Reacting to the challenges that Racing cared little about what happened to racehorses once their racing days were over, the industry consulted widely during 1998 and 1999.
It was concluded that, while the vast majority of ex-racehorses were well cared for and were enjoying productive second careers in a variety of equine occupations, evidence from the equine welfare charities showed that around 300 horses a year emerged needing charitable intervention.
Racing accepted that, collectively, the industry had a certain responsibility towards these horses, and RoR was set up to develop a coherent plan for fulfilling this responsibility.
At its launch in 2000, the aims of RoR were relatively simple: to raise funds from within the Racing Industry to support, where needed, the re-schooling and rehoming of former racehorses.
Central funding for ex-racehorse welfare was a completely new concept and, with the intention of drawing the Industry together to endorse the project, initial targets were kept deliberately modest. Although this limited the scope of RoR’s programme in the first years, it has nevertheless allowed RoR valuable time to reflect on how best its objectives could be served. Following review of its role in early 2003, RoR changed its name from Rehabilitation of Racehorses to Retraining of Racehorses, believing that this more accurately reflects its activities.
Former BHB Director, Chairman of the Jockey Club Veterinary Committee and Vice Chairman of the International League for the Protection of Horses, Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles OBE, was the first Chairman of RoR. He was largely responsible for setting up the charity, and remained Chairman until 2007.
RoR received many enquiries and applications for assistance, but, mindful of its responsibilities as a charity and towards the Industry contributors, agreed that only well-established centres with charitable status and a good track record in handling ex-racehorses would be eligible for grants. The three centres initially chosen were the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre, Greatwood and Moorcroft Racehorse Welfare Centre, followed by HEROS.
With the receipt in December 2002 of a generous bequest from the estate of Paul Mellon ($3.5m), and a £2.5m donation from Sheikh Mohammed following the sale of the Racing Post by Trinity Mirror in 2007, RoR’s position changed dramatically.
Due to these donations, RoR has been able to consider a range of different initiatives to help racehorses move on to a satisfactory second career once their racing days are over.
RoR has also been presented with several awards, including the Lexington Voluntary Service Award at the 2006 Animal Health Trust Equestrian Awards. In 2008 the work done by Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) was recognised by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) with RoR receiving the BEVA Equine Welfare Award. Sponsored by the Blue Cross previous recipients include the Donkey Sanctuary, Sir Peter O’Sullivan, Professor Derek Knottenbelt, and the Brooke Hospital.