Guest Blogger: Finding a New Track for the OTTB with Amateur Rider Alexa Basile

Hi Friends!

It’s been an amazing three weeks of newlywed and honeymoon bliss, but we’re back in action! We thought a great way to get back into the swing of things would be with a truly special guest blogger post. Meet Alexa Basile, a 26 year old middle school Literacy Specialist in Rochester, NY who is also currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Rochester. She has been competing on the Syracuse PHA circuit for a few years as well as showing in Vermont, Saratoga, Lake Placid and hopefully the World Equestrian Center this coming winter! She has a special place in her heart for OTTB’s, and a great story offering insight to those who have ever been interested in the process of taking a horse from the track and retraining for new discipline. 

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Alexa and Houston, an OTTB saved from the slaughter pipeline, at the Hampton Classic.
The American Jockey Club reported 22,500 registered Thoroughbred foals for 2016 in North America. Only about 60-65% are destined for a racing career and make it to race training. Many never win a race and after winning one race, the stakes become more competitive and a small percentage go on to win a second race.

Equestrian enthusiasts are reading more and more about the Thoroughbred Incentive Program and The Retired Racehorse Project. These programs are meant to help people realize that transitioning the Thoroughbred racehorse to a new career can be fun and rewarding. There are more and more adoption and rehoming organizations for Thoroughbreds that retire from the racing world as well.

I’ve been showing and leasing OTTBs throughout my junior and adult years. One was luckily saved from the slaughter pipeline and was competitive at Harrisburg, The Hampton Classic and Zone finals. Another was injured during his steeplechase career and with a little rehab time, he would literally jump the moon in perfect form every single time and took me to the Junior Hunter and Medal ring. Buying my first horse on my own at 25 years old was a goal of mine and I did it. Robert (Jockey Club name-Robert Noble) came off the track in October 2016 and has been a complete dream to work with. Bred exceptionally well and sharing a sire with 2015 Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah is pretty cool too but he has started to pave his own path outside of the racing world.
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Alexa and Robert, her current OTTB, who came off the track in October 2016.
Many people have this idea that horses coming off the track are “unsound” but this is not always true. Many retire from racing because of the lack of competitiveness or even lack of funds to keep the horse competitive. Many who retire from racing will have bumps and bruises but with a little time and patience, you will have a very talented and athletic partner. For example, my 6 year old OTTB bowed a tendon in 2014. His caregivers were very patient and he was rehabbed correctly and given the time he needed to rest and will never have any limitations for his next career as my hunter. Most Thoroughbred owners and trainers are very much in the business to do what is right for the horse despite many misconceptions of the racing world.High spirited? “Up”? Maybe…but with the proper “let down time” or relaxation time to become acclimated to your barn and with the help of a trainer, your OTTB will settle in just fine. Robert thrives on the relationship I have with him. He is an attention seeker and can be a little overconfident but I do a ton of ground work with him. Not anything structured, just letting him know that I am here to protect him and he needs to respect me on the ground. We do stretching exercises and silly games. We spend a lot of time grooming, grazing and even just watching each other. I could stand at his stall door staring at him for hours if you let me. I think he appreciates the time I spend with him. 

“Green”? Yes! Your OTTB is green like any baby horse you may work with. Your OTTB is special though and is learning a new job. Imagine yourself going to college for 4 years to learn to be an expert in your career field. Now pretend that you failed at it and need to find a new job and learn brand new skills in a brand new environment. How would you feel entering that new job? You will need time to understand the ins and outs of that new job and build confidence. Lots and lots of confidence! Your OTTB operates that way too. Never rush. Take your time and understand and believe that it is NATURAL for the Thoroughbred breed to be very giving and wanting to please you as long as you communicate that new job very clearly. Your OTTB is bred to be athletic and unless they left the track with a serious injury, they will be able to perform any discipline you ask.

Whether your aspirations are to perform beautiful dressage tests, navigate a Cross Country course, fox hunt, run barrels or jump around a Hunter Derby course like myself, your OTTB will perform for you. In fact, 17 horses who performed at Rolex this year were Thoroughbreds and 6 of them were OTTBs. I’ve had the pleasure of riding and showing absolutely drop dead fancy warmbloods at many A shows but my heart returns to the Thoroughbred breed. Maybe it’s the challenge? Maybe it’s the rush of sitting on such a powerful and sensitive animal? Maybe it’s the fact that the rewards are endless. The athleticism is endless. Most importantly, the heart of the Thoroughbred breed never ceases to disappoint.


Interested in participating as a guest blogger? Contact us or send us a DM on Instagram! We love making new friends!

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