Around 12,000 horses came out of training last year according to the British Horseracing Authority, and charities are increasingly concerned that they are ending up in the wrong hands.

But with professional help and advice there are plenty of success stories to show that an ex-racehorse can adapt to and excel in a number of disciplines.

Thoroughbreds are athletic and intelligent and, with the constant handling they have received during their racing career, they can make excellent riding horses.

Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) – British horseracing’s official charity for the welfare of retired racehorses – outlines some key points to consider before deciding to buy.

Be realistic about your ability and experience

  • Do you have enough time, money, patience and experience to deal with the demands of a former racehorse?
  • They are not a novice ride and should not be seen as a cheap way for children to move onto horses.
  • Thoroughbreds are a sensitive breed. For example a cut that wouldn’t bother your cob will blow up on a thoroughbred, making them more expensive to own.

Understanding the lifestyle of a horse in training

  • They may not be used to conventional riding techniques. For example, it will be unfamiliar with long stirrups and a heavier saddle and is unlikely to understand seat and leg aids – in training the weight of the rider is rarely in the saddle.
  • Jockeys are often given a leg up whilst the horse is walking so it’s unlikely to stand still for you while you mount from a block.
  • It will not be used to being exercised alone and will associate riding out in company with its former life on the gallops.
  • It is unlikely to have travelled in a trailer before.
  • All day turnout will be a new experience, that should be introduced gradually.
  • It will be used to a busy yard and might be overwhelmed by your individual attention.

Be patient

  • You must be willing to give your horse plenty of time to adjust to its new lifestyle.
  • Not every horse will readily adapt to new disciplines and most will always retain a racehorse mentality to some extent.

Once you have decided that you are a suitable home for a former racehorse, RoR recommends a number of places to start your search.

Retrainers/ RoR consultant

Some horses are sent to retrainers by their owner or trainer to spend time away from the racing environment. Here they are schooled to be sold or loaned to new homes. This is a good option for someone who is inexperienced with thoroughbreds.

Charitable retraining centres

RoR supports four charitable retraining centres that act as safety nets for horses in unfortunatate circumstances or if owners want them to have “care for life”. The centres loan the horses out on a permanent basis.

This website was set up by RoR training consultants Fred and Rowena Cook and will give you expert advice if you arelooking to home a horse.

Bloodstock sales

Regular “horses in training sales” are held around the country, notably Brightwells in Ascot, Doncaster Bloodstock Sales in Doncaster and Tatteralls in Newmarket. Ask the sales company to send you a catalogue and buyers guide before you attend the sale. Have in mind a price that you are willing to pay as well as a clear idea of what you want to do with the horse. Talk to the trainer, owner or groom to find out as much as possible about the horse before you buy it.

Direct from a racing yard

This route is most suitable for professional riders rather than amateurs. Buying directly from a yard means the horse will have been well fed, exercised regularly and have been in a strict routine making it more difficult for it to adapt to a new lifestyle.

RoR runs courses, numerous series in different disciplines and offers a wealth of advice to people taking on a racehorse and so don’t be afraid to seek help if you feel out of your depth or are unsure of what to do next.

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