Love Stories: Why I Own an Off the Track Thoroughbred

IEHJA has partnered with Santa Anita Park to promote the versatility of the Thoroughbred horse specifically focusing on second careers for retired racehorses. Known as off the track thoroughbreds or OTTB’s these horses can and do most any equestrian discipline from pleasure and trail riding to barrel competitions, parades and endurance. IEHJA’s focus is promoting them for the hunter/jumper arena. OTTBs are outstanding competitors and with the right selection and training can be matched to most riders.

To emphasize this point IEHJA has asked some of it’s members to submit their OTTB love stories. IEHJA members and their OTTB compete at all levels in the show ring, and many also participate in other activities with their horses. This is two of their stories.

Betty Bullman and Nonchalant (Wake Up Nick)
Trainer Susan Smith (Cornerstone Equestrian Center)

When I found my current horse Nonchalant aka Nick (JC – Wake up Nick), I was not even looking for a new horse at the time. It had been 2 years since I lost my last horse, and I wasn’t in any hurry to go get a new one. One day my trainer Susan Smith said, “Hey there is a horse I found that might be good for us to look at.” I asked if it was chestnut and she said yes, so we were off to Fallbrook. When we arrived at Kiersti Wylie’s barn Nick was the first horse she pulled out for us to look at. Nick wasn’t the original horse we had set out to see, but we wanted to look at a few since were there. She brought him out and he passed the first test. He was chestnut. When Nick was being ridden by Kiersti, we could tell that he was very quiet, he just trotted and cantered along with his head down at a very nice pace. For a 4-year-old off the track we saw something special. She then proceeded to jump him over some small fences, and he didn’t even blink an eye. My trainer then rode him and then I was last. We looked at a couple of other horses while we were there, but the conversation on the way home was about Nick. My trainer said if you want this horse you need to move on it.

Betty and Nick showing off their ribbons.

Two weeks later he was mine and ever since he has been the ultimate amateur horse. This was a bit surprising after finding out what a successful racing career he had. Nick was the most winningest 2-year-old in North America at one time. He also won multiple graded stakes races. This surprised me due to the fact he just goes around on a loose rein and his pace never changes. One thing he kept form his race days was his workman like attitude in the show ring. He also takes very serious win pictures. I have had several horses come off the track but by far Nick has been the easiest on so many levels. He is brave and willing to try new things. He turned into a 3-ring horse easily, he goes down the trail just like a trail master, his only weakness is cows. So, it is safe to say that he will never be a working cow horse, which is fine with me.

Betty and Nic competing

My whole riding career has revolved around OTTB’s. They have taught how to become a quiet and effective rider. Nick is turning out to be a very quiet hunter. With the quiet hunter comes learning to let go and flow with your horse without holding them back. This is what he is teaching me do and when I do my part everything seems to come together. When I don’t get in his way, I see better distances and he puts in a better jump, it is a win- win. As we progress, we will continue to put the time and effort into improving our courses and flatwork to be the best we can be, no matter what level we are competing at.

Ryann and Lola B at IEHJA year End Show

Ryann Buhl and Lola B

I started riding when I was in first grade and fell in love with it. Then about five years later I moved barns. My parents finally agreed to buy me a horse. I had always done the hunters and never thought about jumpers. We ended up buying a hunter but then she got injured. While my hunter was on stall rest and rehabbing, I was introduced to my OTTB Lola B, who was a jumper. When she ran on the track, she had quite a successful career. Lola was my trainer’s horse  and she had just had a baby but was ready to come back to work. It was perfect timing for both of us as I didn’t have a horse to ride. My trainer offered to bring her to the barn for me to ride while my hunter was recovering. When I first started riding her, I was intimidated because I had never ridden an OTTB and going fast was not in my nature. However, the longer I rode Lola the more I fell in love with her and jumpers. We were both loving this new partnership.  About a year later Lola officially became mine. When I started to ride Lola, she knew how to jump but not much else. She had never gone to a horseshow. She was thoroughbred through and through, I could not pick up my reign unless I was ready to trot. We taught each other. I taught her how to properly go around a course, and she taught me how to ride much more balanced and straight. This was my second year showing her in IEHJA we finished champion in the .70s low children’s division, sixth in the schooling .70s jumpers, and in GSDHJA fourth in the .70s division. We had a successful 2022 show season, and I’m looking forward to 2023!

Looking for the next jump

IEHJA plans to submit more Thoroughbred love stories in the future to encourage prospective horse buyers to consider OTTBs. To explore acquiring OTTBs contact CARMA at or call Lucinda Lovitt at (626) 840-4747.