What I have learned was when a horse has raced for 8!! years and the only life they have ever known was on a race track. When they were as good at their job as a horse like Steady Smiler was, 75 starts, winning 8 times, second 9 times and 3rd 10 times and we are not talking about little claiming races we are talking about Derby's, Cup's and Stakes races. I can't even imgine the life he led for so many years. Then one day it all just came to a screeching halt and everything changed. What he ate, when he ate, when he exercies, how he exercied, his contact with people, he was no longer handled by random grooms. He was a pet, in a backyard. All of that and many other mental and physical changes will most likely cause repurcussions on many levels. And looking back now I can clearly see it was all a process of him becoming happy, healthy and well adjusted to a new 'job'. It was a job of being a horse 99% of the time. Learning to connect with a human. Figuring out that he can use his body for more than just galloping as fast has he can. Learning what it is to be loved and valued every day of his life. The biggest part of that equation that I think has changed him the most is the connecting with a human. It was a long hard road to get him to connect on the ground, eye to eye and to connect with me as a rider but once he did it was like he gave his all. I think it makes him who he is because he appreciates it more than most horses because he went so long without it. He is not perfect and he has many moments and he is not a horse for the beginner rider and I doubt he will be for many more years but he is ALWAYS listening to you, always concious of where you are what you are doing, always trying to figure out what it is that you want.
What I have learned is that all OTTB's are NOT created equal and yes just because you have worked with an OTTB does not make you an expert on all OTTB's. One that flopped at the track or even only raced for a year or two it not the same creature as a horse like Steady. A horse like Steady does not come along everyday and most people would not have taken a chance on a horse with that many 'miles' on him but I sure am glad I did. He doesn't fit the bill of broken down, lame or track reject. He has the most heart that in all my years with horses I have never had the privledge of knowing until now. I lucked out when I happened upon this War horse.