Riding sometimes 5 horses a day, most of them very green, has left me wondering many time "Where are all the normal horses?!" ...no seriously....... Where are the horses that WTC and move in straight AND curved lines?
All the OTTB re-training blogs from the pros I know seem to go similarly. Horse comes off track, some time is spent on the ground getting them used to scary obstacles, horse is suddenly going to BN events, getting mid-30's on dressage tests, jumping everything and remaining perfectly sensible at shows.
Is this what it's really like? Not in my experience.....
I recently got a new OTTB prospect, a 4-year old named "Never Ceasing." He has been incredibly calm and easy to handle around the farm. Almost anyone can halter/lead him, he loves to be outside, he is nice in his stall, he goes on the X-ties, he even stands at the mounting block. He can be ridden at the walk and trot sensibly in the field, he circled well both directions (before I pulled his racing plates), and felt reasonably safe to WTC, although he only canters on his left lead. He walks over poles, and I bet I could walk or trot him over a small jump, although I haven't tried.
Stromboli was similar when I got him, and I spent 6+ months leisurely hacking him, riding him on the roads, occasionally popping him over some jumps, and doing a calm "re-start." I thought this approach was going to make him easy to handle at shows, make him level headed, and easy to ride on the flat. I could not have been more wrong. Was Stromboli a fluke? A product of the other training he got between the track and me? Or was this a bad approach? Should I have stuck him in side reins, lunged him every day, taken lots of dressage lessons?
Every horse is an individual, and especially when you're a semi-pro trainer like me, with no indoor, a "real" job, a family, a farm to keep up, and a family, you have to make the best choices you can with the time and resources you have. I could look back and second guess all the choices I made about how to bring Stromboli along, but there's no way of knowing if he would be better or worse right now.
I rode my 21-year old OTTB mare, Beauty, yesterday. Despite being arthritic & out of shape, she was dead-straight, even in both reins, and extremely correct. I laughed to myself realizing that it only took me 14 or so years to be able to ride her this way....