Retraining racehorses - part 1


In the start of our new series Nedz Rider Victoria Bax takes us through some top tips for re-schooling and retraining race horses. Our first piece looks at the importance of going back to basics and the art of being patient!

The first thing to remember is taking on an ex-racer can be hugely rewarding, but you often have to be prepared to put in a lot of work re-schooling him or her. Racehorses are used to a certain way of life from a young age, and it can take time for them to slot into a different routine or way of life.While some people may think a Thoroughbred is being naughty – if he won’t stand still for you to mount, for example – it’s actually because he hasn’t been taught to do so.

Routine and patience are key elements in re-training your horse. Thoroughbreds thrive on routine and even a little change in something you have been doing consistently can throw all your hard work out the window. In this respect to take on an ex-racer you will need to be confident and disciplined.


Get back to basics

An ex-racer may need to be partially backed again, again time and patience are needed. Although he will have had a jockey on board they would have been quite different to you and its likely your horse also won’t be used to a rider’s weight in the saddle, or know why your legs are hanging down by his sides.

Another problem might be biting your horse. You may well have to try a number of different bits before you can find one your horse accepts and is happy with. Doing work on the lunge and also long-reining will be incredibly beneficial and educational, as it will introduce him to the concept of the bit in his mouth, and someone having a contact on the reins.

Teach him to stand patiently

For a newly acquired ex-racehorse, especially one that’s come straight out of training, standing still for you to mount could prove an issue. Jockeys are generally legged up onto their mounts as it walks along – racehorses are not taught to stand next to a mounting block or wait for you to get on. You will have to give him a helping hand to teach him what it is you would like him to do, again patience is key.

Practice getting the horse to stand nextto the mounting block, for short periods of time at first. Encourage him to stand by feeding him some treats, or giving him a scratch on his withers something that keeps him calm and relaxed. When he’s standing patiently, enlist the help of a competent friend who will be able to calmly help you out. Ask them to hold him for you – standing beside him, rather than in front – while you mount. Keep practicing this and rewarding his good behavior so soon it becomes normal to stand still whilst you get on. Make sure you have someone on the ground still, when you first mount unaided.