Thinking of getting an ex racehorse… read on.
A brief history of racehorse re training in the Uk
The first time I became aware of racehorse retraining in the Uk was via the great pioneering supporter of ex racehorses horses,my friend and the legend that is Carrie Humble. Carrie set up what I believe to be the worlds first racehorse rehabilitation establishment which was dedicated solely to the safe rehabilitation and of equal importance, the rehoming of ex racehorses. I met Carrie in the very early noughties and she introduced me to a horse she had saved from oblivion. The horse was called Hallo Dandy, Carrie had found him in a terrible state, saved him and here he was right in front of me in the absolute prime of health. Hallo Dandy was a previous winner of The Grand National at Liverpool. Hallo Dandy had been abandoned and neglected virtually to the point of death when Carrie stepped in. When women like Carrie Humble step in, its wise to step back. Without Carrie Humble there would be no such thing as retraining of ex racehorses, initially her centre was called the centre for the rehabilitation of racehorses. In time this became the currently named centre for retraining racehorses. Carrie changed the horse world for good, as well as the better.
Twenty years plus personal involvement.
My over twenty year involvement with racehorses has taken me to many places, I have ridden in steeplechases as well as completed all the relevant racing qualifications at The British Racing School in Newmarket. I have ridden out many times at a number of professional racing yards over they years and feel I have done my time sufficiently to feel I walked the walk. More about that later. Also my retraining of so called problem horses inevitably led me into dealing with many hundreds if not more ex racehorses. The people who dabble in the world of ex racehorses can get into difficulties and I am going to try and give a heads up on some simple ways to get the best from these wonderful creatures after their racing is done.
So you fancy an ex racehorse? Five points to remember before you buy. .
- Do some research on the horses racing history, find out its trainers and if possible speak to people who had dealings with the horse. Most racing people are all too willing to help and are often very pleased an ex racehorse they knew is going on to a good life after racing. Ask questions about basic stuff like handling and shoeing, loading and basic health. If people are evasive be concerned and consider pulling out of any sale. One of the benefits of buying an ex racehorse is that it is usually a very easy and simple task to trace the history of the horse.
- Be realistic about your own ability, a lot of racehorses think and react sharply and quickly, which places demands upon riders to match these quick thinking and fast reactions. As a professional riding instructor of many years standing trust me when I say speed is not something that can be taught, so riding lessons are not necessarily going to help. It is just the way life is some people are quick to react with reflexes, some slow, slow reacting people and ex racehorses often don’t mix well. Get proper instruction. Maybe even learn to long rein properly, this is a skill in itself which comes in very handy with ex racers.
- Be extremely careful who you take advice from in the process of buying, loaning or being gifted an ex racehorse. I am getting dozens and dozens of e mails right now from people who either want or are getting ex racehorses and they are clearly not taking advice from the right people. The equine industry needs to adopt some guidelines on this too. This is becoming an industry wide problem and people must seek out the best possible advice if they need it, prior to ownership. Do not leave getting one that is straightforward down to luck. Not everybody is lucky.
- Be patient, I have clients with ex racehorses and if I could pick one thing I would want them all to have above everything else it is patience. Obviously the ability to ride the horse you have is key also, but give your ex raxcehorse time. I believe they are all retrainable, given the time they need. Don’t be a fool, never rush a thoroughbred. Never expect miracles overnight, focus on establishing composure, confidence and basic control.
- Pay very particular attention to where you are going to stable your horse, be it livery, part livery or diy. A lot of people have to deal with stable staff on some yards who have very little or no knowledge of racehorses but do not like to admit this or have it pointed out to them. I always advise people to go for small livery yards with good facilities and experienced staff, as the alternatives can cause problems of their own. Racehorses, whatever anyone might think are almost universally treated exceptionally well, given the best and handled and ridden by professional people who stick to routines and get on with the job at hand. There is no room for dithering with most ex racehorses, especially in their first year or so out of racing whilst they reacclimatise to a new way of life. If they are handled wrongly they can become very stressed and dangerous to themselves and others, get your routines right from the start.
When it all comes together
Having said all of this when it all comes together owning an ex racehorse can bring untold joy, pleasure, fun and pride. A lot of ex racehorses convert to a new life well with some careful planning. My ex racehorse owning clients also experience a raising of their own confidence, self esteem, contentment and no end of personal satisfaction from establishing a grand rapport with an ex racehorse, there is nothing quite like it and I would encourage more people to do it, if they get the chance, whilst bearing in mind it is not for everyone.