Buying an ex racehorse: problems to look for and avoid!

Not Own Photo. Owned by Leif Harboe

With ex racehorse competitions such as ROR becoming more and more popular, more potential buyers are looking into ex racehorses. However, many of these have physical problems which may not be obvious, but could quickly become career ending. I recently came across a really interesting article by an Equine Body worker about warning signs to look out for. I will include a link to the page at the end. But these are my top picks based on what I found interesting and what Scottie has signs of.

Sacroiliac damage is thought to be the most common problem in ex racehorses. It is believed that all racehorses have ligament damage in this area. This damage can lead to a twist or slant forward in the pelvis. Major damage could rule out a ridden career. Things to look for are symmetry of the two bony pins at the top of the crop.

Credit The Horses Back


For those of you with experience with kissing spine in your ex racehorses, was it in the Lumbar Spine? If the pelvis is imbalanced, as many horses in racing have pelvic issues, it is likely that this has affected the Lumbar spine, causing fusion. Although the fusion is painful while it is taking place, once it has stopped the horse should be fine. However, this doesn’t mean the horse is out of the woods as the fusion can split, causing the process to start again. Things you can look for are lumps in the spine or a roached spine which could suggest healed fusion.

This is a photo of Scottie’s back. After reading this article I wonder if this could be a sign of him having problems in the past and it being something to keep an eye on in future.


Bucked shins is a very common problem in young thoroughbreds in training. It is swelling of the periostieum of the cannon bone caused by the stress of fast work. Although this is painful for the horse, it is often argued that ‘bucked shins’ creates stronger bones in the long run, making trainers not worry about it unlike other injuries. Although if it has healed you are unlikely to have problems in the future, a quick and easy was to check for this is to feels for bone lumps on the front of the cannon bones. Scottie has slight lumps on his front cannon bones but from his previous owners, he has never been lame. (Until I got him and he cut himself in the field!)

Credit The Horses Back.


One of the biggest problems in racehorses, tendons. The big problem with tendons is that they never heal to be as good as they were before injury. Therefore a horse is likely to have future problems either with the same or other related tendons to compensate. Tendons which are often damaged during racing are flexor tendons, with deep digital and superficial digital flexor tendons being the most common. Check for thickness areas on the tendons or ‘bowed’ tendons.

Credit the Horses Back


When I got Scottie’s back done for the first time I was told that his pelvis was rotated slightly to the right and that his withers were slightly bent to the left. Neither of these things caused him a massive problem, but it explained why he found the right rein so hard. With adjustment and correct work this should start to improve over time. A while later, I stumbled upon this article and found something very interesting right at the bottom. Having a bent spine to one side and rotated pelvis to the other is very common in racehorses and relates to whether the horse raced clockwise or anticlockwise.

Credit The Horses Back


How many of your horses conform to this idea?

I hope you found this as interesting as I did. The full article can be found at The Horses Back. I got the majority of the information and photos from this site and there is a lot more information on there.

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