Part of our mission at Riders Up! is that we use Off the Track Thoroughbreds (OTTB) as our lesson horses. You might be wondering what an OTTB is and why do we use them?

Johnny Hurricane placing 2nd in his first race.

OTTB stands for Off the Track Thoroughbred, which is a Thoroughbred that has retired from racing. Some horses never make it to the track although they are trained for racing. These horses are still often considered OTTBs because they have the training but were determined to be too slow to even bother taking them to the track.

Pictured above is Johnny Hurricane. He was one of our first OTTBs at Lake Fork Stables, but he was not lesson horse material and was adopted out to a new home in exchange for Burntcinnamontoast.

Burntcinnamontoast (aka Cinnamon) is an example of a Thoroughbred that never made it to the track. We don’t really know why she didn’t race. Horse racing is expensive and from the records of her owner, he was not involved in racing and breeding for very long. Cinnamon was a great trail horse before she got injured.

Cinnamon and Mistic giving a horseback riding experience.

Mistic was our first OTTB. His Jockey Club registered name is “Scenaroid.” He was born in Iowa and race at Prairie Meadows in Des Moines. He raced six times and earned only $411. If you read the summaries of his races, he was “not a factor” in all of them. There was a reason he was retired!

But, for what he lacked on the track, he made up for in the show ring. My friend Carrie Zirretta purchased Mistic when he was three years old when she lived in Chicago. She eventually moved to Sulphur Springs and brought him with her. I had just moved to Yantis a few years before I decided to start riding again and began taking lessons with Carrie at her farm, Windhaven Ranch, to get back into the swing of things. Mistic was for sale at the time and my husband ended up buying him for me for Christmas.

Mistic has ALWAYS loved kids. From the day I got him he has ponied TJ (my son) and the cousins around. He has made the perfect lesson horse in his older years, as he is now 20.

Mistic standing quietly while he gets groomed by a small girl.

Jackson is our newest lesson horse. He is a free lease, as he has retired not just from the track, but from being an eventer for my friend Lorri Hart. He was her first horse bought with her own money and rather than sit on in the field, she has donated him to the program so he can continue to get exercise and teach kids to ride.

Jackson’s registered name is Delaware Punch. Jackson was much better racehorse earning over $11,000 in 13 starts. He even won a race, which ended up being his last one. He raced at Fair Meadows in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Blue Ribbon Downs in Oklahoma, Lone Star Park, Retama and Sam Houston, all of which are in Texas. While he placed fifth, he even ran in a stakes race! He has settled into his new role very well.


Thoroughbreds are naturally curious and they love people. This personality is what makes them great family horses, show horses and even lesson horses. It’s not uncommon for them to transform into completely different horses for children, becoming very quiet and careful. It’s like they know they are bigger than the kids and they have a duty to carry them safely.

Thoroughbreds are often seen strictly as racehorses and are known for their athleticism. Many people think they are high strung and too hard to handle, but the reality is that once they are off the track and adjust to the lifestyle of a normal horse, they can go on to do anything. They thrive on attention, people and having a job. This is why we use Thoroughbreds.

How can you help the Riders Up! horses? Sponsor one for a month! For $50 you can help feed and keep their feet trimmed.

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