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Retraining Racehorses - Part 2

In our first part of the series Victoria took us through the importance of getting back to basics with your race horse. In this part Victoria explains about some more handling and on the ground management, as well as ensuring the physical and mental well being of your horse during their retraining.

Give him an MOT

Racehorses have busy lives and also work hard. It is therefore sensible to get a horse of the track checked over by a vet to ensure there are no physical issues, and to get the correct treatment if he does have any problems. It is good to do this early on before training commences.

Horses that have raced most commonly suffer from back, pelvis and leg injuries so these are the key areas to focus on, although obviously a full MOT should be done.

His hooves are also likely to need attention as Thoroughbreds notoriously have bad feet. They can become long, narrow and low at the heels. Going barefoot isn’t likely to be a consideration, but you can discuss this with your farrier.

Physically, your new horse may be rigid throughout his body, rather than supple, as all he’s done so far is go in straight lines.

A physiotherapist can help by releasing tension in the body, so you can then work the horse correctly and help him become stronger and more flexible through himself. As we discussed in the previous article all of these changes can take time and patience is still the key.

Grass time!

It’s most likely that your ex-racehorse is not used to being turned out to grass. He has probably come from a busy yard, where turnout is not considered an essential part of his daily routine or he could have only gone out for a limited amount of time.

When the times comes for you to put him into the field, he may not know what to do and could stand by the gate, as if waiting to come in. If necessary, turn him out for short periods initially, and he should soon learn to love his new-found freedom.

Tying safety

In his former life, an ex-racer will have been used to having everything done in his stable, so it’s unlikely he’ll have been tied up out on the yard.

This is another day-to-day practice we take for granted and that requires patient training.

Ensure the horse is happy being tied up in the stable first before attempting to tie him in another area or busy atmosphere. It is a good idea to stay with him to see how he responds.

When you move him onto tying up on the yard do it similarly to how you taught him to stand for you when mounting. So hold him for short periods next to the tie ring on the yard getting him quietly used to it. Then, tie him up safely, but not too short, and use baler twine or a device that breaks under pressure. As always time and patience are the key and after a while he will get used to this practice.