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Making A Living With Thoroughbred Makeovers

Can we make a living dealing in Thoroughbreds?

Maybe don’t give up your day job quite yet. We are still in a developmental stage of creating demand, awareness of their qualities as sport horses, and increasing our horsemanship skills in selecting and training them.

Although the supply outweighs the demand, the lack of dealers makes the evaluation process challenging.

Where to Purchase a Thoroughbred

Thoroughbred Race Horses
Choose a purchase source you are comfortable with based on the risk factors.

  1. Race Track direct –  this route is “high risk” as there is minimal evaluation of the horse
  2. Thoroughbred horses of racing age sales – again this is “high risk” due to minimal evaluation
  3. Internet sales  – this is “high risk” due to the minimal video evaluation you get of the horse
  4. Organizations who offer Off The Track Thoroughbreds – “low” to “high risk” depending on the organizations evaluation facilities such as:
    • Free jumping chute or safe place to free jump
    • Small paddock or area to observe the horse free
    • Small area to ride
  5. Dealers – “low risk” as there is a high evaluation factor
  6. Private sales – this is “lower risk” depending on evaluation facilities offered

Does the Horse Have the Right Stuff?

Thoroughbred Horse

You will want to purchase a TB that offers the best qualities for the elected discipline.

1. Race Track

  • Type – depending on elected discipline, look for an attractive individual with good conformation and decent to very good gaits
  • Race record – you will want to look for ones with fewer starts
  • Evaluate the prospect in the stall for vices
  • Walk and trot the horse in hand and make sure to watch morning exercise
  • Examine the horse yourself before vetting
  • Vetting – this is more strict if you plan on reselling the horse
  • Bloodlines – even though it’s just paper with minimal evaluation, it’s better to have lineage to good jumping lines than not
  • Evaluate the race record for long gaps, as it may be due to injury
  • Talk with trainer and exercise jock for information that relates to temperament, etc.

2. Thoroughbred Sales
Same as above with certain restrictions:

  • You may not be able to see the gallop
  • Vetting – this may be restricted depending on sale policies

3. Organizations
Same as above, depending on facilities:

  • Watch free jumping either in chute or in a safe area
  • Observe all gaits and the horse’s ability for a natural easy flying change in the jumping chute, small paddock or on a lunge line
  • If possible, ride or watch under saddle to evaluate temperament, and at the very least, you will want to jump something; from poles on the ground to a small cross rail.
Horse Show Gallery

4. Dealers
Same as above plus:

  • Watch and/or ride under saddle to observe gaits, temperament, rideability, trainability, intelligence, natural flying change and jumping ability
  • For resale you want a horse that’s attractive and comfortable, with tendencies to be pleasant to ride

Should You Flip or Train?

Thoroughbred Horse Longeing

This decision really depends on your facilities, staff’s knowledge and talent to train, monthly costs and where you see the potential of the horse and value in the marketplace.

Facilities should consider having a place to free jump and a dedicated free jumping chute is recommended.

The Flip

This is for the person who wants to sell immediately for a smaller profit. This is the best option if you have the opportunity to sell to a good private individual or other dealers who wish to train the horse further for larger profit. To help with the review process of the prospect to potential buyers, a jumping chute is advisable or safe area to free jump.

Training for Resale

Factors to Consider:

  • The monthly costs of keeping and training the horse
  • Do you have the proper facilities?
  • Do you have the knowledge and ability to train a Thoroughbred well?
  • You will want to know and target your market by discipline
  • Target other dealers with clients who may not be interested in or can’t afford to shop in Europe
  • Target the private sector with smaller budgets who may not be able to afford the more expensive warm bloods
  • Unless it’s a super star whose value may increase dramatically with long-term training, try and sell within 6-months to minimize costs and stay under the warm blood prices

Other Considerations and Tips

Have a way out. If you’ve made a mistake or the horse just isn’t going to cut it, get out. Costs are too high today to keep a bad one.

Utilize neighboring facilities to school over new jumps, rather than at horse shows, in order to minimize costs.

Ideally, use a vet familiar with racehorses for both purchases and sales if possible.

There are more and more people purchasing directly over the internet today and your presentation is important.

  • Develop a sales website offering your horses, plus all the success stories of your sales.
  • Develop camera and editing skills and present great videos of your horse. Short in length, but showing all gaits, jumping and with quality video. You can sometimes find students at a local college media department that can help with this at a low cost.
  • Utilize other sales websites and social media to promote your prospects.

Knowledge is Power: Increase your Horsemanship Skills

It’s been over three decades since the decline of the Thoroughbred en masse in the sport, so our skills in selecting, training, evaluating conformation, and breeding have also declined.

A quote from Ronnie Beard:

The dwindling number of Thoroughbreds in the sport today is not due to the failing of the Thoroughbred, but in part our lack of producing Horsemen with the ability and desire to discover and produce them.

The following are sources to increase one’s horsemanship in different areas:


  • Bloodlines of Hunters and Jumpers in North America by Dr. Peter Birdsall (this book is out of print but you can find it used on amazon, ebay and other online bookstores)
  • – Dr. Daniel Marks’ website which is coming soon
  • Denny Emerson has a wealth of knowledge on the subject and writes many articles and posts for various magazine and publications. Visit his website: Tamarack Hill Farm


If you plan to purchase and sell a Thoroughbred, you must have a general knowledge of conformation and defects that are or are not acceptable in show horses

VIDEO TRAINING FOR OFF THE TRACK THOROUGHBREDS: – Bernie Traurig’s online video training website offers several videos to help with this:


Some of these books are out of print, but well worth it if you can find them used. You can usually find them used on Amazon, ebay or AbeBooks. Libraries are also a good resource to find them.


Retired Racehorse Directory

The RRP (Retired Racehorse Project) is an effort to increase demand for retired Thoroughbred racehorses as pleasure and sport horses through public events, clinics, training publications, videos and internet tools. Their mission is to facilitate the placement of retired Thoroughbred racehorses in second careers by educating the public about the history, distinctive characteristics, versatility of use, and appropriate care and training of the iconic American Thoroughbred.

Their directory provides a list of organizations, facilities, dealers and trainers in each state that work exclusively with OTTBs.

Visit their website:

Thoroughbred Horse Free Jumping
Group of Thoroughbred horses in a field
Thoroughbred Horse Jumping with Rider

A facility that serves as a roll model for all nonprofit placement organizations is the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center (MMSC). It is located in the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, the Horse Capital of the World, and is a premier reschooling facility and showcase for adoptable Thoroughbreds. Founded in 2004, the MMSC uses its illustrious location to herald the athleticism of this amazing breed by teaching new skill sets to horses of all levels of ability using the Horse Centered Reschooling Program developed by MMSC Director Susanna Thomas so they can go on and be ambassadors for racehorses in new careers. Horses can be evaluated in hand, free jumping, under saddle, and have been worked with extensively to determine their individual temperament and aptitude.

Visit their website:

Bernie Traurig

As a Horseman, Bernie is renowned for not only his riding talents but for his teaching and coaching gifts. As a competitor, Bernie has represented the United States Equestrian Team both at home and abroad on many occasions and reached the top of the sport in all 3 of the International Equestrian Olympic disciplines: Show Jumping, Dressage, and Eventing.After amassing 60 years worth of training and riding techniques and experiences with thousands of horses, Bernie is driven to give back to the sport that has given him so much fulfillment and success.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. I have a 7 year old OTTB. I bought him to use for my dabbles in the eventing world. “Sochi” won just over $500 in 8 starts. Being dead last every time he raced, his earnings came from his position of fourth in a four horse race.
    Such underwhelming ambition and drive has meant that he is perfect for attending low level clinics and trail riding. He is my ballet-dancing sisters mount, when she comes to visit.
    Due to a racing injury, he will never be higher level anything, but he is perfect for my needs.

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