In this series, the United States Eventing Association (USEA) is partnering with Athletux to critique your off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) eventing prospects. Professional riders and trainers will share their insights into each OTTB's pedigree, racing history, and conformation. Would you like to have your off-the-track Thoroughbred featured in the next edition of OTTB Critique presented by Athletux? We are looking for our next horse! Email your tips to [email protected].
It’s no secret that the off-the-track Thoroughbred is a staple within the sport of eventing. The resilience, competitive nature, and athleticism of the breed lends itself well to a demanding sport, so many riders flock to the websites featuring horses coming off of the track in search of their next partner.
What is it you should be looking for when it comes time to select a horse off the track? Certainly there are many things that a prospective buyer should look at for any horse, and we tapped event rider and OTTB expert Dani Sussman of Larkspur, Co. to walk us through a critique of an off-the-track Thoroughbred.
This is The Dude Abides, a 2013 gelding who raced under the name Boston’s Posse (It’s Not For Love x Posse). Now owned by Joanna Newton, The Dude Abides’ last race was on October 16, 2016 and he was purchased that November from Kim DePasquale in Ocala.
As with any breed, it is wise to look at conformation and its suitability for the intended use of the horse. “I keep the conformation in the back of my head until I see the horse in person,” Sussman said of her buying process. “I have my red flags from what I’ve seen and I know what I want to see in person. I’m then going to go and see how the horse moves, which can override some of my initial thoughts. This also will trigger my thoughts on what I want to get x-rays of, etc. to complete the puzzle.”
Jennifer Bishop Photo.
On her initial look at The Dude Abides, Sussman appreciated his kind eye. “One of the first things I will look at is their eye – I want to see if it’s soft and kind, and if it’s a good general expression.”
She then moves on to proportionality, taking in the whole picture of the horse before looking at him piece by piece. She comments that this particular horse has a bit of an upright angle to his shoulder, which leads her to surmise that he might not have the biggest movement.
Many horses coming off the track are muscled for racing, which often gives them an undernourished look. “It’s actually easier to see their basic conformation when they are in racing shape,” Sussman explained. “You have to overlook certain things, like the way they trot for example, because of the muscles they have at the time. I always look for a good walk, first and foremost. As long as they are trotting up sound, I am not too picky about what that ‘track trot’ looks like because you can work on the quality of movement with good basic conformation.”
Another comment Sussman made on her perusal of photos was that this particular horse was standing square in every photo she saw. “I think it’s interesting,” she said. “Of course, you can put a horse square, but sometimes they’ll want to move a hind leg up or take another step. He looks very comfortable standing square, which tells me that he’s generally more balanced and self-aware. That’s impressive to me and it tells me that he is probably overall quite comfortable, putting weight evenly in each leg.”
Jennifer Bishop Photo.
Sussman will look at angles as she would with any breed, and pays attention to the length of the pastern more than the length of the cannon bone. “From being a racehorse, they’re going fast and hard, so the longer their pastern is, the more strain that work is putting on their sesamoids and the soft tissue up the back of the leg,” she explained. “While longer pasterns often make for lovely movers, there is kind of a ‘sweet spot’ length where you’re going to get both. But for eventing, where you have them landing off of a big jump or going downhill, it’s something to be mindful of.”
Overall, Sussman assessed The Dude Abides as a proper, kind event prospect. While his conformation might not tick every box perfectly, he is proportional and has the right expression to look up for whatever task is put in front of him.
“For me, I want a good temperament,” she said. “I want them to have certain conformational features that I favor, but like I said I try to keep it in the back of my mind after that initial look so that I can know what to focus on when I see them in person. The overall picture has to be pleasant for me to want to move forward.”
Dani Sussman has successfully started many off-track Thoroughbreds throughout her career and is always available to help you find yours. You can find out more about her program, Aspire Eventing, by clicking here.
Would you like to have your off-the-track Thoroughbred featured in the next edition of OTTB Critique presented by Athletux? We are looking for our next horse! Email your tips to [email protected].