Owning an ex-racehorse: Could you handle it?

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  • Ex-racehorses can have certain issues you may not have encountered before, so it pays to understand the jargon.

    Whip round

    Not a way of getting out of paying for drinks at the pub, but a method used by racehorses to get you off without going to the effort of bucking. Be prepared for a movement at the speed of light. Surprisingly hard to sit.

    Changing hands

    Nothing to do with cards and everything to do with keeping your hands absolutely still, even when being run away with. Racehorses are taught to quicken their stride when the jockey changes his grip on the reins, and often (willfully) misinterpret the similar action used to shorten reins.

    Broken down

    Sounds exceptionally scary, but refers to leg problems (usually tendon injuries) that prevent a horse from continuing to race. Not necessarily terminal.


    A widespread euphemism used by racehorse trainers to describe the sudden, unpredictable whims of racehorses. These may include anything from taking off into the middle distance for no apparent reason to standing rooted to the spot for the same (lack of) reason.


    Not a gentle meander down the lanes, but a brisk canter which may even feel like a gallop, until you actually gallop for the first time, which feels like being run away with.

    Jumping off

    You may consider doing this the first time you ask your ex-racehorse to canter. They are taught to go from zero into a gallop as quickly as possible in order to jump out of the stalls or to jump off at the start. So when you think canter, your horse will have gone on the “c”.

    Find out whether you have got what it takes to own an ex-racehorse in Horse & Hound special feature, on sale tomorrow (28 June, ’07)

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