Racehorse trainer Dan Skelton has risen quickly up the ranks since establishing his Lodge Hill stables in Warwickshire eight years ago and his yard is now a formidable force on the National Hunt circuit.
Dan, whose father Nick Skelton is a double Olympic gold medal-winning showjumper and whose brother Harry Skelton is the reigning champion jump jockey, finished second only to the 12-time champion Paul Nicholls in last season’s trainer standings.
The rehoming of racehorses after their initial career ends is a subject Dan feels passionate about – he is a pioneer at highlighting the many achievements of his former runners in his #wherearetheynow series on his social media channels. He talks on the subject to H&H racing editor Jennifer Donald on this week’s episode of The Horse & Hound Podcast.
“It’s vital to give these horses a future,” he says. “I think a thoroughbred is an absolutely fantastic animal.
“I’ve worked with warmbloods half my life, then I’ve worked with thoroughbreds for probably longer actually, and the time and effort and work you have to put into warmbloods over a thoroughbred… a thoroughbred is a very clever animal, it picks up what it’s supposed to do very, very quickly, it’s not a spooky horse, and most of the time they’re not flighty at all.
“Ok, they’re not as careful as the warmbloods when you go jumping poles and things like that, but working with thoroughbreds is 1,000 times easier than warmbloods.”
Dan Skelton on myths about ex-racehorses
Dan also dispels some of the common misconceptions riders may have about taking on a former racehorse.
“People think they’re edgy and they’re not at all,” says Dan. “Maybe they’ll be a bit more edgy when they’re in full work and you’re giving them high protein food. But when they’re a bit older and they’ve been there, done that, they’re totally different – very placid, they don’t ask for a lot, they just want to be warm and fed and exercised and that’s about it. They’re not needy like warmbloods are.
“You can tell a thoroughbred once and most of them pick it up, whereas you can be educating a warmblood for three or four years to not spook at a water ditch or something. The penny never drops with some of them!
“So the re-homing element is there and the retraining of racehorse classes from showing to eventing is vitally important.”
Hear more from Dan Skelton as he looks forward to the season ahead and gives us an exclusive insight into his family-run business on episode 76 of The Horse & Hound Podcast – listen here or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.
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