EQUINE MANAGEMENT AND TRAINING - Fred and Rowena Cook
Retraining Racehorses, Rehabilitation, Therapy & Schooling
Email: Enquiries@equinetraining.co.uk or call 01780 740773
THOUSANDS of racehorses come out of training every year and what happens to them is an issue which is particularly close to our hearts and the retraining these horses is something that we are very passionate about. To this end the retraining of racehorses comprises quite a large proportion of our work.
DESPITE the continuing popularity of the ex-racehorse and the myriad of "racehorse retrainers" that have sprung up around the country, there are still so many myths and misconceptions about these horses. Information bandied about on social media is actually harmful as so much is incorrect.
THE EX-RACEHORSE is a truly versatile creature that is able to turn its hoof to many things but it must be said that they are not for everyone, so you should take plenty of advice and correctly assess your own abilities both in and out of the saddle before deciding to re-home one. If you equate the re-training of a racehorse as being akin to starting off a young horse, if you do not consider that you could not do this, then possibly a racehorse is not for you.
HOWEVER there is plenty of help available if you ask, even if it means your horse having a spell at a retraining yard to establish the basics. Challenging as it can be sometimes - as indeed any horse can be - it is an extremely rewarding process.
THE re-trained racehorse can, in the right hands, provide considerable pleasure and fun and be quite capable of competing at levels which suits the vast majority of riders. And of course there are those that go on to excel at much higher grades and indeed international level.
SADLY not every horse that has been in training successfully makes the transition from racehorse to riding horse , the signifciant majority can be directed along other paths given the time, patience, correct handling, understanding and training. So do not think that every "ex-racehorse comes out breathing fire and wants to tear off at every opportunity"; there is much fun to be had.
MANY ex-racehorses have passed through our hands . Working with these horses is so enjoyable and rewardind – gradually erasing all what has gone before and effectively creating a completely new character. When beginning a programme of re-education we are mindful that we are dealing with a horse that thinks it already knows is required of it, unlike starting with an unbroken horse; Also, the horse is required to change its whole of way life and thinking. It is long process and extreme patience is the criterion for success – even most seemingly simple factors all come into play.
FOR EXAMPLE even the yard routine will be very different to that which the horse has been used to and that in itself can have a very unsettling effect. And remember that mounting from a block is something the racehorse never encounters and it certainly will not be used to being tied up outside its stable! One of the biggest factors though is bitting - the ex-racehorse does not fit in to the normal mould of bitting principles so do not expect your horse to go in a particular bit because "the book" says he should!
RETRAINING a racehorse is not rocket science but a very calm, patient, methodical approach is required. In the early days some horses can appear as if they are never going to learn or change certain behaviours, but given time the transformation is wonderful.
GROUND WIORK is by far the best way to get retraining underway. We elect to do by long reining as we are able to work on teaching the forward driving aids, accepting the contact, using of the back, etc. before a rider gets on board again.
A SIGNFICANT number of horses will leave the racing environment either with a recent injury or the history of one. Whilst in the vast majority of cases this does not impact on the horse's abiity to become a riding horse, it may limit what activities he can undertake; it can also impact on quite how a retraining programme is started or be of influence a some point along the journey.
LEG injuries are the most common injury seen but provided a proper rehabilitative programme is followed these do not usually cause any further problems.
PELVIC tilts and/or rotations are also extremely common but are generally straightforward to address.
INJURIES to the back/lumbar area can be more problematic as can hind suspensory damage but each case has to be assessed individually.
IF YOU have any concerns about your horse's health or way of going you should consult your veterinary surgeon.
REMEMBER that these horses have been broken as yearlings so have had to mature very quickly and this can have a tremendous mental impact which some do not ever satisfactorily overcome or do so but to varying degrees. The flat horse has been taught to go from A to B as fast as possible, speed being the all important factor; for NH horses the test is jumping accuracy and stamina.
THE EX-FLAT horse they may just become too uptight and stressed, however well the physical training has gone, to be able to accept the excitement and activity of a showground, so the less claustrophobic environment of cross country (hunter trials, jump cross, etc.) may be an suitable alternative. Having said that though, many flat horses make a successful transition to the polo field.
AND HORSES off the flat often jump very well as they can be taught properly from the beginning; whereas the NH horse has been taught to flatten over his hurdles and fences - and they can pick up a lot of speed, not just at point of take off but they literally hit the ground running; granted these horses generally learn to bascule quite well it can be quite a challenge to get them to slow down!
IN TODAY'S world life is fast; everyone wants everything done yesterday! Even in the realms of horse training it is as if there is a competition to see who can achieve something in the quickest time. This is very disheartening as people who operate in this way only have their own interests at heart - and most definitely not those of their horse.
WHEN work back under saddle starts we are in no rush to round horses up; our number one priority is to encourage relaxation and then teach the horse to move properly off the leg; we want horses to work actively forwards as once the hindquarters begin to engage, we can then think about working into a contact. We also ride the ex-racehorses, certainly initially, with a slightly forward seat to encourage that free, forward movement.
PERIQUEST is a lovely horse who retired from racing sound having incurred a tendon injury. Following a lengthy period of rest he then arrived here to commence his retraining. That he is very open through the neck does not concern us; he needs his neck out to help him balance.
THERE are a considerable number of people who have a horse out of training and do not realise just how much their horse can change physically. The image below shows the difference that can be achieved with correct diet and training.
WE ARE saddened by the number of ex-racehorses that retain a physique not far off the one they had whilst they were in training; even horses that we see out competing often lack proper topline and muscling over the hindquarters. This is purely due to lack of correct training.to change their physique - it is not because the physique cannot be changed. Of course it takes time - as does the training of any horse correct and proper musculature .
IT is thanks to "Leosaid",Georgie to his friends and family that we became so involved in racehorse re-education and in tribute to his memory our book, "Re-Educating Racehorses - A Life After Racing" is dedicated to him. For more about this book please visit "A Life After Racing".
LEOSAID stopped racing due to a check ligament injury; he required several months of walking before exercise and re-training proper could begin and this did not help his already difficult temperament and behaviour - rearing and then walking backwards was his favourite party trick! He will remain a feature of this website as he was such a fabulous little horse to own and work with; we loved him dearly despite all the challenges he would throw up; he is a very much missed member of the family.
GEORGIE was extremely sensitive, not just mentally, but physically too. His re-training was a wonderful experience although the road was often a bit bumpy at times. However he was been a terrific little chap to work with despite his quirks and phobias – but that was his personality and character. He has been proof of how it is possible to work with a horse in a way so as to overcome what could be an obstacle if you let it become one. From being a horse that would not even step over a pole on the ground without 'throwing a wobbly', perseverance prevailed and he just loved tackling solid timber.
IF YOU have a horse out of training or are about to embark on re-training one, then you may consider that "Re-Educating Racehorses - A Life After Racing" is a book you should read
AS A consequence of our vast knowledge and experience of retraining racehorses we were asked to write a book on the subject; after much debate we decided to go ahead. Two year later our book finally was in print! Please click on "A Life After Racing" to find out more about this book.
We have also written a considerable number of articles and provided "Ask the Experts" responses.
The links are too numerous to list but a selection can be found by following this link:
"REHOMING RACEHORSES - A Life After Racing" is our ex-racehorse rehoming programme; Wee take horses directly out of training as well as horses that are deemed to be vulnerable on behalf of other charities. We also work closely with the Greatwood Charity both in terms of fundraising and as its Retraining Consultants.
FOR those of you seeking to loan an ex-racehorse there are the 3 RoR-funded Rehoming Centres details of which can be found on the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) website,
IF YOU are looking to buy or sell an ex-racehorse please visit this website: Proceeds from all advertising are directed to "Rehoming Racehorses". .
WE ARE happy to provide help, advice and support to the owners of ex-racehorses. All we ask is that if you contact us, whether by telephone, email or social media, that a small donation is made to our racehorse rehoming programme - more information on which can be found at "Rehoming Racehorses". Whatever you are experiencing, we will have encountered it ourselves so we can provide straightforward, no-nonsense advice.