Let’s Discuss: the OTTB market

I fell in love with a TB yesterday, y’all. It’s a good (or bad?) thing that all my excess money is tied up in the tiny house right now or I’d have been on the phone with this guy’s trainer before I even realized what I was doing.

A big, young, athletic, very well bred for sport, good-moving, extremely attractive, sound-looking horse? Sign. Me. Up. His crazy eye and wild forelock give him extra appeal in my book. I see a lot of thoroughbreds in my feed due to pages I follow and groups I’m in, but it’s been a while since I loved one this much. He’s even out of a Danzig mare. A direct Danzig daughter. Swoon. The only thing that could make him better (in my book) is if he was a she.

Alas, I’m not shopping and I need another cheeky 3yo like I need a hole in the head, so I posted him on my facebook and Instagram. Someone needs to buy him. Preferably someone I know so I can stalk him forever.

Y’ALL

Anyway, it was kind of interesting to me that in both places I posted him, a couple people replied thinking he was too expensive for a horse just coming off the track. Fair enough, at $5,000 he’s on the higher side of what is typical. It leads to an interesting conversation though – what IS a fair price for a horse coming off the track these days?

Obviously that can vary a lot, in my mind, depending on the horse. Age, sex, size, soundness, athleticism, movement – all factors that can affect the value, just like any other horse. From what I’ve seen over the past few years, OTTB prices in general have gone up a bit, probably thanks to programs like RRP and the resurgence of TB-only classes and awards. For the most part I think it’s been a great thing. Sure, it costs me (the consumer) a bit more money up front, but a horse being worth more tends to be better for said horse’s safety and well-being. If a race trainer or owner knows they can get as much as a claiming tag by selling to the sporthorse world, maybe they’re less likely to keep running the horse who wants to be done. If they think they can get a few grand from the sporthorse world, maybe they’re more willing to go through the inconvenience of listing and taking phone calls rather than just loading the horse up on the meat truck.

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Not to mention – if the horse is young and sound and athletic and healthy and attractive, is there any reason why it SHOULDN’T bring more money? To me, there’s actually a lot of value already built into a horse coming off the track. It’s seen a lot, it’s been handled a lot… that life experience is worth something. Sure maybe the horse needs a little downtime, some Gastrogard, some farrier work, or some re-training, but so might just about any other horse you get from just about anywhere for that price. Hell, even a super expensive import could need that. But if you went and bought a $5000 3 or 4yo warmblood, what would your expectations really be? The same as the TB, or would you settle for even less? Younger, greener, less athletic, lower quality, perhaps some vetting issues? I would challenge that it would be quite difficult to find a WB of comparable quality and experience for that little money. So even at 5k the TB is still quite a hefty bargain in the overall realm of sporthorse prices.

I’ve bought many an OTTB in my life, although none in a while. In these past few years I’ve seen friends pay mostly in the $2500-7000 range for horses coming off the track, depending on a) the quality of the horse, b) how lucky they were. That’s certainly higher than maybe 10-15 years ago. It’s rare for me to see a super high quality, sound one listed for less than $3000 anymore. Every once in a while there’s a right-place-right-time type situation, but it doesn’t seem particularly common. There are even re-sellers who have made a thriving business out of selling OTTB’s in these slightly higher price brackets. Benchmark immediately springs to mind – they tend to have the cream of the crop, really high quality horses on offer in the $5,000-12,000 price range, and they’ve made an excellent reputation for themselves in the industry. Considering how many they sell, and how quickly, there certainly does seem to be a market for OTTB’s in that price range. At the end of the day horses are worth what someone is willing to pay, and plenty of people seem willing to pay fair money for a quality horse.

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Am I horse shopping right now? No. Do I have extra money in my budget at the moment to go pick up another horse? No. But if I did, you can bet I wouldn’t have hesitated for even one second to pick up the phone and call on that horse. Would I like it if he was cheaper? LOL of course. I would like it if literally everything was cheaper. If I was hunting for a mega-bargain with a very low budget and was willing to make a lot of compromises (as was the situation when I bought Henry) then no, that particular horse wouldn’t make my list. But if I was shopping for a really high quality prospect that had it all, he’d 100% be it. IMO there’s definitely value in that, and I don’t begrudge them for putting a price like that on him at all – just like any other horse that ticks a lot of widely desirable boxes. If he’s worth it, someone will pay it. (Me. It would be me. I would pay it.)

So, let’s discuss. Pretend you’re shopping for a high quality young/green prospect and you’ve got like 10k+ to spend. Do you think 5k is a fair price for a very nice horse (not even necessarily this particular horse, but one that ticks all your own personal boxes that would make a horse perfect for you) coming straight off the track? Why or why not? And do you think these kind of prices, lets say $4000-7000, are fair for horses like these? Why or why not? At what point do you think the price is too high for a top-end horse just off the track?

31 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: the OTTB market

  1. I have to admit, my first reaction to that horse was “wow, $5k for an OTTB” too. But the more I think on it, the more I hope that those horses are starting to be priced in that range. It used to be you got an OTTB for a grand, and it was a gamble. Sound? Sane? Abused? Who knows! But this seems to indicate people are starting to see the value of the OTTB, and I think that’s great – both for the horses themselves, and for the move of starting to appreciate American bred horses over foreign ones.

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    1. That’s a good point too – we spend a lot of time and effort promoting the value of these horses, tracking them, trying to encourage people to buy domestically, etc. Why would we then also discourage higher pricing? It seems to me that an increasing market value would be a sign that our efforts are working.

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  2. Really, REALLY!?!?!? You had to go and post this guy??? Tall, dark, handsome and bread to the hilt! Lyphard, Danzing, AND Round Table??? If I had and extra $5,000 he would be on a trailer headed to NE! He ticks all the right boxes. Somebody PLEASE snap him up before i sell a kidney!!! Seriously though, yes, if I was looking and had the money he would be in my backyard sipping champagne with me right now!

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  3. Super interesting topic. And I’ll go ahead and say, it depends where you’re finding your OTTBs.

    Rescues in the MidAtlantic region seems to vary, but OTTB specific ones seem to list anywhere from the 1k-5k range. After the Races and MidAtlantic Horse Rescue are just two that I’ve extensively looked at. After the Races will increase price with training whereas MidAtlantic caps out at 2500 regardless of training. They both do extensive vet and farrier work and the day I picked up Nay Nay from MidAtlantic, they wouldn’t let him go until the dentist checked his teeth. The chiropractor was also out for a few other horses. So they definitely do a lot of work. He’s got an ugly ankle (and was a return for reasons) so he also had extensive xray history available to me and my vet.

    I will say one thing about Benchmark. They have some really NICE horses. But, I’ve also seen horses listed that just a couple of weeks prior were listed elsewhere for…less and after a week or 2 of rides are 3x the price. But, this practice happens all the time. Buy off the track, put a handful of rides on something, and then sell for 10k.

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    1. Buying or adopting from a rescue is a very different thing though, like a subcategory. Rescues usually are at the rescue for a reason, and tend to come with some kind of red tape/paperwork that can make reselling difficult. Those horses are generally expected to be cheaper within this market than buying one outright from the track or a reseller, which are definitely NOT rescues.

      As for Benchmark, they offer a lot of perks that buying off the track doesn’t – you can ride the horse, see the walk/trot/canter and jump, see the horse in a farm setting, sit on multiple in one day, have a variety of vets readily available for vetting, etc. Plus they’ve already started some of the post-track care. For people who like OTTB’s but want to lessen the risk of buying one straight from the track off of just a jog video, it’s a super option. I think the markup is fair.

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      1. Oh I agree to a point w/ adopting vs buying though I pulled these 2 rescues as both get a lot of track placements from Delaware Park and the Maryland tracks. Yes they have their true rescue cases, but they also have their track cases who may be fine just in need of a career change (I gather they receive some $$$ from owners/trainers as they have repeat people they’re on very good terms with). Plus these 2 rescues normally allow you to ride and sign over ownership (just can’t auction or race).

        But yes, Benchmark offers stuff, I agree. I think the markup just will be 100% dependent on the individual and how far along the person wants and needs the horse to be.

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  4. My gut reaction is also “that’s a lot of money for an OTTB. But like, I think that’s just because I grew up in a time when the OTTB was your bargin basement option. You didn’t really know what you were going to get in mind or body soundness. And if you were willing to pay more than the meat packer you were doing them a favor.

    However, when you think about one that is sound and sane and young and bred well $5000 doesn’t sound bad at all. I personally wouldn’t spend $10,000 because I could probably find a more purpose bred youngster for that price that wasn’t started under saddle yet (which admittedly has pros and cons).

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  5. I dont think 5k is too much for a OTTB… I used to see OTTB flippers selling for 5k – 7k 5 or more years ago so knowing that the cost off the track is more will raise those prices but the cost of horses seems to be going up across the board. I agree its good for the horses to be seen at a higher value and its still the biggest bargain for a well bred sport horse. I’ll never be able to afford a warmblood – it’ll always be OTTBs or off breeds for me. As usual the upfront cost is always the cheapest component and every horse is a gamble.

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  6. This post made me feel better about how much I paid for my OTTB who had been let down for a year but was still green to sporthorse life. Everyone seemed to think he should have been sub 1k even though he was sound and totally ready to transition to another career.
    I think it’s similar to how dog shelters will charge $100 – $200 to adopt a dog. It helps them recoup some costs but also encourages people to be more thoughtful about adopting because more of their money is tied up to it. Since a particular horse’s value is not inherently anything and is determined by how much people will pay, I think it’s good to elevate TBs price a bit to reflect the value they can provide. Especially a young, sane, sound one!

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  7. I’m all for the OTTB prices to go up! I 5000% lucked into my $1,200 dreamboat, had he been ANYWHERE else he should easily have been $5k. A close friend got her very sporty and talented OTTB for $5k off the track in Texas about a year after I got Simon. I’ve read it 100 times and I agree with it completely, that people seeking to do 3′ – 3′ 6″ jumps need to calm down about getting an “upper level prospect”. I WANT the kind of laid back and a bit less firey, but super pretty and nice moving horse that may not have the athleticism/talent/whatever to go do a 2*. And I show hunters, so going bigger than 3’6″ is HIGHLY unlikely. I foxhunt so need something with the stamina and durability to go for a few hours, but we still aren’t jumping anything all that big.
    I would much rather have another Simon and pay $5k than go searching for a warmblood baby (bc who are we kidding, I can’t afford a super high quality warmblood that is already going under saddle).

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  8. I will admit it’s a bit difficult for me to consider $5000 a bargain, but with the current pricing of horses in general, along with so many people importing horses these days, it does make sense for the pricing for a nice OTTB to rise as well. If I had $10,000 to spend, I’d absolutely spend $5000 on a nice OTTB.

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  9. Sometimes I think people undervalue the life experience/exposure that an ottb has (not to mention their athleticism/brain, but that’s another matter). I see baby warmblood buyers who will think nothing of putting thousands towards getting their young horse out and about, habituated to new environments, learning to tie, stand for the farrier, work alone and in groups, trailer training, etc. etc. and (as a rule) most ottb’s have already seen/done all that. Not to say that can’t come with some baggage, but I don’t think it’s fair to undervalue the life experience these horses have. I’m personally willing to factor that into their cost/value, especially if (as you mention) they have the added experiences from a place like Benchmark.

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  10. If you’re buying for sport, I don’t see why an OTTB can’t command such prices. The market seems to be holding up with those prices, too. And the ones that aren’t straight from the track but go through a place like Benchmark and get pro rides so buyers have more information … I’d pay even more if I were in the market. But I am not. But I would be if I got a massive raise at work lol. The pedigree on this one is outstanding for my preferences!

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  11. I got REAL irritated when I read that comment on your post. Most of the OTTB’s I’ve gotten drooly over in the last year or so have been at the same price point. There is nothing wrong with an owner/trainer getting what they deserve for a quality horse. That horse, if it had warmblood parents instead of TB would be no less than 15-20 grand.
    For me, I’m not likely to get another one straight off the track. I’ve lost a lot of confidence and really need to ride a horse before I buy it these days. (Lesson finally learned… Shiny the exception of course.) But I understand that if those are my needs, I would need to pay more. Yes, for a TB. Yes for off the track.

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  12. Ooooooo I saw that guy yesterday too. I looked at his pictures for an awfully long time cause he is LOVELY. I was so close to calling his contacts. In the end I moved on since he’s only 3 and already 16.2+ and that’s just a bit too big for me lol. His price didn’t put me off at all. Especially with Danzig very close in his pedigree, (and I’m probably wrong but I think Medaglia d’Oro has been producing good sport horses recently as well?) and for how lovely he’s built and how lightly he’s raced I thought $5,000 for him was actually a good steal. If I had 10k to spend, he definitely would’ve been a very high contender, especially since he ticked a lot of boxes for me. If I found another one that ticked most or all of my boxes for that, I’d definitely pay $4000-7000 for an OTTB. Personally, I think their experience at their ages is worth the cash. And I stalk Benchmark all the time, and really value the time and effort they put into getting those videos of their horses out there, so I’d pay more if buying through them. And I’m with Stacie! Most of the OTTBs that I’ve drooled over have been in the higher range, and I find absolutely no issue with paying for a quality horse.

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  13. I think the prices are really quite fair, and I would be very willing to pay them if I was looking. I hopefully will have the budget in the next couple of years to buy a second horse, and mid-four figures feels very fair for a talented prospect. I impulse purchased my current TB for $1,000 a couple years ago and he was just like Henry–I was also hunting for a mega-bargain with a super tight budget, and therefore ended up purchasing an older chestnut gelding who hadn’t been worked in 6 months because he was just too much horse for his middle aged owner with health issues. He’s great, and I love him, but if I buy a second horse I think I want something younger, better built, and just more likely to have longevity in the sport. Honestly? It just makes sense to pay more for that.

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  14. So to play devils advocate in some sense; I think it’s a tad high but not an unrealistic price point for a good sport horse prospect. I think the main problem is the people who are going to spend the $5k want something already restarted and showing. The market is super flooded right now with horses for sale and most ISO ads have super unrealistic wants and price points (dead head 3ft+ show horse with changes etc for less than $10k.) So buying the unrestarted OTTB that needs downtime and can’t show immediately isn’t first on their list. Also, in my area, you can go to a track and get a TB for less than $1,000 that’s sound and sane and sometimes with a full set of xrays too.

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  15. Not all horses are equal and not all OTTBs are equal. Whether we like to acknowledge it or not this is a business and supply and demand will play a role. From just a couple of photos you see a horse who has; desirable coloring & markings, a good frame, a good mane, and good breeding that automatically places him in the upper tier of what people are looking for. Those few physical features automatically add $$. If no one in the sport industry was willing to pay more than a grand they’d all be on the meat truck to Mexico. If all OTTBs were priced at $2k these sellers would have to field a hundred calls from tire kickers. And frankly too many people who would not be a good match with an OTTB would be buying them. Like any other purchase, if you want a bargain it takes a little extra time and compromise, and that’s ok. I do get concerned sometimes when a lot of focus is put on a cheap purchase price. Horses by no means are cheap. Horse owners can be wonderfully economical and find ways to give a horse a great home and care for less money, but be wary of cheap. I think $2k is an average price, $3k is one w/ a little “extra”, and $4k- $5k is fair for 1 that really stands out.

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  16. He’d probably be a little more $$ if he was a mare with that pedigree! I’m not the biggest OTTB fan. I think I’ve ridden an equal number of absolutely amazing vs absolutely batsh!t crazy ones over the years and with the anxiety, etc I’m working through these days, it would be way less about breed/color/etc and way more about their brain if I were in the market to buy a horse. Still, I feel like my budget would be $4-7k and I’d expect to get something fairly green in that price range, but sane and potentially not even a little bit fancy, LOL. I don’t think $5k is an unreasonable price at all for this this guy, especially if he’s both sane and sound. He’s definitely fancy! Also, is it possible they’re pricing a bit higher knowing people may try to haggle them down?

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  17. A nice horse is a nice horse. At least in my area that’s a great deal for a sound, athletic horse who already has a bit of life experience. As someone who was shopping pretty recently, 5k would have maybe got me a nice older trail horse. 10k would have got me something safe under saddle for low level dressage or jumping, probably older, and likely with some issues. I could have maybe got an un-fancy warmblood ready to go under saddle (certainly nothing nicer than that TB). Maybe an averagely nice baby, especially if it didn’t have trendy breeding. And that was with double the budget!

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  18. This is a really interesting post, especially in my neck of the woods. While I think that he is definitely a serious prospect, I have watched retrained OTTBs that are ammy friendly with proven show miles above training level that struggle to sell at 10k. In my area, 3-7k would get me a 15 – 16hh average mover with a show record and limited to no soundness issues, but probably not a warmblood or ‘”top 10″ horse. That said a well moving, well-bred youngster would be WAY above that at 20 k or more, so for people looking for talent on a budget, he would be a steal. If you were looking for something to sell on later, then he is probably a little spendy.

    TLDR: I think his price is fair, but he is also not what the average buyer in my area would be looking for.

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  19. What we’re missing is the resale value. Most OTTBs up and going on the market are still priced lower than the WB doing the same. Just on breeding. Once that goes up reliably, you’ll see the sale of the “raw product” go up further. I think a straight off the track horse for 5k is a bit steep, especially because buying straight off the track comes with quite a few gambles. However, buying from a “dealer” off the track (like Benchmark) take some of the risk out of the endeavor, worth handing over more money. As prices go up on the track, I hope some of the “risk” of buying will go down. However, for those of us willing to buy a horse based on seeing it standing in a stall (like I did with Bast), bargains are out there. Bargains aren’t what most people want or are capable of dealing with.

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    1. A factor if you have shorter term resale intentions for sure. I used to flip TB’s, and that was a very different ballgame and set of criteria than I would have if buying a “perfect prospect” for myself personally. A flipper is a different buyer than many of us would be, I think. It wouldn’t impact my own decision on a horse like this one, but for other people it could. Although a top quality TB (big, sound, sane, fancy, you know the drill ;)) that can be going Novice in a year is at that point a 20k+ horse in most markets. Or BN-ready in 6 months at 12k+ easily. Still definitely a return on that initial investment barring disaster (granted, horses are nothing but disaster, which is part of why resale value wouldn’t factor for me). Cheaper than the comparable WB still, but several times more than his original price. Resale value gets tricky too because it depends so much on who’s training it, how much they’re spending to keep it and train it, where they live, what other money has to be dropped (ulcergard, bodywork, etc). But in this particular fantasy scenario of having plenty of budget to spend on a personal horse, and not HAVING to bargain hunt or make compromises, is 5k too much for the one that ticks every box?

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  20. $4 – $7k sounds about right to me. Allowing for the potential “horse trader” aspect of buying off the track, I would think it’s to trainer/seller’s advantage in the long term to accurately describe their ottb’s potential, and price accordingly. To the horse’s advantage too – by attracting appropriate buyers. More importantly – they know what kind of mind their horses have.

    Nowhere near in the market for another ottb, but did recently wile away an hour (or two 😆 ) on FLF’s site. The descriptions seem thoughtful, not cookie cutter (and often affectionate), and the site is well organized and updated – all of which help with the trust factor.

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  21. $5k seems totally reasonable to me for a horse with good ground manners, experience being ridden (even if not in your specific discipline) and with the build and athleticism to do more. I spend a lot of time looking at Morgans for 2-3x that with far, far less in training and finishing.

    (Also, bargain is…not necessarily a good thing! Says the person who paid $150 for her mutt of a mustang that still won’t reliably produce a dressage test.)

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  22. There are so few that tick *every* box, if the seller understands what they have in hand, it’s probably going to take more coin to pry the horse loose.

    What people are willing to pay often depends on what else is available to buy with that money. If there are very few that nice, demand goes up. The seller doesn’t have to haggle because someone will pay that price soon.

    A buyer who sees just what they are looking for, and who knows that if they try to haggle, the horse will probably be sold out from under them, may be ready to give $5k. Not for just any TB, but for *that* TB, because he is special among those who know TB’s. 🙂

    I just love the name “One More Thing Sir”.

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  23. I’ve had a few OTTBs and I absolutely love their personality and work ethic. That said, I would balk at paying $5k+ for a horse straight off the track. To me there are very valid reasons that purpose-bred horses cost much more than racetrack “failures”. Any decently bred warmblood has a breeder than spent lots of effort trying to create a great jumper and is going to have a pedigree stacked with proven jumpers. Also, they aren’t going to have excessive wear/tear on their musculoskeletal system. They are going to start with a level of innate talent that is rare in a horse bred exclusively to run fast. When you start jumping 3’6”+, it definitely seems to take a huge effort for my OTTBs compared to my Hanoverian mare. I am still a huge fan of OTTBs and will likely get another at some point, but my budget expectations will always be significantly lower than when buying a purpose-bred horse.

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    1. But a comparable (big, young, sound, started training, talented) purpose-bred horse in this situation would easily be 20k+, so the 5k OTTB is still nowhere in that same pricing realm.

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  24. Having worked for an OTTB reseller for several years in the Mid-Atlantic area, I can tell you that $5k for a Medaglia D’Oro, 16.2 dark bay gelding with some chrome is a good deal. They can be more pro types than ammy rides, but make superior sporthorses. It would be unlikely that a reseller would spend $5k on one, but they would easily buy it for $4k, bring it home and get some free video of it and start the sale price at $7500 or more. That said, a horse is only worth what someone is willing to pay and I can bet that there will be several offers on this horse at that price. The most I ever paid for one on the backside was $2500, for a 15.2 Mineshaft/Tale of the Cat gelding — he had the best track jog I’ve ever seen and he’s now going intermediate with the girl that bought him from me. Bargains can be had, but not on horses that have great pedigrees, low mileage and check all the boxes, there’s just too many people looking for exactly that. For most buyers, I’d say hang on to your $5K and shop around the resellers that spent some time getting to know their inventory and find something suitable. *That said, someone buy him, chuck him out for the winter and let’s see what he wants to do in the spring:)

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