What Is An OTTB Horse? OTTB Horses Explained!

Last Updated on March 30, 2022

In recent years, OTTB horses have grown in popularity, with many people choosing to take on one of these horses. But what is an OTTB horse and are they the right horse for you?

OTTB horses can be a big challenge to take on, but they can bring huge rewards over time. Let’s take a look at OTTB horses and what they are all about!

What Does OTTB Mean?

OTTB means ‘Off The Track Thoroughbred’. These are horses that have been retired from the Thoroughbred racing industry and then go on to be retrained in a new equestrian discipline. OTTB horses may have raced for years or may have never set foot on a racetrack. They may have been retired due to injury, or simply because they were not competitive or fast enough to race.

What Does OTTB Mean

What Can OTTB Horses Be Used For?

Retrained Thoroughbreds can make exceptionally good riding horses, with many of them going on to complete at top-level competitions. Thoroughbreds are strong, fast, athletic, and have plenty of stamina – perfect for many equestrian sports!

Some of the top-level OTTB horses include:

  • Blackfoot Mystery is a gelding who raced three times before being retired and retrained for eventing. He then went on to compete at the 2016 Olympics!
  • Tizrobertcharles was a winner on the track but then went on to become a police horse in South Florida.
  • Fighting Furrari became a movie star with the title role in ‘Seabiscuit’, and now assists children with Autism in California.
  • Idle Dice was sold from the race track at the age of 4 after he proved to be unsuccessful. He went on to become a top-level showjumper, winning 31 Grand Prix titles.

However, if you’re not looking for a sporty horse, don’t rule out an OTTB as your next mount. There are plenty of Thoroughbreds out there with a calm and dependable nature – these are the ones who just didn’t want to race! Some OTTB horses can make lovely pleasure riding horses, and will quite happily stroll along trails for hours at a time.

Is It Easy To Train An OTTB Horse?

OTTB horses will have only been trained to do one thing – run as fast as possible! They are broken and trained in very different ways to conventional riding horses, and require a long period of retraining. They may not understand basic aids and need an experienced rider to help them learn what is expected of them.

101 Ground Training Exercises for Every Horse & Handler

When a Thoroughbred retires from the racetrack, it will be given several weeks or months to rest and relax. This is referred to as the ‘letting down’ period, and it allows the horse to unwind physically as well as mentally.

After this period, the Thoroughbred will be slowly and gently retrained to become a riding horse. How long this takes and how difficult this process varies widely according to the horse’s temperament and age.

How Much Does An OTTB Horse Cost?

Although it is possible to buy an OTTB horse privately, it is better to go through an approved organization that will have assessed and trained the horse before rehoming it.

The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance has brought together a list of approved trainers for people who wish to take on an OTTB horse. These are accredited organizations that will retrain retired racehorses, and then make them available to adopt.

Adoption fees for OTTBs can range from a few thousand dollars down to just a few hundred dollars. The fee depends on a variety of factors, including the soundness, confirmation, and level of training of the horse. These organizations receive funding that allows them to keep adoption fees as low as possible, however, retraining these horses takes time and money.

By adopting a horse from an approved OTTB trainer you can be sure that the horse has been thoroughly evaluated, and the organization will try its best to match the right horse to the right home. They will also support the new owner after adoption, helping to create a successful and long-lasting partnership.

Where Can I Find an OTTB Horse For Sale?

If you don’t want to adopt an OTTB horse, you will find ex-racing Thoroughbreds for sale in the classified adverts and at horse auctions. However, a responsible racehorse trainer would always take their retired horses to an approved organization for retraining. Horses sold by other methods may be unpredictable or even suffer from long-term injury or lameness.

If you choose to buy rather than adopt an OTTB horse, make sure to get it thoroughly checked by a veterinarian first. It may sensible to ask for a trial period before committing to buy, so you can fully assess the temperament and suitability of the horse.

What Is Better – An OTTB Mare Or An OTTB Gelding?

Many of us prefer one gender of a horse to another, but they both have their advantages and disadvantages. As with all horses, many factors can affect temperament and performance, but gender does make a big difference.

Normally, riders and trainers who are looking for a sensible and predictable horse will choose a gelding. Geldings are also good for relaxing equine activities such as trail riding, happy to wander along for hours at a time. However, remember this is a Thoroughbred – you should not expect to live the quiet life with an OTTB gelding!

What Is Better – An OTTB Mare Or An OTTB Gelding

Mares are often chosen by riders or trainers who enjoy a challenge and a bit of ‘fizziness’. Mares are less forgiving of any mistakes, meaning the rider must concentrate at all times. And of course, with OTTB mares, we’ve got the added complications of the ever-changing hormones!

Summary- OTTB Meaning

So, as we have learned, an OTTB horse is a Thoroughbred which has retired from racing and has been retrained in a new equestrian discipline. OTTB horses can be a challenge to retrain but can become reliable and fun riding horses. Some organizations hold events and competitions for OTTB horses.

We would love to hear about your experiences with OTTB horses – have you ever owned or retrained one? Perhaps you are thinking of buying an OTTB horse but have a few questions you’d like us to answer? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!


What do you feed an OTTB?

An OTTB needs a proper diet. In addition to normal hay and fresh grass on the pasture the best food for an OTTB horse include grain free complete feeds, lupins, sugarbeet pulp, soybean or lupin hulls, full-fat soybean, and copra. Lupins are high in fiber, are easy to digest, and help keep a horse’s coat shiny and soft. The horse will enjoy this nutritious food. It is also beneficial for the digestive tract. A good quality mineral block is also essential to support the digestive system and ensure optimal nutrient absorption. 
While this kind of diet will help your horse to get through the early stages of transformation from a racehorse to an “ordinary” horse it will also help to adopt more relaxed attitude, which can be very beneficial if you are just starting to train him.

How do you take care of an OTTB horse?

It’s recommended that the horse be rested for several days, especially if he’s just been raced, to calm him down. The best way of calming a horse is to hand walk him for several days in a row. This will help him to relax and also ensure that he gets enough exercise. It is also recommended to reduce the amount of grains in your horse’s diet to about six quarts per day. Since the horse is not racing anymore, he won’t use as many calories as before and will gain weight unless you reduce his daily energy intake.

Where do I start with OTTB?

When you first start out, it may be helpful to start by building a relationship with your horse before attempting to teach him new behaviors. The best way to start training your OTTB horse is to teach him how to lunge correctly. Begin by training your horse to respond to your voice and commands. After a week or two, you can begin to work on the basics of getting your horse to move in a forward motion, stop, turn, and change direction. Once your horse is comfortable with these movements, you can begin working on different gaits and using them to improve your horse’s ability to change direction. Keep it simple and use basic commands such as Walk, Trot, Canter, Steady and Whoa. This will help your horse to get used to his new leg aids and helping him understand them.

How do I teach OTTB to canter?

First you should teach your OTTB horse to walk, trot, and canter quietly in both directions. After some time spent on the training, a horse should be able to take both leads quietly. However, it can happen that your horse will be associating the canter with gallop for a long time. If that happens, try to focus on teaching him a walk-to-canter transition. Normally this kind of training calms down a horse and helps with teaching him how to canter properly. 
At first, the horse should walk and canter in the same direction. As you progress in the training, you will be able to start asking him to canter in the opposite direction. When teaching your horse to canter, keep your hands relaxed and steady. If you feel like your horse is not ready, you can try to use your legs to guide him. But try not to move them too much or he might get confused.