Thinking about rehoming a racehorse?
The following factors should be considered before you make this decision.
Keeping any horse is a substantial commitment, yet additional considerations should be made before rehoming a retired racehorse. New owners should be aware of financial and time commitments, in order to ensure health and training requirements will be supported for recently retired Thoroughbreds.
Understanding the Racehorse
New owners are encouraged to research the breed, and understand that the Thoroughbred is purpose bred and trained to race. Racehorses are used to being ridden; however, the training expectation and aids used for racehorses are different to that of a general riding horse.
Acknowledging nuances associated with the racehorse, may assist in training decisions made whilst the Thoroughbred is newly retired. Here are some key points which may aid in understanding the racehorse:
- The horse will be used to riding out in company. This means that when riding on your own you could encounter problems in relation to insecurity. Riding in company can also present its own issues as it will be associated with work i.e., a training gallop.
- Consider that the racehorse’s gait and balance will be different to an educated riding horse. The Thoroughbred is used to working in straight lines and will be unbalanced within an arena.
- The racehorse will typically carry the lighter weight of a jockey of trackwork rider. Unlike a dressage rider, the jockey does not sit deeply within the saddle. The jockey and trackwork rider will balance in a two-point position, holding their weight above the horses back in order to not interfere with the horses’ gallop.
- The Thoroughbred will work within a racing saddle, which has a smaller contact area and higher stirrups in comparison with a dressage or jumping saddle. Owners are encouraged to seek advice when fitting their retired Thoroughbred with the correct saddle and gear.
Health and history
- Try and ascertain as much of the horse’s history as possible from the trainer or owner. Racehorses can be retired for many reasons and injury can be one of those reasons. Some injuries can deem a horse unsuitable for racing. However, this may have little or no effect on the horse if used for general or low-level riding (depending on the injury the horse could be unsuitable for jumping or speed events).
- If you are interested in re-homing a thoroughbred which has an injury it is recommended to discuss the future plan for the horse with a veterinarian.
- If the racehorse does require rehabilitation to address an injury, the owner must be realistic about their ability, time and costings involved.
- Racehorses in work are generally fed a high energy, low fibre diet. This means that they are usually fed lower levels of roughage such as hay/pasture compared to non-racehorses.
- It is important that any changes to the diet are made gradually, ideally over a period of at least a week. This will reduce the risk of digestive upset. New owners should discuss the racehorses previous feeding regime with the trainer.
- TRNT Off The Track are aware that owners may need nutritional support for newly retired racehorses. As a result, an Aftercare Package has been developed. New owners can obtain nutritional advice, along with feed and supplements. Such supplements can prevent gastric ulcers and the feed will be tailored in consideration of the horses past race feed.
Top End specific considerations
Due to the environment and climate, there are some further considerations and management practises to keep horses healthy in the Northern Territory.
- Temperature and humidity effects all horses, ensure you have a property that will provide the horse with access to fresh water, shade, and possibly fans. Horses can suffer from anhidrosis (the puffs) which is when horses lose the ability to sweat, and hence cannot use evaporation as a form of body temperature regulation, which can lead to overheating. If you suspect your horse suffers from anhidrosis contact a veterinarian to discuss further, but be aware that horses suffering Chronic Anhidrosis may require relocation to a Southern state.For more information, please review ‘Understanding Anhidrosis’
- Insects, especially in the Top End can be an issue for horses. Horse owners can limit the effect of biting insects by spraying insect repellent morning and night, or use a light or mesh rug during times when insects are at their worst.
- Many racehorses in the NT are housed in stables which are fitted with fans. Fans create airflow to help keep the horse cool and comfortable, but also assist in keeping insects away.
- Tropical grasses and pasture generally do not hold as much nutritional content as in southern states. For this reason, most horses will rely on supplement feeding of a balanced diet to meet their nutritional needs. Owners should ensure their budget can support additional costs involved in feeding a horse housed in the Northern Territory.
- The tropical climate can create difficult conditions when managing the horses’ hoofs. During wet season, the consistent rain and humidity can increase the risk of bacteria and fungi penetrating the horses’ hooves. Owners should be vigilant in ensuring the horses feet are regularly trimmed and maintained by a farrier. Racehorses have been shod throughout their lives, and may require continued shoeing during their retirement. This is an additional cost which must be factored into the budget.
The horse, especially racehorse, is a creature of habit so new owners should consider providing the racehorse a ‘let down period’. This period of letdown is crucial to allowing the racehorse time to adjust within their new environment, and settle into a new routine outside of race training.
The retraining of a retired racehorse is a challenge that will vary depending on the horse. The process involved will require the owner to demonstrate plenty of patience.
Individuals looking at rehoming a retired racehorse must be realistic about their level of experience riding and training. Individuals with limited experience should not be afraid to seek support. For example, local horse trainers will often provide retraining services. These services will aim to develop foundational training over a period of weeks and are instrumental to aiding the Thoroughbreds transition into retirement.
This information has been produced to educate individuals before taking in an Off The Track Thoroughbred, as the initial purchase cost is the cheapest part of owning a horse.
There are always exceptions to the rule, you may purchase a retired racehorse that is easy to train, has great feet, and holds condition well. Off The Track horses also have their benefits, as they are broken in, can be shod, floated, and rugged easily. This may make them a better alternative to purchasing a young unbroken or inexperienced horse.
Thoroughbreds are incredible athletes both on and off the track. The experience of owning and retraining an ex-racehorse is undoubtably rewarding. There is always a lot to consider before purchasing horse, no matter the breed. Developing a greater understanding of the Thoroughbred and aspects of ownership will go a long way in providing your horse with the right level of support.
Most importantly new owners should be realistic about their ability and experience and should not be afraid to seek advice from experienced horse owners, trainers, veterinarians, saddle fitters, and farriers.