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Off the Track Throughbreds (OTTBs)

Lee Ann Zobbe is known for both her ability to source and re-train off track thoroughbreds. Several of her selections have gone on the upper levels of eventing. Please contact Lee Ann for more information about sales or shopping assistance.

Shopping for the OTTB

By Katherine Rosback

Area trainer Lee Ann Zobe has been shopping for OTTBs since the late 80s. When shopping for OTTBs, it's relationships that make the difference. As a regular shopper at Fairmont Park, Lee Ann knows the trainers and therefore is able to obtain more "forthcoming" information regarding the horse's soundness history. "Most race horses are injected to keep them running," explained Lee Ann, "and depending on how many times and with what makes a difference in long term soundness."

And what's her evaluation process? "First, I look at his face, his eye. It should be calm and state "here I am" and shouldn't look stupid. If he passes that test, we ask to take a look at him out of the stall and I note how he handles. He must be able to be handled without being a pain. Then I look at his stance. Is it well organized? He must be straight in the legs with no obvious enlargements of any joints and must have good foot. His body type should be distributed in equal thirds."

This all has to be done very quickly as you don't want to waste the trainer's time. "Just say no and move on.” she advises. "Trainers are not in the selling business and a key to buying these horses is to be quick in your assessments." Finally, she asks to have them walked and "begs" to have them jogged. "Sometimes it is difficult to have them jogged out," she explained. "But, if I can't see them jogged, I don't buy them." As far as the ability to ascertain their jumping ability, Lee Ann characterizes that as "an educated guess." The shopper has to make that assessment based on the movement, temperament, and confirmation that they see. But what if is doesn't work out? You bring the guy home and, for whatever reason, he just doesn't fit for you. "Don't waste time -move on!" Lee Ann advises. "Put it on for the same sales price. Just because they didn't work out for you doesn't mean it isn't what someone else wants."

But this doesn't mean that you should never again shop for an OTTB. "You can just as easily buy a well-trained event horse that doesn't work out for you as an un-trained OTTB." No, not every horse you look at will be a star but know that there are many who are now competing at eventing's highest levels. (including Ann Goodspeed's OTTB "Deke" and Lani Gilliam's OTTB "Lord Alfred" who both successfully compete at Intermediate).

To increase the chances that you find a horse that does fit, don't go shopping alone. Hire someone who has experience with the tracks, trainers, and has developed an eye for a rapid assessment (when you don't have the luxury of a week-long trial with the horse). This boosts the likelihood of bringing home the horse of your dreams for a very reasonable price.