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Your OTTB's First Career: Part 2

Julie Frykman

Posted on October 12 2017

Chris Campitelli is our guest answering your backside related questions! Due to your overwhelming response in questions for Chris, and his informative answers, this was a two part entry. See Part 1 here.

If you don't see an answer to a question you have, simply send them to us via our contact form on this site. Our goal for this blog is to be a resource for those with questions!

For Chris's full bio, please see our first entry of this two part series.

Julie: Are horses ever tied and not held by a human?
Chris: Yes, for most horses they are tied when being groomed before training, when being saddled, and after training when bandages are applied. Most horses have no problems with this practice.

Julie: Many talk of finding that their OTTBs have ulcers. How are ulcers controlled while a TB is in race training?

Chris: The presence of ulcers in race horses is often an undiagnosed and wide spread problem. Performance horses require a lot of energy to maintain their fitness and their diets consist primarily of concentrate feeds, either grain based or pelleted feeds. Because horses in nature are constant grazers their stomachs are constantly secreting acid to digest the steady stream of food entering the digestive system. With a diet high in concentrates, acid levels become raised in the stomach and intestines, gradually eating away the protective lining of the digestive system and leading to ulcers. In addition, the use of NSAID’s in performance horses has also been shown to deteriorate the lining of the digestive tract and create ulcers.

There are a number of supplements and medications on the market to help treat and prevent ulcers in the stomach. The most prominent and most expensive (upwards of $45/day) treatment is a product called GastroGuard. The primary active ingredient in GastroGuard is omeprazole, which is now available in generic form at a significantly lower price. Omeprazole works to decrease the acidity in the stomach by shutting down cells responsible for producing stomach acid. For moderate cases, and to prevent ulcers, there are a number of daily supplements on the market to help balance the acidity in the stomach. These are available at a significantly lower price.

Julie: You are a big advocate for these horses finding second careers. Do you see the renewed interest in OTTBs making its way to the backside and giving these retirees value?

Chris: I am a huge advocate of OTTBs. As an owner or trainer it is imperative that good homes be found for horses after their racing careers are over, not just for the wellbeing of the horse, but also for the wellbeing of the sport. For some, a life out in the field is a perfectly acceptable retirement for former race horses however, most of these horses are high strung and are used to leading an active life, being ridden every day, and being in constant contact with their care takers. This is why if the proper time and effort is put into OTTBs they can make for great prospects as hunters, jumpers, dressage, or trail riding horses.

Over the past 5 years I have seen an incredible increase in the number of organizations and non-profits that have emerged to offer owners and trainers an opportunity to place their horses when they reach the end of their racing careers. Every week members of these groups come to the back side and ask trainers if they have any prospective OTTBs. The horses are then put on web sites like “Canter” where people can search for horses and contact their trainers. These services are a blessing for horses that need a second career, as well as owners and trainers who are responsible for finding new homes for their equine athletes. These sites also can be a great opportunity for prospective buyers. Many of the horses offered are available for a very reasonable price and some are even given away for free. This creates a huge incentive for people to take horses off the track, give them a second career, and even make a profit by reselling them. While big steps have been taken to insure that all retired racehorses get a good home, there is certainly room for improvement and expansion in this field, as well as the opportunity to make OTTBs a profitable venture.

Julie: What suggestions do you have for someone with a fresh OTTB from the track?

Chris: Many times when a decision is made to retire a race horse it is because of either injury or a lack of desire on the part of the horse to compete (a sour attitude). In either case the best thing to do is to give a horse time off. Sometimes, just removing a horse from the race track environment will produce a 180 degree turn around in a horse’s attitude and behavior. If an injury is present, an owner should first consult a veterinarian about the length of time needed for the horse’s injury to heal properly. For a more severe injury stall rest is required, however in most cases being turned out in a field is sufficient.

Even if turn out is required, I would recommend spending as much time as possible with a new OTTB. This is not only for the horse’s benefit but also the owner’s. The only way to truly develop a relationship is to spend time with your horse. They need to become comfortable with you and you with them, and it starts on the ground and in the stall. OTTBs are big, powerful, and often high strung. This can be quite intimidating for anyone, but especially for new owners of OTTBs. As silly as it sounds, I am a firm believer that horses can sense if you are fearful of them, and some will take advantage of this and try to bully you. The only way to get over your fear is to spend time with them and interact with them as much as possible.

Julie: What is it that you love about these horses?
Chris: Horses are a lot of work, whether you’re trying to get them to be successful race horses, teaching them how to pick up the correct lead, or just taking care of them in your back yard. They are expensive, they are time consuming, and they can be frustrating at times. You can have a healthy, happy, and fit race horse that finishes last every race, no matter how much time, money, and effort you put into them. So why do we do it?  I think part of it is because these animals are so dependent upon us, but in the same way we depend on them. Whenever things get bad in your life they are always there. They are a constant project that can take your mind off of the things that may be bothering you. As long as you treat them well and love them, they will return the favor, and at times when you may need it the most. As much time and effort as we put into them, it is funny how the smallest step forward toward your ultimate goal for yourself and your horse can give you such a great sense of satisfaction. These often times brief, yet fulfilling, accomplishments are what leave you coming back for more. They leave you anxious to get up at the crack of dawn, just to take care of your horse.

We would like to thank Chris Campitelli for his time in answering your questions. We found this very informative and enjoyed peeking into the former life of our OTTBs. For more information on the Ron Fields nutritional products Chris distributes, please visit his NB 50-30 page, or follow him on twitter at Campotres.

xoxo Julie and the Equestrianista Team


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