Wednesday, July 1, 2015

OTTBs, Conformation, and Progress Posts

Maybe I'm the only person on the ENTIRE PLANET who feels like she's constantly behind the OTTB curve. Seems like every other OTTB owner is like "HELLZ YEAH DOING STUFF" when I'm just over here working away at training level. Maybe I really am that far behind the curve. 

But in case I'm not, I want to show you something. (Or maybe prove something to myself.) Regardless. Here we go.
July 2013

You all know this picture. It's Courage, the night before he left the track and maybe two weeks after his last race. He's 8 years old and very, very fit. Conformationally, he is a lovely thing (which we can see because there's no fat getting in our way.) You can also see his upside down neck which is a part of his uber-short topline and the way his front legs are a bit inclined under his body. That can be just how a horse is posed (good conformation shots are an art form, yo), but in this case, I think it also speaks to his general body soreness and the type of fitness he has.
October 2013

90 days later is a lot less attractive. Let's be real. Courage's fall coat is coming in, which explains the coat color difference. His handquarters look so sexy and symmetrical and he's put on a lot of weight through his underline, but his whole topline still just looks tight and uncomfortable. You can still see how his front legs are set a bit under his body. He's lost most of the racing muscle, but he hasn't gotten to the pretty phase yet.
March 2014
A winter off made a world of difference for Courage. I know it's super sexy to be like "6 weeks from racing to BN", but while that might work for some horses, I don't think it's a good idea (AT ALL) for others--I mean, from this progression, it took Courage ~9 months to really get back to square one in terms of being physically ready to start real training. Courage is growing in a spring coat after body clipping, which account for the unattractive color, but he looks so much more comfortable in his own skin. His neck has started to drop a little. His topline doesn't have that almost "pinched" look to it. There isn't a lot of muscling going on, but it's definitely an improvement.
October 2014

This is a gorgeous photo, but it's not my favorite shot ever of Courage. Again, he looks comfortable in his own skin and much more relaxed. He has put some muscle on after a summer of work. I like that his lines are all kind of longer and more filled in. I basically haven't changed his neck at all, but it's not worse, so that's good. There is more muscle in his hindquarters and abs (do people talk about horse abs?). There is definite improvement, but it doesn't have that "WOW" factor of his racetrack shot.
July 2015

And then today. We're closing right in on two years off the track, and to me, Courage is starting to look really good. (Noted: conformation shots should be taken without wraps, but we're not dealing with a PPE or lower leg blemishes, so whatever.) (Also noted: I should have asked Courage to drop his head some, but eh. He's beautiful.)

Here I'm finally seeing what Courage can look like after months of correct work. There is some lovely definition in his shoulder and his neck is starting to fill in. Honestly, this picture shows his neck the least well, but trust me when I say it's deeper and thicker and getting more attractive. I'm already coveting more hind end development and a bigger, thicker  neck, but if this sequence shows anything, it's that progress comes with slow, correct work and lots of time.

PS Note how he's in a different head collar for every single shot.

PPS Check out that kick ass tail development!


  1. As I was looking at the pics, all I could think was OMG that tail!!! But the rest of him looks pretty darn great, too :)

  2. Hey, 12+ years off the track and Moe is still farting around at Training level. ;) Courage looks great, and his tail is out of control.

  3. Tucker was still stumbling around Training Level at age 12 and he's supposed to be a fancy warmblood. Also Courage is just beautiful. Love the progress shots.

  4. he looks great. you'll almost never regret taking your time to lay a solid and correct foundation on a horse

  5. 2 years into ownership at the end of July on my mare and we just started bopping around 2' courses this Spring. 2 years of learning how to get along and do flat work properly (which is still an issue for us.) So, you're not the only one feeling behind! Courage is such a lovely horse and you can see how much he has changed since you've owned him. :-)

  6. He's looking gorg, and that tail is lovely!

  7. Jack has been off the track for two years and isn't even at Training Level. Spider was 15 before he got out of 1st Level. I'd say Courage is ahead of the curve, but you know my feelings on "Look what I did in 6 weeks!" :p

  8. Just about the only way you can tell it's the same horse is by looking at his blaze-face. What a transformation!

  9. Hooray for good progression confo shots. It's one of the few ways you can look back and see how far you've come from what you had to start with. I'm thinking to do something like that with my mare, albeit more focused on one part of her body... good, steady consistent work changes a lot of things in a good way. Personally I like the 2nd and 3rd pic's of him best.

  10. I've been reading Denny Emerson's how good riders get good and it has a great section about progress and patience, something about you can't see the grass growing but every month you have to cut it. You don't always see the changes day to day, which is why progress photos are so fun!

    1. I really like this! Makes sense! Courage looks gorgeous, especially that thick tail!

  11. Such a lovely looking fellow, you have done great work & at a pace that suits you both. That's not being behind the curve, that is being ahead of the game and marching to the beat of your own drum.
    Kudos to you girl - patience is an art form as reflected in this stunning pictorial

  12. That tail growth is ridiculous awesome. And of course Mr. Man is looking fantastic too :) It's so cool to see a progression like this, you can really see how much he's grown and changed!

  13. Lol I'm like you. My just off the track horse has been doing nothing but eating and sleeping for 3 months. I like to take it slow too, results speak for themselves. Great job with his care.

  14. Love these progression shots! Wow he sure has come a long way. Its easy to feel "behind" when the OTTBs that P-Dutty and Hawley Bennett are showing get a lot of the social media and sporthorse "press" coverage. But I think most OTTBs need a lot longer recovery and development time.


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