A Life After Racing – Off The Track Thoroughbreds
 By Valkyrie   •   24th Apr 2016   •   1,910 views   •   0 comments
Off The Track Thoroughbreds

If you've ever watched a horse race you probably saw thrills, spills and maybe felt a few chills at watching the fastest horse breed in the world compete to see who has the greatest will to win. Horse racing is, without a doubt, the richest equestrian sport on the planet – with some races offering purses worth millions of dollars. But what's at stake is more than eternal glory and immortality.

Because of the quick turnover of competitors (most racehorses only run for a few years, although some do race up to eight or nine years of age) thousands of horses each year find themselves out of a job. The lucky ones are retired to stud or places such as Living Legends ( in Victoria, Australia. The unlucky ones find themselves taking a truck ride to the abbatoir.

So what can be done to avoid this fate?

Contrary to P.E.T.A's propaganda, racing staff and owners really do care about their charges. For every one negative case publicised about the industry, dozens of good examples go unreported. Racehorses are among the best cared for animals on the planet – every niggle, missed grain of feed and “off” day is meticulously scrutinised by a dedicated team of strappers, farriers, vets and managers. The horses are fit, healthy and well cared for.

Related: Retraining a Racehorse - Moonfire
Related: What You Can Learn From Your OTTB Tattoo

But what happens when they aren't fast enough anymore? What happens when their fitness declines? Or they injure themselves? Although some injuries can be rehabiliated successfully (such as recent Grand National winner Rule The World's two broken pelvises), often they completely ruin the horse's chance at ever racing again.

Thankfully there are dedicated teams and programmes that help these horses out as best they can, picking them up directly from training stables or finding them at auctions to give them a chance at a new career. The rigors of training and stressful situations like yearling sales and overseas travelling often turn OTTBs into willing, adaptive learners who take new things in stride like seasoned professionals.

So what sort of things can an OTTB become?

Mounted Security
The ATC Mounted Division in Australia has an Instagram account (atcmountedsecurity) where they share pictures of their job – offering mounted security at Australian racetracks. They also offer horses for hire for ceremonial duties and events, and have pictures and videos of the sort of training their horses go through. A lot of these horses are ex-racehorses.

Racehorses like Lachlan Place (two starts for no placings), Cabriole (93 lifetime starts for 11 wins), and General Benedict (a $100,000 yearling who raced nine times for one win). Ex-racehorses from vastly differing rates of success now enjoying their jobs as Mounted Security.

Riding Mounts
We all know how popular OTTBs are as riding mounts. Having spent most of their young lives at their peak fitness they are great gallopers, balanced jumpers and bold to boot. Businesses like EventStars Ltd (New Zealand) and New Vocations (Ohio, USA) take retired racehorses and retrain them as riding mounts for other equine competitions like eventing, show jumping, showing, and even just as pleasure mounts.

Programmes like Beyond the Barriers in New Zealand also encourage people to take OTTBs and actively retrain them as riding horses. They work to help ex­racehorses find new homes and new careers in other pursuits. They also hold competitions like the Dunstan Ex­Factor where OTTBs compete with routines to win a large prize.

Many ex­racers also find themselves becoming polo or polocrosse ponies. Their training on the track makes them quick to accelerate and balanced while galloping. As many TBs are also on the small side they are the perfect size for these sorts of competitions. In fact – one trainer in New Zealand won $60,000 after a Thoroughbred he originally tried to retrain as a polo pony proved to be too tall, so he sent her back to the track and won a major jumps race instead!

aussie_exracehorses on Instagram post many pictures of OTTBs enjoying jumping, dressage and showing careers with new owners. Some of these horses were expensive yearlings, now they are much loved pets and successful athletes.

Some geldings often find themselves nannying weanlings on stud farms. They're often grumpy, intolerant babysitters but they also know the ropes and know how humans work. They are a good example to weanlings who might otherwise be terrified of vet visits, the farrier and initial handling.

Ex­racehorses also act as working buddies for young racehorses just starting out. The OTTB knows how to gallop steadily and work quietly. He instills confidence and professionalism in the youngsters and makes the transition from the round yard to the training track just a little bit less scary.

Many ex­-racehorses are so loved by their owners or trainers that they are retired to familiar paddocks and live out the rest of their lives growing fat on treats and green grass. Champions like Bonecrusher, Rough Habit and Veandercross all shared this wonderful retirement. Plenty also become riding horses for their owner or owner's children.

Media and Publicity
Of course, sometimes the legend is larger than a simple retirement. Places like Living Legends in Victoria, Australia, cater to these equine superstars who are unable to go to stud (most of their charges are geldings). Their champions include:

• Apache Cat (winner of eight Gr.1 races, four Gr.2, four Gr.3 and two Listed, with distinctive markings that made him a crowd favourite)

• Better Loosen Up (died recently aged 30, winner of the Japan Cup among other races and an inductee in the Australian Racing Hall of Fame)

• Brew (Melbourne Cup winner)

• Doriemus (Caulfield and Melbourne Cup double)

• Efficient (Melbourne Cup among others)

• Fields of Omagh (ran in the Cox Plate five times, winning it at age 9. Winner of $6.5 million)

• Might and Power (Australian Horse of theYear 1998 and 1999. Caulfield/Melbourne Cup double as well as the Cox Plate and others)

• Rogan Josh ($13,000 yearling who won the Melbourne Cup)

• Silent Witness (a legend of Hong Kong racing, three years listed as the fastest sprinter in the world, won seventeen consecutive races)

Living Legends is accessible to the public who can come and visit these famous horses, many of whom grew up watching these horses in their racing heyday.

Other publicity horses include Subzero – a friendly, quiet grey gelding who won the Melbourne Cup in 1992. He travels all around Australia visiting schools, rest homes, racetracks, barns, business and official events. After retiring he was initially a clerk of the course's horse and later appeared on television. He was nearly put down in 2009 due to arthritis, but expensive drugs were imported from the US to keep him comfortable and he continues his visits to this day.
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