Thank you so much for taking the time out to read my blog about my thoughts on protecting the future of retired / retiring racehorses.
As I sit down to start writing, I have just arrived home from visiting an ex-racehorse as part of a voluntary role I carry out for a thoroughbred charity (more on their fantastic work later!) after my ‘day job’. It’s been a long but rewarding day, getting my horsey fix and seeing the good progress the horse has made since I last saw him around 11 months ago.
If you are wondering why I have decided to write about such a subject, it may help if you know a bit about my background…. I’ve ridden horses since being 4 years old and rehomed my first ex-racehorse aged 16. For those who remember the Epsom Dash 2010 winner, Bertoliver, that is him! A popular horse – I had people messaging me across multiple social media platforms asking to meet him and racecourses inviting us to parade days. It was like being a PA for a celebrity! He really was a sweetheart. I also have worked in racing yards and experienced first hand the different needs and requirements of the thoroughbred. Each horse was catered for individually from nutrition to shoeing to how they prefer to travel or graze. I think it’s great that some trainers are fortunate enough to have their horses turned out at grass – it’s great relaxation and socialisation for the horses. Since returning to my office job, I have been extremely fortunate to part own a lovely national hunt mare with Chris Down in Devon who after winning 2 hurdle races for us, retired due to a re-occurring injury and has gone to a lovely home as a broodmare.
Something that makes me so passionate about retired racehorses securing a home for life is the joy and pleasure they give us. My best memories are either at the races or enjoying a relaxed morning watching our horse cantering on the gallops.
The amount of negative or upsetting news out there is very upsetting – for every success story, it feels like there is a sad one to follow. I often see the ‘popular’ or ‘legendary’ horses that retire from racing often end up with their own social media page and fans can follow their re-training journey which is lovely. But the average racehorse who maybe won a 0-60 handicap almost seems to disappear once their journey starts, or end up making headlines for the wrong reasons.
Due to the large numbers of racehorses retiring (I have shared 4 posts today alone), many are offered for free or for a very small price. The experienced horse owners know the effort and time required to rehabilitate and retrain such an athlete, however it’s only too common that an ex-racehorse gets into the wrong hands. As they are cheap, they are seen as a project or a good buy to sell on in 6 months or so and that is when the future of the individual horse can be placed at risk. Don’t get me wrong, some ex-racehorses can be an absolute dream to retrain, whereas others are challenging and require a lot of time and TLC (plus expensive feed, bespoke shoes and unlimited hay and vets bills!!) Thankfully, many trainers keep the horses on their own yard and meet the potential new owners and only agree to sell with a non-racing agreement. However I know of cases personally whereby trainers have a relationship with a local ‘dealer’ who ships the retiring horses off there to find a new home in good faith that the new owners will be vetted.
Every time a horse changes hands, we are reliant on the new owner updating the passport with Weatherbys which often does not happen. Just like that, the horse is now untraceable. How can we guarantee this horse will get the retirement he/she deserves?
There are many charities and organisations that rehabilitate and re-home ex racehorses however some of these are purely reliant on donations and the longevity of these wonderful places also needs future proofing. Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) and the BHA also contribute to the re-homing and re-training of ex racehorses however further steps are needed in the right direction.
The charity who I volunteer for as a ‘Welfare Officer’ is called The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre – https://britishtrc.co.uk/. On arrival at the centre, the horses are assessed for any injuries or quirks and begin a programme of rehabilitation. Horses are only placed up for loan when they are fully sound and able to go to a riding home. All potential loaners are invited to the centre in Lancaster whereby they ride the schoolmaster to assess their riding skills. If suitable, they are then required to ride their potential equine partner a couple of times to ensure they are a good match. Once the horse is in his/her new home, a Welfare Officer attends at least once per year to assess the quality of stabling, grazing, tack, vaccinations, shoeing and body condition of the horse. I have the pleasure of being a Welfare Officer and look after horses in Sheffield, Derbyshire & Peak District, Lincolnshire and Humberside. It is a role I thoroughly enjoy and I am proud to be a small cog in the very well oiled machine that future proofs the lives of our lovely thoroughbreds. If only BTRC was 100 x bigger and could help many more horses…
A big thank you to anyone reading this who take the time out of your hectic schedules to advertise and personally rehome your retiring ex-racehorses. And for those who do it differently, please consider using a reputable charity and paying the small fee to guarantee the horse a retirement he/she deserves.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Charlotte’s piece and I hope you did too. I will see you all in my next post Sunday at 11am which will be an interview with Oisin Murphy!