late. Didn’t become a solid citizen until about 11/12. Has suffered from a generalized entire body lameness that could not be diagnosed, but was eventually resolved by giving equioxx daily and about a year of rest.

I can’t (won’t) post the pedigree as it’s not my horse, but Sire Leestown had several offspring (that I know of) go into organ failure.

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Warning. Long.
JC name Dramatic Touch (although on her TB mare days, I liked to call her Melodramatic Touch). Barn name Dusty. Bay mare, 15.3 h, raced at 3 and one start at 4. Very finely built, like a deer. Vet said she had the classic conformation of a 6-furlong horse.

(Just tried to post link of pedigree, but was unsuccessful. Could somebody who knows how to do that help me, please? Sire is TV Commercial; dam is Greek Drama. She shows up on equineline but not on pedigreequery).

Anyway, at 5, she became extremely subtly NQR. Had local vet out more than once. He could find nothing wrong, but I could feel there was something different. She was a dressage horse, and I didn’t feel comfortable pushing her when I knew she wasn’t herself.

Thanks to the military, I lived during this epoch in Bucks County, PA, about an hour from New Bolton. Took her down to see the best vet in the whole, wide world, Dr. Bill Moyer, who at the time was the head of the large animal clinic at New Bolton. (Before Texas A&M stole him. :disappointed:)

I tried to explain what I was feeling and that the local vet couldn’t see it, while he walked around looking at her conformation. He then flipped up her lip and saw her tattoo.

He said, “She’s a Bold Ruler horse, isn’t she?” “Yes.” “I already know what’s wrong with her, but lets do the whole exam, let me watch you ride her, then I’ll tell you what’s wrong and how to manage it.”

The problem was that she had the flat feet that apparently is quite common in the Bold Ruler line. Dr. Moyer and my farrier talked, and Dr. Moyer explained in detail how to make very special shoes that were ground out on half of the inside to artificially create the concavity of a normal, not-flat hoof. ETA - Best farrier, John Kirsch. RIP John).

Dr. Moyer said something that we’ve probably all learned the hard way. TBs are bred with speed in mind, for the short haul, with no concern in keeping a horse sound past 5. So, stallions that produce results on the track get the mares, and we get horses with various soundness issues.

The shoes worked great, and she wore that type of shoe for the rest of her life. She was laid up for a year with a hock injury, but before I lost her in a pasture accident at 13, she was solid 3rd with very good clinicians telling me she should be able to go PSG. Big, floaty, heavenly gaits, like her feet weren’t touching the ground. Miss her so much. :cry:


Thank you for starting this thread. Interesting.


The two I’ve recently had have been exceptionally sound and sturdy. My Desert Party-Jump Start mare had the cleanest X-rays of any of the horses in the barn. Treated for hindgut ulcers. My current mare is Temple City-Leestown and she is not conformed quite as well (a little offset through the carpi with a very, very slight clubfoot), but moves fantastic and is still very sound. Feet are a little less sturdy, but I think that’s in part just because her movement is more flamboyant and she plays hard in the field. No issues with ulcers on that one.


Mine never raced, but was brought along by a local (Arlington) trainer & his wife, who also trained.
By a local stakes horse: Winds of Winter.
Never registered or tattooed, they kept him as a pony horse until he was 6, when I bought him as a Hunter.
He had won a Pre-Green O/F in KY when they were down with their string of racers.
PPE (by the infamous Ross Hugi) told me he’d be, at best, a B horse.
Not even a year later, after showing him on the local Regional circuit, I was offered 3X his ($4500) purchase price by a local trainer.
Later Diane Carney offered 10X that, after teaching my novice shareboarder in a clinic. She thought he’d be a good Ammy horse.
I had him for 20yrs with no health issues save one gas colic that ended in surgery. No gut was removed & he was back to work in a month.
When I tired of showing, he became my trail horse.
I Evented him BNH, but schooled to Training. Rode Dressage, schooling to 3rd.
All barefoot.
Lost him at 27 to a trailering accident.
Miss him to this day.
RIP Hey, Vern!
You were my Horse of a Lifetime.

Failing his Speed Test at the track:

With Trainer’s kid as a 3yo:


Thanks for the condolences. That mare loved me - I didn’t know what a “one person horse” was until her.

Full health history on my mare here: UPDATED 10/10. LYMPHOMA on tendon - 8" above the hock. Experiences?

And here: Hindquarter muscling asymetry

My condolences also. How great to have the photo of him at the track!! I would love to have had photos of my mares and gelding during their track years. Thanks for sharing.

Sorry for your loss. Beautiful girl. :kissing_heart:

Beautiful horse. I’ve never met an OTTB that wasn’t a hard keeper. Amazing how much food they can eat without gaining weight.


Mine was a tattooed, but never raced, thoroughbred. Rumor was his behavior in the gate meant he never got his ‘gate card’, which I can believe based on his attitude in the start box at events. Robn Run, By Grey Legion (by Secretariat) and out of Robyn Banks, who was by No Robbery. Excellent conformation, very good feet, though I kept him in shoes until retirement. He did have laminitis in later years but that was directly a result of mechanical overloading due to a traumatic injury to the other forelimb. Not a hard keeper at all, an iron horse in many respects.
We had constant problems throughout his career. Knowing what I know now (this was pre internet, and I was a teenager)…He was a confirmed rearer (he would go over), especially when asked to collect for jumping. He was just fine at cross country up through Training level, but we would consistently be eliminated for refusals in show jumping. I eventually switched over entirely to dressage during college and we worked up through 2nd level before I went to graduate school and he got retired at age 19. I always had to be careful on collected movements, especially tighter circles. He would get unhappy, and next thing I knew he would be up on his hind legs. He was extremely back sore, but jogged sound. We treated several times for Lyme disease, which helped…but didn’t solve the issue. I suspect he probably had some sort of back problem. Maybe kissing spines? I don’t know. I have much to ask forgiveness for with that horse…but he was my companion throughout highschool and college, and those were not easy years.
Had him from age 9 to age 33, when I lost him to a brutal colic. Here he is at age 30 snagging daylilies, electric fence be ------ed


B_andB_ What a handsome boy. I think we all can look back and see times when we weren’t fair with our horses. Not talking abuse here, just not really reading the situation correctly or reacting impulsively.

So sorry for your loss. You gave him a great, long life despite what your misgivings try to occasionally tell you.


By Middlesex Drive out of Bridlebit
Bay gelding, 16+ hands, built like a tank

Purchased as a resale project probably 10 years ago, he is now sold and I have sadly lost track (actually wouldn’t mind finding out where he ended up so I might need to write up a post in the Missing/ISO forum). We played around at a few C shows plus low level dressage and XC schooling, and he went on to successfully event at the lower levels with the person I sold him to.

While I had him:

  • No PPE but had records of abscessed tooth and removal.
  • No notable health problems or veterinary maintenance that I can recall
  • If I remember correctly he had OK feet but he was shod all around and I think he had pads at some point too
  • Lived out 24/7, ate whatever, had a beautiful coat and the thickest mane and tail you can imagine

After he was sold I kept in touch with the new owner for a while. IIRC, he had:

  • Another tooth abscess (wtf!)
  • A bone chip (location unknown) found on radiographs that could have been there previously but I never did rads on him and buyer didn’t either
  • Became a little too strong and I think occasionally difficult for this person to ride; who knows if this was due a possible underlying health or physical issue

He was overall a pretty healthy guy. Good looking too. Not sure what the deal was/is with the teeth. Unfortunately no pictures at this time.

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This is a myth I’d gladly see dispelled. They do come from the track used to rocket-fuel high quality feed, full hay access, and round the clock management – and a lot of off-track homes just don’t provide the same quality/caloric dense grain, or the actual round-the-clock hay that race horses are accustomed to. In that moment of their life, they are in high intensity work and have high metabolisms while still being young and growing - fix the feet and any soreness issues, provide high quality grain, and allow them a little time to grow. A horse in pain will have a very hard time gaining weight or building topline. This is what I see most new-to-TB owners struggle with, and most barns just do not provide enough hay.

For what it’s worth, none of my TBs are hard keepers and I don’t think I’ve actually owned one that has ever needed more than 4lb a grain a day to maintain work in weight. I have one in heavy/moderate work (eventer, hunter pacer, and just all around babysitter for the greenies) who clocks about 30-50 miles a week of ridden work depending on what we do on the weekend, and he is getting less feed than our retired QH.


I agree that they aren’t all hard keepers. And a lot of his issues at first were 100% ulcers (and being boarded with not enough hay, but that’s a whole 'nother argument).

He’s now nicely muscled and has a lovely topline, just tends toward losing weight more than not and I’ve never not seen some ribs on him. Looks great in the spring and fall on grass and about 5lbs of a dense calorie grain. But it’s hard to convince him to eat enough hay–he has it in front of him at all times. Same kind of grass that we graze, and well put up. Plus some really really rich 3rd cutting alf. He usually cleans up the alf well, but just doesn’t eat enough of the hay. So I have to supplement with more alf.

Admittedly not what all would call a hard keeper I guess. But, like you, I think most aren’t actually hard and he just is a little bit more so.

Anadarko Warrior (aka Alex):

IIRC, he raced twice, came in last or nearly last both times. Was retired at three from the track due to a tendon injury sustained when he got hung up in a hot walker (and, he wasn’t very good at racing). He was given to me for free, so I don’t have a ton of history.

He’s had his share of usual issues - ulcers, which took a few years to totally resolve, and his left hip is dropped, which we think is an old injury that possibly also led to his retirement. He’s a fairly easy keeper, but has developed recently an issue with dropping his grain. We had his teeth done six weeks ago, with no improvement. Vet rechecked two weeks ago, suggested he might have arthritis in the jaw or poll causing him to chew improperly.

Alex’s biggest issues are his hooves. He did fine for a while barefoot, but didn’t seem comfortable all the time under saddle, so we put him in shoes, which helped. Then his hooves stopped growing well, and we had to pull the shoes completely. Now, he has horrible shelly hooves that don’t retain moisture, no matter what; they chip on the edges to the point he’s barely sound. This summer, I am actually slathering them in hoof moisturizer, wrapping them in cotton and VetRap, and letting them go for 3-4 days at a time. He gets abscesses ALL the time, and no matter what you do, they travel up to the coronet band.

Otherwise, he’s one of the kindest, sanest horses I’ve ever owned. Stays fat on grass and a little bit of Safe Choice Performance once a day.

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Only one out of our 6 is a hard keeper…and by that I mean she just needs a little more grain than others. All of them are in hard consistent work, but good hay 24/7 and pasture goes a long, long way.

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