Di Arbuthnot, Chief Executive
T: 01488 648998
Retraining of Racehorses
75 High Holborn
London WC1V 6LS
UK Registered Charity No: 1084787
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RoR Regional Representative, Pippa Boyle attended Tweseldown Horses Trials in Oxfordshire on Saturday 18th May on behalf of the RoR to watch the RoR BE90 section and meet some of you and your ex racehorses. Pippa said: "It was fantastic to see so many ex racehorses looking so well and going so nicely. I looked out across the dressage warm up and couldn't pick out the ex racehorses against the other horses working in either because they were lean or badly behaved, everyone taking part should be very proud of themselves and their ex racehorse ambassadors! There were 24 ex racehorses taking part in the section."
Pippa said also that the standard of the dressage was very high, with Big Hands Lynch and Gabi Freydl scoring a fantastic 18.5 in their dressage test (the best score of any dressage test in any BE90 that was run that day) but it was the horses first ever one day run and his inexperience showed cross country.
The eventual winner of the ROR section was Bright Wire and Sarah Batten who did a lovely dressage test to score 33.5 and then jumped a great double clear to secure themselves the first slot. Sandmartin and Amy Ferris, who already have a great BE record looked very professional and just missed out on winning the class due to a few time faults.
She said: "All competitors in the class should be very proud of themselves and their horses, it was great to meet some of you on the day. Good Luck to you all with the rest of your season."
Well done to everyone and thanks to Pippa for sending in her report. Don't forget you can meet Pippa and her husband Jim at their yard's special open day next weekend, Saturday 25th May click here for more information.
Sophie Smyth on Presentforyou won the RoR Retrained Racehorse Challenge Final Championship 2013 in the main arena at Royal Windsor Horse Show on Friday 10th May. This versatile ex-racehorse is the same horse that has also now twice competed at RoR Barbury, the RoR Dressage Final and was also entered for last year's RoR Hunter Challenge at Cheltenham, which was unfortunately abandoned due to the bad weather.
All the competitors at the Championship jumped well and it was a good class.
It was also a great day at Royal Windsor in the RoR/Tattersalls Show Series with HM The Queen enjoying watching her ex-racehorse Barbers Shop, produced by Katie Jerram, win the NH division of the qualifier. Purple Moon (pic above), produced by Sarah Cumani and ridden by Chantal Wootten, won the Flat qualifier.
Di Arbuthnot, RoR's Chief Executive was at RWHS yesterday and said; "Her Majesty watched the class and her rider and producer Katie Jerram gave her the rosettes and tesco voucher, which she put in her pocket! The cup was taken straight to the Castle for her guests to see in the evening."
Produced by Sarah Cumani, Purple Moon was ridden by Chantal Wootten. Chantal lives and works at the Cumani owned Fittocks Stud in Newmarket. Chantal told us "I met George as we call him when I started working at the yard two years ago, he had been retired to the stud ending his jet setting racing career. He originally started racing under National Hunt rules including winning a hurdle race before being owned by Craig Bennett and trained by Luca Cumani on the flat."
Purple Moon had many wins including the 2007 Ebor and also finished a very close second in both the Melbourne Cup and the Hong Kong Vase amassing over a million pounds in prize money. Chantal says that "Luckily for me his owner gifted him to the stud for everyone to enjoy. When I first saw him I knew he was special, he has great presence and a huge personality. I have been working hard with him for the past couple of years. He is now 10 years old and doesn't always find things easy but when he does get it right like today, then that's what makes retraining a racehorse all the more worthwhile. We are all delighted with his success today, he's a fantastic horse."
"Both horses deserved to win, as they were beautifully mannered and produced," said Di "I was particularly impressed with the horses when they had to contend with the 6 gun salute and a ride past!"
To see photos please visit our FACEBOOK page where you will find an album from the day.
RoR are delighted to announce a unique event with racehorse trainer Jim Boyle on Saturday 25th May at South Hatch Stables, Burgh Heath Road, Epsom, Surrey, KT17 4LX. Jim and Pippa Boyle will be opening their yard to ex-racehorse enthusiasts providing a real insight into how horses are trained and cared for.
The day will start on Epsom Downs from 9am watching horses training on the gallops and will be followed with a tour of yard to meet the horses and staff and ask any questions you may have.To book please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org before the day. There is a numbers limit so places will be a first come first served basis.
Nestled less than 15 miles from central London, but situated within 14 acres of pasture on the outskirts of Epsom, South Hatch Stables has been home to Jim and Pippa Boyle and their team since Jim started training in 2001.
It is also a racing yard which has a rehoming policy personaly overseen by the couple and their yard is complimented by having a separate stud and recuperation centre 9 miles away near Dorking, which is run by Pippa.
Pippa, who is also RoR Regional Co-ordinator for the South East, oversees all the breeding stock, as well as having horses out of training for holidays or recuperation from injury. This is also where the youngsters are broken in ready to come into full training.
Photo with thanks to Stud Photography.
David Gatherer will be holding another RoR Clinic on Sunday 23rd June at Inchcoonans Competition and Livery Yard in Perthshire, Scotland. David will include cross-country training in this course along with the usual flatwork.
To apply, horses must have raced or been in training and be registered with RoR. Click here to download the application form to complete and send to Carol Magee, Ardoch Farmhouse, Murthly, Perthshire PH1 4HB or e-mail back to email@example.com
Hoys and Hickstead Champion Vicky Smart will be hosting ‘Racing and Retraining the Racehorse’ on 26th June 7-9pm at Idexx Laboratories, Wetherby LS22 7DN. This event is being held in conjunction with Balanced Being Veterinary Centre. Find out about daily life in a racing yard and what happens to a horse in training. You will learn some helpful tips and techniques on how to retrain a racehorse straight out of training through to championship level. This will be a friendly informative evening with lots of helpful tips and advice and plenty of time to ask questions.
Attendance to this unique RoR event is ticket only as places are limited. Tickets cost £10 each and should be booked by telephone 01937 543860 or alternatively send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
The venue address is: Unit 8, Erivan Park, Sandbeck Way, Wetherby, Leeds. LS22 7DN. Click here for directions
Renowned polo pony trainer David Morley will be giving a 'Racehorse to Polo Pony Clinic' at The British Racing School, Snailwell Road, Newmarket CB8 7NU on Sunday 19th May 2013 between 10.30 am and 1.30 pm. The cost for those bringing horses (young or partially trained welcome) will be £20 and for spectators £10 including light refreshments.
The session will include advice on selection and purchase of ex-racehorses at sales or privately, management of the Thoroughbred and instruction on early training. Help and advice will be given to those bringing horses to the clinic. Please park horseboxes in the large car park which is about 100 yards from the indoor school. Spectators may also park there and may wish to bring a chair to sit on as there is no seating in the small gallery.
Please complete this Application Form and send with a cheque made payable to 'Retraining of Racehorses' to Alison Schwabe, Suffolk Polo Club, 1 Park View, Hare Park Stud, Six Mile Bottom, Newmarket CB8 0UY. For further information please e-mail email@example.com
Amy Wescott Allen is offering a RoR Clinic on Saturday 25th May in the morning or afternoon with a choice of flat work for individual or pair sessions at a cost of just £25 per session at The Stables, Manor Farm House, Chilton Foliat, Berkshire, RG17 0TJ. To book a session please download the APPLICATION FORM (Please note applications on a first come first served basis).
Amy trained for 14 years with Russ Hardy at Boomerang before spending time in Germany showjumping and then returning to the UK picking up eventing and dressage again. She has competed and produced horses up to elementary level, including 2nd placings at Championships and has jumped young riders classes including Derbys. Amy works regularly with ex-racehorses in all disciplines and brings the skills and sensitivity needed as well as her experience to all her coaching sessions.
If you have any questions please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you qualified for the Highland Show this year or are you just starting to show your ROR Horse? Would you like some help? On Monday 13th May and Monday 20th May 2013, show producer and judge Mary Bowie has kindly offered help for four horses on each of these days at her yard in Kinross, Perthshire.
The day will begin 11.00 - 12.00am with a riding session for you and your horse, followed by a short break for lunch and then discussions with Mary on tack, turnout, plaiting, as well as on preparation of your horse for both before and on the day of the show.
If you are interested in this free clinic, then please contact Carol Magee on 07811 460380 or e-mail email@example.com. Places will be on a first come first served basis, it would be most helpful if you can specify which date you prefer or if you are flexible to attend either.
The 2013 Royal Windsor Horse Show takes place from 8th – 12th May with the RoR/TBA Retrained Racehorse Challenge Final taking place on Friday 10th May.
The 2012 RoR Retrained Racehorse Challenge Championship was won by ex-racehorse Naughty Noah ridden by Diana Keegan. This year will see the Royal Windsor Horse Show celebrate its 70th anniversary – it was started in 1943 to raise money.
Clinic with Constantin "Tintin" Van Rijckevorsel at Littleton Manor Equestrian Centre, Reigate, Surrey on the 14th April.
Tintin has only missed three Eventing Championships since 1994. He won a Silver Medal at the Young Rider Championships in 1995, was 8th in Atlanta Olympics, 10th in Athens Olympics, has attained 3 Team Bronze Medals for Belgium at The Europeans. Tintin also has lots of top 8 placings at 3* and 4*, he qualified last year at the World Championships for the 2012 London Olympics, he achieved the majority of this on ex-racehorses.
One of Tintin's Olympic qualification for London 2012 was on a horse called Our Vintage, a horse who raced in Australia, he was retired early in 2012 due to injury so sadly they missed the Olympics. Tintin was first reserve for the Belgium team on his other top horse Butterfly Boy.
We are lucky that he has kindly offered to teach clinics for us. He has a very relaxed teaching style and simply loves thoroughbreds. Riders can choose to work in either flatwork or jumping at whatever level they are happy to. Don't worry if you feel you haven't done enough retraining with your horse yet, Tintin is fantastic at making sure you have the basic building blocks firmly in place to give you the ideal foundation to build on or if you and your horse are more advanced some fantastic tips to get things going even better! The lesson will be completely tailored to you and your horse's requirements.
Lessons are RoR subsidised so a 45 minute individual lesson is £25 to all RoR registered horses.
Please contact the RoR South East Co-ordinator Pippa Boyle by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in attending.
The RoR Parade at this year's Aintree Festival meeting on Thursday 4th April all went well with many people watching the horses around the paddock or on the TV screens in the bars and boxes.
Nine former racehorses took part, including Aintree favourite Comply or Die winner of the 2008 John Smith's Grand National and runner up in 2009. Since his retirement in 2011, Comply or Die is now enjoying a more relaxed pace of life at Timmy Murphy's farm (Murphy, who rode him to Aintree glory), often going out hunting with Timmy too.
RoR was delighted to have the opportunity to showcase former racehorses and highlight to racing audiences how horses are enjoying life after racing, whether retrained for new equestrian sports or retrained for fun.
Also in the line up at this year's RoR Aintree Parade was:
Monet's Garden – Joey Richards (Showing)
Now a 15yo, Monet's Garden ran 32 times winning 17 races and over £683,000 including the Old Roan chase 3 times and the Melling Chase. Joey has now retrained him for the show ring and is aiming for the RoR show class here at Aintree in July 2013.
Scots Grey (pictured) – Emma Burton (Team Chasing)
Trained by Nicky Henderson, Scots Grey ran a total of 44 times, winning 10 races and over £112,000 in prize money. Emma Says he is now team chasing and that; "He is a complete darling to be around without a bad bone in his body. He hacked out on Christmas Day with a complete non-rider having his second ever hack down to the village, he has also been hacking with a 13 year old lass here. Having seen how nicely he jumps we hope to do a few jumping classes locally as well as the RoR performance ones, he has hunted in the past so he may go out with our local packs too."
Dunbrody Miller - Hayley Ward (Eventing)
Dunbrody Millar ran 58 times, 6 times at Aintree winning the Topham in 2007.
Now, he is eventing and last year he was placed 9th at his second BE100 at Purston Manor. He also qualified for the tattersalls ROR Racehorse to Riding Horse final at Hickstead and the Trailblazers dressage final at Stonleigh last year, as well as being overall Show Hunter champion and Reserve Champion riding Horse at our local riding club. Hayley says that; "This year after a long winter break we are aiming to event again ground dependant continuing our success at BE100 and moving up to Novice level. We are also aiming to compete in the veteran horse society showing classes and the ROR racehorse challenge series. "
He has his own personal fan club in the village and at most competitions he goes to! He is loved dearly and has a home for life and is an absolute gentleman!
Whatcanyasay – Melanie Gray (Showing)
A 12yo trained in Scotland by Evelyn Slack, he ran 46 times winning 4 races . He has been showing for just one season and has won at the ROR Scottish Championship at the Royal Highland show, was Champion at Hambleton Show in both the RoR Showing and RoR Challenge Classes and also won the RoR Challenge Class at the Aintree Showing Show in 2012. He was also 4th in his first affiliation eventing and chosen for pony club teams going clear at Hartpury XC for Tetrathlon Championships and qualified for the Open Pony Club Dressage Championships!
Tommy Two Shoes – Caroline Hurley (Show Jumping)
Tommy, a 14yo by Aristocracy, had his last run at Aintree in the 2008 Foxhunters. Since retiring Tommy has competed in local riding club competitions: show-jumping/dressage and showing classes, and at Aintree's National Show in July 2012 all in his first year of re-schooling. This coming season Tommy is looking forward to competing in more riding club competitions and RoR classes. Tommy is ridden by all the family and says Caroline; "He has been a dream to re-school and is a complete pleasure to ride and a gentleman in every way."
Inchloss - David Worthington (Horseball)
This 12 year old by Imperial Ballet had a racing career lasting 4 years, when he ran 31 times on the flat wining 2 races and placed on a few occasions. He has since been playing Horseball with and is an essential part of the GB team. He was the top goal scorer in the World Cup in 2012. Inchloss has turned his hand to a bit of dressage this year and will combine this and playing Horseball for 2013.
Carefree Flapper – Ben Berry (Horseball)
This 9 year old by Generous, made an appearance in 2 flat races. He is now owned and ridden by Ben, who plays Horseball for the first division Nottingham team and has represented GB both here and abroad. Unfortunately Carefree Flapper was unable to take part in the 2012 World Cup but will aim to be there this year says Ben.
Elverys – Charlotte Wilson (Dressage)
This 14yo who was trained by Richard Fahey, ran 6 times and was placed twice under NH rules. Elverys is an Irish bred horse by Lord Americano out of Paddy’s Babs who was trained in Malton by Richard Fahey where it was hoped that being a 17.1hh TB he would become a Grand National horse. Unfortunately Elverys had to be retired from training in 2008 as a 9 year old due to being a bleeder. At this point Elverys went to Snainton Riding Centre to Charlotte Wilson who is a British Horse Society Instructor to be retrained in Dressage. Charlotte brought him out to compete in 2010 and started competing at Novice level gaining 50 points in his first season and qualifying for the Novice Regionals. In 2011 Elverys made his debut at Elementary level and was competed lightly throughout the season, in November Charlotte and Elverys travelled to the ROR Dressage Championships at Vale View where Elverys did his best test to date which resulted in him winning the class and becoming the ROR Elementary Champion for 2011. In the same year Elverys and Charlotte won the runner up prize in the SEIB & ROR Elite Performance Dressage Awards.
a) Racehorses have Vices
It is commonly assumed that horses in training all have vices and this is most certainly not the case.
Granted some do, but no more in number proportionately than walking into a livery yard and seeing how many horses there crib or weave.
It is actually more likely that a horse develops a vice after leaving the training environment whilst he learns to cope with his new lifestyle. Much as someone rehoming a racehorse believes they are giving the horse a new life, a better, life and so on, to the horse he has left the only life he knows so, just as with people that moving house is one of life’s most stressful experiences, so too with a horse, except he is not only moving to somewhere strange, but with someone he invariably does not know and at the same time introduced to some alien procedures. This “stress” can result in the temporary development of cribbing, weaving, box-walking, etc.
b) An ex-racehorse will always lack condition (weight)
Well, judging by the number of well-rounded horses appearing in showing classes it is most definitely not true that thoroughbreds cannot gain and then maintain good bodyweight.
Of course there are those that initially do need a targeted feeding programme to get meat onto their bones but once this is achieved the thoroughbred is no more problematic to feed than any other horse. Ok so some do have a tendency to drop a degree of weight over winter so a tweak or two to the feed given is required but this is no different to having to give horses at grass additional forage or supplementary feeding during the winter months.
Once the desired bodyweight is achieved and the horse established in his new life, usually no further feeding issues present. However occasionally some horses do pose a bit more of a challenge to their owners but more often than not, this is because the right feed, or not enough is being given, or there is a underlying health issue. We see these issues very commonly through the Helpline so if you are not sure, please ask for advice.
c) Ex-racehorses are strong
We have all seen horses at racecourses cantering who are clearly giving their jockey a hard time and those that effectively appear to “bolt” at the start of a race. Of course there are some strong horses but take a look on any hunting field and you will see quite a few riders hanging on for grim death with all manner of bits and nosebands fitted in an attempt to retain control. Horses are not necessarily mouth-strong but they can use the strength in their neck and shoulders against the rider particularly those that lack good schooling.
The horse that pulls going to the start or “bolts” during the early stages of his race is not necessarily a strong horse generally, but under race conditions, with adrenalin flowing and the anticipation of what lies ahead, horses can run a bit free but this does not mean that you are going to have this problem when you rehome him.
Horses are naturally on the forehand and racing training does nothing to improve on this. During early retraining the horse has to learn about carrying weight and balancing himself in a totally different way to that which he has been used to and then of course start learning about taking weight behind. Strength must not be confused with leaning: It can seem that the horse is strong in the hand but he is actually leaning on the hand until he learns to carry himself.
Nor must strength be confused with a horse properly moving forward into the contact or impulsion. After a period of retraining, especially if carried out on your behalf by someone else, the change in his way of going can take a little getting used to; it is not that he has become mouth strong but altogether a much fitter more balanced horse with the power coming through from behind.
Remember that a horse will also lean on a bit as a way of evasion whether evasion of the bit because the action or fit of the bit does not suit him, or to avoid using his back because he does not know to or because he hurts somewhere. A horse also leans if the rider is not sitting up or using the leg effectively. Poor riding generally can result in a horse trying to “run away” -from a rider that bounces in the saddle (particularly when cantering), from the rider with unforgiving hands, from the rider who constantly has their heels turned into onto the horse’s sides.
Of course once out on a cross country course horses can and indeed do take a hold; control is vital for today’s modern, twisty and technical courses hence it is not at all uncommon for riders to change the bit they use for the cross country phase of a one-day or three-day events; yet these same horses perform a calm dressage test in a mild bit.
If your horse does seem strong the answer does not lie in a harsher bit; the stronger the bit used the stronger the horse becomes. Try a bit that offers a different action or just use a grakle or Mexican noseband – this can work wonders. If you are no sure about bitting, then seek advice.
d) Ex-racehorses behave badly
It is assumed that every ex-racehorse is going to be like a ticking bomb just waiting to explode. As a breed it is accepted that the thoroughbred is sharper than many but just look at Welsh D’s – they are notoriously sharp, well the successful in-hand ones certainly are and the sharper the better!
However, think about this: In training the racehorse has a very high concentrate diet, he is fit, he is focused on his job; yet each morning large groups of often young horses head out into vast open spaces ready for their cantering or fast work, yet in the main, the exercise is uneventful – no hi-jinks, riders on the floor, no loose horses. Go to a race meeting and whilst a few horses may be on their tippy-toes in the paddock (but they are not trying to drag their lads and lasses all over the place) most of walking around quite happily.
As has been said under previous Myths, it is when a horse is removed from its comfort zone that changes in behaviour manifest and a horse that was very laid back in training can become anxious and tense. And, yes, granted, this does present an issue for many new owners. It has to be said that more people than care to admit are quite nervous around horses that show any kind of freshness such as jig-jogging when being led or having a buck on the lunge, etc. But nervousness around a horse can make a horse nervous too. And often this goes hand-in-glove with an inexperienced rider; an experienced handler/rider imparts confidence to a horse hence why a horse can seemingly misbehave with one person and instantly be an angel with someone else. There is no criticism being aimed here, but more encouraging a person to admit if they are unsure or not confident so that they seek help rather than trying to soldier on and things worsen with the relationship between horse and owner/rider deteriorating rather than building positively. Everyone has a wobbly moment at some point or other – it is nothing to be embarrassed by.
Unsuitable feeding often lies behind undesirable behaviours with too many carbs being fed for the work done. Lack of turnout is often blamed for horses getting above themselves but with a correct diet and exercise regime this need not be the case at all. There are many reasons why a horse cannot have turnout but this does not mean he will become a lunatic the moment he steps outside of his stable.
The actual stable environment can be a cause of tension so this is why thinking about your horse’s stable is so important; how would you feel being put in a dark room, or one with no view from the window, or one that was draughty? A horse with gastric ulcers or a worm burden can be tetchy and tense and so appear highly strung. And obviously any discomfort anywhere else in the body or that caused by an ill-fitting saddle, ill-fitting or inappropriate bit or poor riding manifests in a horse not behaving or going as it should.
A horse that is highly strung should not be confused with a horse that is excited because he’s feeling well, is pleased to be out, is off to a party and so on. If your horse is prone to an energy build-up, give him a few minutes on the lunge before you get on. The highly strung horse tends to be one that frets, does not hold weight easily, sweats up more easily or may exhibit a stable vice; the excitable horse – granted may be overfed and that is why he has more energy – is generally a happy horse that loves life and just wants to get on with his job. But just because a horse is very fit, feels very well and so on does not mean he has to be a handful to ride; again think of the racehorses out in groups being ridden quite happily on the buckle end. People also associate the highly strung or excitable horse with one that is then spooky or nappy. Spooking and nappiness come from a lack of confidence on the part of the horse, the rider or both, or a lack of training.
Getting more help:
This concludes the Mythbusting series. Please remember that for the purposes of this series we have had to make generalisations in order to cover various scenarios; horses are individuals and each will react to different situations and stimuli in a different way.
If you have any questions relating to anything you have read or regarding your horse’s management, behaviour or training, please contact the Horsecare Helpline via e-mail: email@example.com or call 01780 740773.
It is assumed and indeed believed by a large number of people that thoroughbreds have poor feet; we have all heard people saying that their horse has weak, crumbling feet that never grow, that their horse is flat-footed and weak heeled. Whilst it cannot be denied there are many horses in training and out of training with feet that leave a lot to be desired, this is not actually anything to do with being a thoroughbred per say; at the risk of being shouted down it is more to do with management of youngstock! Read on:
The horse’s foot is an amazing piece of engineering; it is an incredibly sensitive structure yet it can withstand the huge forces which are placed upon it. The structure and workings of the foot is very complex and warrants a book let alone the limited very simplistic explanation we can provide here but hopefully we can say enough to make sense!
Horses are not born flat-footed; if this was the case surely the pedal (coffin) bone would be flat too but it is not; it is a concave structure. So does a horse become flat-footed with age? In a word, “no” so what happens? Just as with ourselves, the horse’s foot has an arch to it, the arch being formed by the pedal bone (at the front of the foot) - and a collection of soft, but strong tissues to the rear, the digital cushion. If these tissues become weak, they collapse resulting in the normally slightly tilted angle of the pedal bone to change ie. lose the tilt. This is exacerbated if the heels are left too long. The foot is designed to land heel first hence nature designed the hoof to have no bone at the back which could easily be jarred; instead the tissue structure was put in place to cope with impact – a shock absorbing mechanism. It is only logical that if the arch falls, this workings of this mechanism is impaired which leads to lameness issues and the possible development of sidebone, ringbone, navicular,, etc. So keeping these tissues healthy is paramount. But how do we do this?
The digital cushion does not have a very good blood supply but the frog acts like a pump forcing valuable nutrients into it. However, the frog needs contact with the ground to be able to do this but it too needs stimulating - by movement of the horse.
As said, foals are not born with flat feet. In the wild foals and youngsters would move around on all manner of terrain, movement on hard ground helping to develop strong shock absorbers. Initially the digital cushion is like a soft pad of fat, but as the foal develops and grows it gradually becomes fibrous and hence strong. Now domesticated, non-thoroughbred youngstock gets to spend 2-3 years out in the fields, naturally building strong digital cushions but in contrast young thoroughbreds are raised in level paddocks with good ground cover so as to protect their limbs and this is where the problem of flat feet actually starts because before the youngster even commences his race training, the development of his feet is already, albeit unknowingly, impaired.
The young thoroughbred then finds himself going into [flat] training at around 20 months of age and what happens – he invariably gets shod, in front anyway, but his feet have not properly matured. Shoeing lifts the frog off the ground a little which further interferes with foot development, blood supply, etc. Shoeing also reduces the amount by which the back of the foot flexes as it strikes the ground and that too slows the development of the digital cushion. Thus as the young thoroughbred grows and matures, his feet get stuck in a time warp of non-development. As an adult the digital cushion is not just sufficiently strong to provide support to the arch, particularly under the stresses of race training, so it collapses and we have flat feet.
With flat feet and collapsed heels the workings of the foot is impaired so it does not get properly nourished which in turn affects horn quality and growth, and of course the sole as it too stops growing; indeed it actually becomes compressed so instead of being a healthy 15mm thick it can become as little at 4mm. Couple this with frequent changes of shoes to racing plates, a tendency to leave toes too long and the foot becomes a weakened, crumbling structure with a horse that is prone to being foot sore and even lame.
The good news is that with remedial farriery to restore correct angles and re-balance the foot, sound nutrition and correct management the digital cushion can repair and replenish. Consistent moisture levels is important; the hoof must not be allowed to dry out but similarly it does not want to be over moist; in both instances this leads to cracking. Do not use hoof oil – this is purely a cosmetic exercise. Plenty of fibre in the diet with good quality protein is important. It does take time to improve the condition of the feet but with patience it can be done. Your ex-racehorse need not live with poor feet.
Getting more help
Please be aware that certain generalisations must be made and we would encourage people to contact the RoR Helpline in order that appropriate responses can be given to any individuals situation via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01780 740773.
If you have lost or need to find out your registration number in preparation for the RoR series, then please ensure you contact the RoR Office on email@example.com and not the Horsecare Helpline.
Please also allow at least 10 working days for us to process your registration enquiry, as this is always a busy time of the year with RoR series forthcoming events. We would strongly recommend that you follow up any request by an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on registration please click here.
The RoR Helpline receives quite a number of calls from people who have problems picking up their horse’s hind feet. These people then go on to tell us that they "realise that the problem lies in the fact that when in training racehorses only have to pick up their hind feet when the farrier comes.” And when questioned as to the source of such pearls of wisdom, we hear such things as “my instructor said so” or “my farrier said … because racehorses don’t wear hind shoes.”
Well, as the vast majority of those reading this will know, this is complete nonsense; nothing could be further from the truth. Even if there was a failure for a horse to have its feet picked out prior to exercise, this would most certainly be done during evening stables, evening stables being the time when all horses are thoroughly groomed and checked over for any signs of injury etc; and attention to the feet is all part of the routine. The trainer inspects every horse so no stable lad or lass can get away with not doing their job properly! That a horse did not have shoes on behind would not mean his feet were not attended to on a daily basis. .
So where could this myth possibly have stemmed from? When there is difficulty lifting one or both hind legs, it usually is a sign that the horse is in discomfort either in his hind limb/limbs or in his back. The leg being lifted may hurt in one or more of the joints, or the action of lifting may cause discomfort in the back; and of course when a leg is lifted bodyweight is then thrown on to the other hind leg and this can similarly exacerbate discomfort in any or all of the joints of that leg or, again, across the back.
That a horse can be more difficult with the farrier is because a farrier lifts the leg that much higher than I done when just picking the feet out and also because the lifted leg remains lifted for longer periods of time. That farriers then have the tendency to hang onto a leg when a horse pulls back can cause more discomfort. Granted a young horse has to learn that he cannot snatch his leg away at random when he feels like it, but if a horse repeatedly does so suggests discomfort and this should be eliminated before training progresses.
Of course sometimes a horse is not stood correctly with one hind leg too far under the body so when the other hind leg is lifted he is thrown off balance. Thus you should always make sure that your horse is stood reasonably squarely before asking for a hind leg pick up.
There are instances that if a horse has sustained a leg or foot injury that has warranted regular and prolonged treatment he can become problematic to lift that leg, but once healed normal service is usually resumed without too much difficulty.
One thing to remember is that in racing it is common practise to remain on the nearside of the horse even when picking up on the off-side feet in a sequence of near fore, off fore, near hind, off hind, thus with the fresh out of training horse you may have to familiarise him with picking up his feet in a slightly different way.
If your horse is a bit of a fidget when being held for the farrier, tie him up instead as this is what he is used to from his life in training. You will find that he is much better behaved!
Getting more help
Please be aware that certain generalisations must be made and we would encourage people to contact the RoR Helpline in order that appropriate responses can be given to any individuals situation via e-mail: email@example.com or call 01780 740773.
The dressage training sessions with Jo Graham at Crow Wood EC in Burnley, Lancashire take place on Thursday April 11th. All lessons have been fully booked for some time but spectators are most welcome to come along to watch the sessions between 1pm - 7pm.
Please contact RoR's North West Regional Co-ordinator, Anne Parkinson on 07807 890903 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or queries.
If you can't make this date, then be sure to check out the Lecture Demos at the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre in Lancashire on Saturday 13th April and Sunday 23rd June.
It is indeed a myth that you cannot travel an ex-racehorse in a trailer but having said that it must be pointed out that there are some horses which will not travel in one. Howeve, this is not ex-racehorse specific as there are horses which are just not happy to trailer travel even if they will load into one; each horse must be assessed individually.
Generally, loading problems can be overcome with patience and practise but actually getting a horse to accept being closed in to a moving trailer can be more difficult – and in some cases it has to be accepted that the horse is not safe to be in a trailer; we have seen instances of horses kicking their way out, diving at the front window in an attempt to get out and rearing up and smashing the roof – situations that are highly dangerous, even life threatening, for the horse and those around him.
The idea that a horse will not travel in a trailer comes from flat horses and the associated issues of them being loaded into starting stalls. These stalls are extremely narrow and it is not uncommon for horses to bang themselves, particularly their hips, on entering or exiting the stalls so it not at all surprising that trainers have to spend time on stall practise with some horses having to wear blindfolds or a special rug for loading.
Racehorses are generally travelled in horseboxes albeit much more commonly these days in the smaller 2–horse boxes which does help horses get used to going into a smaller space than offered by a larger wagon.
These days trailers are much more sturdy than they used to be and thus more stable when in motion, particularly the Equitrek trailer which are like little horseboxes and horses do seem to travel very well in them. Some makes of trailer are lighter and sway a bit when being towed which can unnerve some horses.
We are regularly asked about trailer loading issues but loading practise for an ex-racehorse is no different to teaching a young horse load for the first time - you need lots of time and lots of patience. There is no special technique for these horses than for any others.
It is when the ramp is closed up behind that more serious issues can arise as this is when sometimes a horse will panic. Usually once the trailer starts to move a fractious horse will settle but occasionally he will not and he may well try and get himself out whether by kicking, rearing or barging. On the rare occasions this occurs, a little bit of sedation may do the trick, but there is no guarantee that this is a situation that can be overcome.
Sometimes a horse will be fine travelling until a larger vehicle comes up behind the trailer but closing the top doors of the trailer usually solves any problems this causes.
With a new horse, we advocate arranging his collection or delivery via horsebox as your new charge will have enough to contend without having to travel in a manner which he has quite likely not ever experienced. As part of his retraining, trailer loading and trailer travel practise can be done. Travel practice is not as crazy as it may sound as far better to accustom your horse to trailer travel on a few short journeys than to ask him to cope with a longer journey first time out. Remember than he will have to learn to balance himself a little differently than he would when travelling in a horsebox so allow him time to learn this most important new skill.
More often than not there are absolutely no issues whatsoever other than possibly a little bit of initial hesitation on loading as the space in a trailer is much narrower and sometimes darker than when going into a horsebox. Also just be mindful if travelling a second horse in the trailer when you bring that horse in alongside, and initially always unload the ex-racehorse first. And as some of your are bound to say, there are indeed horses that actually do load better into a trailer than a horsebox – but this is actually usually due to the lack of steepness of the ramp; a steeper ramp finds out any back or hamstring issues a horse may have!
Getting more help
Please be aware that certain generalisations must be made and we would encourage people to contact the RoR Helpline in order that appropriate responses can be given to any individuals situation via e-mail: email@example.com or call 01780 740773.
Many people say or believe that these horses are spooky but in reality the thoroughbred as a breed is no more predisposed to being spooky than any other breed of horse.
Any horse, however well trained, has the capacity to spook when he sees something he has not seen before which unnerves him or something catches him by surprise. Granted some horses will seemingly over-react to certain objects whilst others will not bat an eyelid. A horse may encounter the same object 6 days a week but on the 7th the devil is suddenly within that object but that is just the unpredictability of a live animal; it must never be forgotten that a horse, as a flight animal, can suddenly to something it has never done before – and indeed may never do again. Some horses do not react when a pheasant flies out but will dive across the road because there is a crisp packet in the gutter!
Spooking often goes hand in glove with a horse that tends to be sharp or one that is more highly strung and tends to live off its nerves at times. In both instances this means that the horse may react much more quickly to things so in a split second you can be at the other side of the road and not have a clue why. Just because a horse is spooky. As these horses get fitter then do often become sharper to ride so a secure seat is required!
Generally a horse that spooks is not focusing on the rider; his mind is elsewhere so he is not concentrating on what is going on and gets caught by surprise. We have all experienced the situation in the school when a horse will dive about for the first few minutes but once his mind in on the job in hand, such behaviour ceases.
Just as a horse that is deemed as sharp by one person is described as “a donkey” by another, what is termed as spooky horse by one rider will not be by another – and this is purely due to rider experience and confidence. Magazines and forums are filled with “Questions and Answers” and articles about spooky or nappy behaviour (the two can be closely connected). In most instances the advice given will be along the lines about the rider not being so experienced or nervousness of the rider, the aids not being applied positively enough or the horse on the aids, etc. and most commonly that the horse lacks confidence – and that can its own lack of confidence, lack of confidence in the rider and lack of confidence in a given situation.
Granted some ex-racehorses are indeed very spooky especially in the early days of retraining whilst they are adjusting to a new lifestyle. The whole life-changing experience can cause horses to behave in a way that has not been normal for them, hence previous owners saying the typically heard comment “he’s never done that before”; in some instances this is indeed true. Remember that in training horses have the comfort of group therapy; even if horses are not actually working upsides or similar, there are other horses around. They very rarely, if at all, leave the yard on their own.
So yes, whilst some horses can indeed be spooky characters, this is not the preserve of the ex-racehorse and it is not correct to label them as being so per say. Each horse has to be considered individually and if your horse is spooky then all the possible reasons should be investigated until the cause is found.
If it proves to be the case that your horse is spooky due to temperament, then management and diet should be looked at as changes can see significant improvements. Temporary use of a “calmer” can be of benefit to some horses. Whilst magnesium based calmers are generally those advocated, you may see better results with anon-magnesium based calmer as if your horse has no requirement for magnesium, such a calmer will not work.
Please note that certain behaviours can be discomfort/pain related so you should rule out any possible causes such as feet, teeth, bit, saddle fit, as well as a physical reasons such as gastric ulcers, back pain, suspensory issues, etc.
Getting more help
Whilst it cannot be denied that some horses do take a lot of effort to get them into great condition, it is not accurate to say that all thoroughbreds (ex-racehorses) are poor doers. If a thread was posted on the subject onto a website forum or social media site, there would be those who say their horse lives on fresh air whilst others would admit to struggling to keeping weight on their horse. Calls to the Helpline do suggest that there are more people having the latter problem. Some owners feed no more than sugar beet and something like Dengie Hi-Fi, whilst others are having to give feeds packed with calories in order to keep their horse in great shape.
The reason behind ex-racehorses getting labelled as poor doers probably lies behind the fact that for the horse fresh-out of training, without the work the musculature soon goes so, granted, you can be left with a horse that many would term as being underweight; they will be “hippy” and the ribs will be very visible. However this is usually just temporary whilst the horse’s digestive system adjusts to a different diet from an energy-packed one to one that promotes condition and riding horse musculature is built up.
Whilst there are feeding guidelines as to the levels of work a horse is doing -. light work would be hacking 3-4 times a week, a schooling session or two, and a low level competition a couple of times a month, medium/moderate work would be a horse that is having more intense schooling sessions on a daily basis such a high-level dressage horses or polo ponies whilst the horse that is classed as being in hard work would be a racehorse in training, a 3-day event horses, endurance horses etc. – it must also be remembered that various factors have to be taken into consideration when assessing a horse’s dietary requirements other than the amount of work it is doing such as whether it is predominantly stabled or turned out, of course it’s size, the physiology [metabolism] of the individual and temperament, a stressy horse tending not to be the best of weight-carriers.
Despite there being so many feeding helplines, advice on feeding is something we are routinely asked to provide – usually in relation to a horse not carrying enough condition. New owners do seem to be increasingly aware of the need to provide more fibre in the diet but not the need for the right calories in order for that all-important weight to be gained – as well as quality protein for building new muscle (topline). Whilst fibre is a very good, and is indeed underestimated, for promoting weight gain some horses do need a bit of extra help especially during the early transitional period.
Understandably owners are mindful of not wanting to feed anything that is going to fizz up their horse and herein lies the confusion about calories as they provide both energy and promote weight gain. Cereals, which were traditionally fed to provide energy [fuel] but can create excitable behaviour in some horses; also when fed at high levels there is an increased risk of acidosis in the hind gut. However, oils are energy [calorie]-dense but do not have the heating effect of grains and are ideal for getting condition on the lean horse. Remember though when feeding higher levels of oil, the requirement for Vitamin E increases to facilitate efficient utilisation of the oil. Adding large gulgs of liquid oil, especially those not formulated for horses, to the feed can put some horses off eating so oil is best added to the diet in the form of cooked linseed, rice bran or similar, or incorporated in a mix or fibre-feed (such as Dengie Alfa A).
Please remember: If your horse is underweight, it is important to ensure that a worm count is done, his teeth are checked and gastric ulcers are ruled out. Pain/discomfort and stress are also contributory factors in a horse not gaining weight. In certain instances you may need to discuss weight loss/lack of weight gain with your veterinary surgeon.
Getting more help.....
Feeding the horse is a topic in itself and not one to be covered here so if you have any feeding questions please do not hesitate to contact the Helpline. Please be aware that certain generalisations must be made and we would encourage people to contact the RoR Helpline in order that appropriate repsonses can be given to any individuals situation via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01780 740773.
Racehorses are trained to favour a foreleg lead.....whilst it may seem a laughable to some that anyone could think that this might be true, we do hear all the time such things as “I realise that I am having difficulties because racehorses are trained to only use one foreleg to lead with”; “horses in Newmarket are only trained to go left-handed" or “my horse was only ever raced on a left/right handed course”.
These sorts of comments are most definitely myths. However what is alarming to hear is that some instructors are saying similar things to their clients!
Everyone knows that horses are naturally one-sided so tend to favour a particular foreleg lead; flatwork training works at removing such one-sidedness so that a horse becomes properly balanced, works from behind and is equally soft, supple and responsive on both reins.
Of course when a horse is actually out on the gallops there can be no influence over what leg he strikes off with and in all honesty there is no reason for ayone to give consideration to this. However when working in the covered rides, indoor schools, arenas and circuitous canter tracks that many trainers have these days, attention is given to ensuring that the horses do work on each rein. In some yards there are even signs up reminding riders in which direction to work on a particular day of the week!
The origins of such misbelieves probably lie in the need to find some kind of explanation for problems experienced with the canter especially when the person being asked to provide help cannot help!
One of the most common problems facing riders is achieving the correct foreleg lead in a given direction and there are several reasons as to why this may be so. Often the problem lies with the rider – through incorrectly applying the aids, giving confusing signals, poor posture, etc. The unbalanced rider often bounces in the canter which the horse counters by stiffening his back so he has two-fold discomfort which can cause reluctance to canter; such riders also often have too much shoulder movement which causes the seat bones to drive down into the horse’s back preventing him from lifting. Put a more experienced, balanced rider on the horse and the canter issues disappear.
As already stated, a horse will naturally favour a foreleg lead and this is particularly true following a foreleg injury - or may be a sign that trouble is brewing in a leg/foot; it may also indicate bitting and saddle-fitting issues so these should also be ruled out. However inability or reluctance to pick up the correct foreleg lead can be due to sacroiliac/lumbar issues such as a pelvic tilt and/or rotation. And note that the pelvis can be rotated on one side but tiited on the other! Given that the pelvis affects how the horse moves his hind legs it is very important that this part of the body is kept in as efficient working order as possible.
When asked to canter a horse does so by lifting up through the withers and back allowing the outside hind leg to swing through and take up the canter – the outside hindleg being the leg that the horse actually strikes off with first when asked to canter; the desired leading foreleg is the last leg to ground before the suspension phase. Thus if you riding on the right rein and you have asked for a right foreleg lead in canter, the horse moves his left hindleg first followed by the right hind and left foreleg and then the right foreleg, after which is a moment of suspension before the sequence starts again. Bearing this in mind it logically follows that if a horse has any issues in his back his ability to lift and swing through with his hind legs is comprised due not only to pain but the fact that muscles will be tight and restrictive, possibly even in spasm.
Correct schooling supples the horse so that his hindlegs come more underneath him and active – engagement; in the canter horses can evade using their backs and hence engaging the hindlegs by pulling themselves along with the fore legs. This lack of engagement also has a knock-on effect in achieving the correct foreleg strike-off.
So if you are experiencing any issues with your canter work, eliminate dental, bitting and saddle fitting issues, have a equine chiropractor check your horse and also have a lesson to check that your applying the aids correctly and sitting correctly.
Remember that veterinary permission is required before anyone can provide treatments to your horse.
Getting more help.....
Please be aware that certain generalisations must be made and we would encourage people to contact the RoR Helpline in order that appropriate repsonses can be given to any individuals situation via e-mail: email@example.com or call 01780 740773
This is most definitely not a myth and is something to be taken seriously. We are not saying that every horse coming out of training will have ulcers but given that it is commonly accepted that over 90% of horses leaving the training environment will have ulcers to some degree, then it is something that should be considered particularly if your horse does not seem to be carrying the weight he should, is a bit tetchy when being brushed between the front legs and around the girth area and/or when being girthed up or just doesn’t seem to be quite so blooming in his coat as he should be. The presence of gastric and/or hindgut ulcers can also be the reasoning behind poor performance such as refusals, napping, resistance to the leg, difficulty with extended strides and canter issues.
Please note the following is written in simplified terms for ease of understanding as it is a long and complex subject:
Nature designed the horse as a trickle feeder i.e eating forages and fibres for up to 18 hours a day with acid constantly being secreted in the stomach to cope with the steady influx of food. Thus if there is no food in the stomach to neutralise the acid, this can lead to ulceration of the stomach lining. A horse denied free access to forage can develop ulcers very rapidly (within days) and it is also now known that concentrated feeds (such a cereals) can actually add to the ulcer risk because not only is less time spent eating and digestion is quicker, but grains actually stimulate the production of the hormone gastrin, which serves to trigger further acid secretion in the stomach. Given that the adult horse produces approximately 1.5 litres of gastric acid per hours, pH levels in the stomach can soon become a very acidic if there is no food intake to keep pH levels higher.
The horse’s stomach is divided into 2 sections or chambers; the bottom one, where the acid is secreted, has a mucous coating to protect it but the upper section does not have the benefit of such coating, its only protection being saliva which is produced when a horse begins to feed. Thus gastric ulcers are usually found in this area because the lining becomes damaged by too much exposure to the acid.
It is currently believed that one of the main reasons behind racehorses having a higher incidence of ulcers is due to “acid-splash” - where the acids responsible for starting the digestive process in the stomach are moved up into the upper stomach chamber where they are not meant to go, causing ulceration to the delicate lining which does not have the protective mucus of the lower chamber. This is thought to occur because a racehorse only has a small feed, usually cereal-based, prior to exercise because he can’t be expected to have his work out on a full stomach. Thus there is not enough content in the stomach for the ever-produced acid to work on, hence when the horse starts moving around more energetically the acidic contents are washed up where they should not go.
Also blood flow to the stomach, which plays its part in helping remove the acid, decreases with exercise. Plus when a horse does anything other than walk, the muscles of the abdomen tense which serves to force stomach acid into the upper non-protected area. And when cantering at speed (galloping) further pressure from the abdomen actually causes the stomach to contract exacerbating the situation further. .
The racehorse, in general terms, does not tend to be fed the much larger volumes of forages and fibres that its non-racing counterparts do, the ingestion of which produces large volumes of saliva which is a natural acid buffer.
It is also known that stress from travel, competition, environment, etc. can contribute to ulcer formation as can illness, and certain drug therapies.
The common veterinary prescribed treatment for gastric ulcers is pharmacologic suppression of gastric acid secretion i.e. a drug is given to restrict the acid production, usually on a daily basis for up to a month. Suppressing acid production allows the ulcer(s) to heal as does neutralising the acid (by use of an antacid in mild cases).
However using an acid suppressant can actually cause ulceration further along the digestive tract and it certainly doesn’t treat any that may already be present; indeed it can actually make them worse. By suppressing the stomach acid, undigested food can pass into the hindgut creating acidity (acidosis) which can cause or worsen any ulcers present. Too much acid in the hindgut has a detrimental effect on the “friendly bacteria (gut flora) that digest fibre. Hindgut ulceration can be the cause behind colic and indeed laminitis (due to changes in toxicity levels). Thus hindgut buffers and digestive tract conditioners are usually given at the same time as the initial gastric ulcer suppressant in order to reduce the risk of hindgut ulceration, followed by a course of pre and pro-biotics to restore the friendly bacteria.
Unfortunately once a horse has had ulcers he is more likely to suffer again. You can help reduce the risk by adopting a management system that allows regular feeding throughout the day to mimic trickle feeding (turn-out in the day being the ultimate), feeding more fibre to prolong eating time so that more saliva is produced (the best natural antacid) and feeding less cereals. The addition of alfalfa to the diet is recommended as alfalfa is a proven acid-buffer and contains high levels of calcium, calcium proving to be an important element in gastric ulcer prevention. Providing your horse with a fibre-based feed prior to exercise takes away the acid-splash risk. If your horse is ulcer-prone then the feeding of a buffering agent is recommended.
You should consult with your Veterinary Surgeon if you have any concerns regarding your horse’s health.
Myth No. 2 – Racehorses have stable vices
It is believed by many that all horses in training have a stable vice of some form or another due to the stresses imposed on them by training and the environment in which they are kept. Invariably reduced forage, lack of turn-out and the stresses of racing are cited as the reasons behind behaviours such as box-walking, weaving, cribbing and windsucking. And the statistics that over 90% of horses coming out of training will have gastric ulcers of one grade or another just adds fuel to the fire.
Whilst it cannot be disputed that large numbers of racehorses do have gastric ulcers, increasing numbers of non-raced horses (and ponies) also have them, so this dispels the misconception that gastric ulcers and associated issues only affect the in-training and racing thoroughbred. However the presence of ulcers is not a vice and a horse that has ulcers is more often than not, not a horse that cribs or windsucks but horses that do have these vices will invariably have ulcers.
Yes, some racehorses do crib, etc. but stable vices are not racehorse-exclusive; go into any livery yard and you will readily see horses doing likewise which illustrates that just because a horse is in training, it is not under any more duress than a horse not in [race] training. Take a look at the fencing of the fields of a livery yard and it will be clearly evident that there are some cribbers about!
Granted, years ago, when it was not at all common for racehorses to have turn-out and there was much less understanding of the workings and needs of the equine digestive system, a horse’s psychological welfare, etc. it would have been acceptable to say the training and associated management of the racehorse caused stable vices to develop. In recent years there have been significant improvements within the racing industry and it is now common for racehorses to have some turn-out and larger quantities of forage; there is also much more awareness of a horse’s requirements with greater emphasis on the needs of the individual.
New owners will invariably ask the trainer or stable staff whether their horse has any stable vices and more often than not this will be denied, because actually it is likely that the horse did not exhibit any undesirable behaviours whilst in training. But yet here are quite large numbers of ex-racehorses which do have a vice, but this will subsequently disappear or significantly reduce at a later stage.
This is because the horse can actually develop a vice after leaving training. Whatever your views may be of the training environment, it is the only way of life the horse knows so when he leaves it he is suddenly in an alien place, he is out of his security blanket, he is out of his comfort zone. Every aspect of his life is changed, his way of life is turned upside down – even his food changes! The total change to the structured daily routine the horse has been used to causes stress and with some horses this manifests in the a stable vice of some sort. As said above, with the passing of time, as the horse adjusts to its new lifestyle, vices do dissipate.
Getting more help.....Please be aware that certain generalisations must be made and we would encourage people to contact the RoR Helpline in order that appropriate repsonses can be given to any individuals situation via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01780 740773.
Quite where and how this idea originated we do not know but this is just not true. Indeed for the vast majority of yards, such as those based in the main racehorse hubs of Newmarket, Lambourn, Middleham or Malton, there are communal schooling grounds to which the horses are hacked to access as it would just not feasible to take them all to the gallops by horsebox. For some yards this means crossing the vast open spaces of the moors or Downs, something which a good number of riders of non-racehorses would not elect to do on a very fit horse with a group of others, whilst for others it may mean negotiating other hazards.
Of course some training yards have private gallops but this does not mean the horses step foot out of their stables and straight onto the gallops; they have to have basic walk and trot exercise to warm and loosen up muscles prior to even the gentlest of canter work.
So whilst racehorses may not necessarily go hacking around the countryside as the rest of us view hacking to be, encountering wheelie bins, bus stops, umbrellas and pushchairs, they are well-used to very open spaces. And remember too that in many instances the gallops are completely open; few are fully fenced – a fence-line being a source of security (we are all familiar with horses wanting to hug the sides of the arena rather than working on the quarter line).
The misconception of not hacking out most probably arises from this fact of not generally hacking around the country lanes (although this is not always the case).
When homing a horse directly from a trainer’s yard if you spare a moment to think of the yard’s location you will be able to get an idea of what, in terms of hacking, your horse will and will not be used to; for example, horses trained in some Newmarket yards will be used to encountering some traffic whereas a horse trained up in Malton may not. Anyway, you can of course always ask the trainer or one of the lads/lasses to clarify.
It is not disputed that that owners can experience hacking issues of one form or another such as napping and planting – calls and emails to the Helpline are testament to this - but such issues are, in reality, due to lack of confidence (and often a lack of confidence in the rider, or of the rider), insecurity, lack of re-education and separation anxiety. Remember that from the moment the young racehorse is weaned he is, as a rule, always in the company of others; he does not have to do anything totally on his own. And whilst some horses are absolutely fine in the more enclosed surroundings of a village, tree-lined roads, in the woods and so on, some can become anxious once in wide-open areas even though they experienced this whilst in training, but again this is the horse looking for reassurance and companionship from others and also his natural instincts tell him that he is at risk and vulnerable.
This article was written by Equine Managemet and Training, which is run by Fred and Rowena Cook who are RoR's Consultants and run RoR's Horse Care Helpline. If you have any specific questions regarding this article or need any help or advise please contact the RoR Helpline via e-mail: asktheexperts.ror.org.uk or by phone: 01780 740773. Please leave a message and give a suitable time or number to call you back on when convenient for you to talk.