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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With the right retraining and the right rider an ex-racehorse can adapt to any equestrian activity, as illustrated by these stories of former racehorses in their second careers. The RoR is always interested to hear of other success stories so please email us and send a photograph of your own story.
RoR Star - super lad Wendel
I wanted to show you some pictures of my super lad Wendel and how far he has come in such a short time out of racing.
I used to look after this wonderful horse when he was in training at Venetia Williams yard, and when it was decided he would no longer stand up to training I was lucky to have him gifted over to me. Following a car accident I unfortunately also struggled to stand up training so we have both moved back to Anglesey.
After a short stint leading in the sea to help his legs strengthen back up, I soon needed his help at a re-enactment at the armed forces day in Caernarfon. Just a few months out of training he stood in full kit (including carrying a sabre) and stood quietly amongst children, bouncy castles, climbing walls and various other 'monsters'. When necessary he paraded around the castle, with marching bands and still maintained very good behaviour! A few weeks later he attended his first local show, taking first place (in ex-racer and riding horse classes.) I once again threw him into the deep end when he attended his first county show...in a sidesaddle!!! Aside from a few excited bucks whilst warming up he once again put his best hoof forwards coming home with a 2nd and two 4ths!
Since then he has been into battle and stood behind firing cannons with the Anglesey hussars, done a few more shows and we've started work on our jumping.
This year Wendel has added another string to his bow by becoming a fabulous lead horse for our livery, starters/breakers and re-training yard. We've also recently completed a double clear for our team in the riding club area trials, and finished 10th out of 117 in the individual competition.
Wendel is my horse of a lifetime and after his successful racing career I only hope I can do him proud and give him as much fun possible! We are looking forward to plenty of adventures! I am just so proud of him!
(written by Beth Wilkinson, October 2013. Unfortunately Beth had to put Wendel down in December 2013 but he will always be remembered)
RoR Star - Jack's unusual new career makes history
A few years ago, my partner and I became interested in WW1 re-enactment. I'd ridden, on and off, since I was a kid, and my partner had learnt as a child and was interested in taking it up again. So it was, I guess, inevitable that we would drift towards the cavalry of the first World War - combining two of our interests! The Great War used horses in huge numbers, and we were interested in telling some of their stories.
I saw an advert for an ex-racehorse and I began to wonder whether an ex-racer might be exactly what we wanted - after all, if he'd raced, he'd have seen and done all sorts of things that would stand him in good stead for a new career in re-enactment, surely? So I phoned up, made an appointment and went to see him.
The first thought that went through my head when I saw him in his stable was just ‘He's big! Isn't he?' He's a 16.2 dark bay - but he's a big, solid thoroughbred. His owner had, unfortunately, hurt her back and was unable to ride, so he hadn't had anyone on board for six months. So I gave it a go! He had a very minor buck and then settled right down and from that point on there was no question in my mind that he was what I wanted. I paid for him there and. His owner filled me in on his history - it turns out that he'd had several race starts, under his racing name Tiverton Tryer, and then moved on to point to pointing.
So we started teaching him to be a cavalry horse. And it turned out he was a total natural. In a show situation, his ears perk up, the neck arches and he really plays to an audience ... His first show was to do some promotional work for our local cinema to coincide with the opening of the film 'War Horse'. He looked brilliant, standing in the main shopping precinct in town, meeting all the children and graciously accepting carrots! We've done a lot of work with both the horses, getting them used to having swords waved round their heads (amuses the neighbours no end!) and also getting used to bangs and unexpected sights.
In the last year, our boys have performed at events all around the country. I've ridden my ex-racehorse along the main seafront promenade at Eastbourne (in the bus lane), around the open spaces of Cannock Chase and led a charge of small children waving wooden swords and screaming at the tops of their voices. Jack is brilliant with bangs and flashes - not shaken by cannon fire, by muskets, arrows or knights in armour. He really enjoyed watching a re-enactment of an 19th century battle, particularly the flashes and smoke rings (I'm not sure, though, if he was cheering for the English or the French ...)
The only real embarrassment I've had with him was during a two-minute silence for remembrance - the gunshot volley was no problem, but when the bugler started playing the Last Post, he was convinced we were going hunting ... we very nearly left the arena rather quickly!
I haven't yet got him wearing full WW1 tack - that's this winter's mission - but he's coming along fantastically. It's not all plain sailing, Jack can be grumpy, temperamental and occasionally hugely stubborn ... but I absolutely adore him, and he's most definitely part of the team. He's been round the block several times, but I'm afraid he's stuck with us now.
Our living history work is a chance to talk to the public, allow them to meet the horses and to really appreciate the sacrifices made almost 100 years ago in the Great War. We ask people to remember that it wasn't only the men who suffered. It's great fun, and very rewarding. And our horses, chalk and cheese as the pair of them are, are the stars of the show.
Our website is www.yeomangreatwar.com, and there's more information and pictures there. Jack is the handsome bay horse!
(written by Polly Groom, September 2013)
RoR Star - Winds Supreme
Back in 2009 my mare unfortunately suffered a horrific accident which meant I would no longer be able to ride her. A local trainer and friend Kevin Parry from Herefordshire got in touch and offered me one of his retired racehorses for the summer. I was a little apprehensive as my confidence had been lost due to my mare's temperamental moments and a few trips to the local A&E!
Anyway, I went along to his yard with my trailer to be told that he had changed his mind which horse I was going to have. He took me over to meet a lanky bay 16.2hh 9 year old gelding called ‘Windy’. He had a lovely eye and was very gentle and seemed to like to fuss.
Winds Supreme (IRE) had a good racing career with a couple of wins and a number of placings all over the UK. Kev informed me that his last race was a couple of months prior and that this would be a temporary break from racing.
Windy loaded straight into my trailer and before I knew it I was on the trip home with a ‘no strings attached loan’ for the summer. The first time I took him out I was so nervous and tense but he looked after me to the extent I felt comfortable having my first gallop in ages. A month after having him we went to our first show and he went clear over coloured jumps. We carried on and went to fun rides and local shows and before we knew it we were being placed. I did not rush him with the retraining which I think is paramount with ex racers. We need to remember this is their retirement from what they know and do best.
Four years on and Windy is still with me. He has competed in RoR classes all over the Midlands and has competed twice at Aintree Racecourse in the Blue Lights Horse of the Year Show, where he was placed in all classes. This show gave us the opportunity to have a gallop around the inner sand track and was amazing to gallop past the finish line in front of the stands at Aintree! It also made me realise just how fast he was, I left him to it and he bought me home safely. He loves his show jumping and cross country which is now where we focus our efforts.
This year we have competed at a number of shows and attended fun rides. He qualified for the Royal London Show 2013 in show jumping and also Cricklands. Windy competed at his first working hunter class in August and was fantastic, taking to it like a duck to water and has since been placed every time. He is thoroughly loving his jumping.
He is very quirky but in a good way and is part of the family. He now lives happily with my mare and enjoys his days out with his little pony ‘bit on the side’ Mel.
He has exceeded my expectations and I would not hesitate in giving another ex racer a new home. I am so lucky to have been given Windy as he is so genuine and a little gem, he has restored my faith in thoroughbreds.
(written by Sam Davies, Hereford, September 2013)
RoR Star - Philsons Run goes to church
"Philsons Run had a successful racing career winning over £230,000 in prize money. He won the Midlands National and the Scottish National, and came fourth in the John Smiths Grand National in 2007.
During most of his racing career I was his stable lass, but when he was 11yrs old his trainer and owners decided to sell him at Ascot sales - I was devastated to see him go as he was the star of the yard. Two years after, I decided to contact his new owner, Sophie Breen, to find out how Philson was doing and to see if he was still around. On the day I called I was told that he had just come back in to work to give some youngsters a lead and that "he is naughtier than the youngsters". I said that if it ever got too much and he ever needs a home call me and, luckily for me, a week later he was delivered to me.
It is amazing to have a horse in the yard like him, he is such a character. Philson stands at 17.2hh and never acts his age, I hunt him during the winter and show him at a local level during the summer.
This year I got married and rode him in my wedding dress to church escorted by a pack of foxhounds. Beforehand alot of people said I was crazy and should have a rehearsal in case he went mad. I knew he would be fine, he is 100% bomb proof. I was right, he was the star of the show, and we even made it into the local newspaper. Alot of the locals know Philson from his racing days which made it extra special!''
(written by Charlotte Williams, November 2012)
RoR Star - Sister Lucy beams with pride for Becky and Fuzz
""My sister Becky bought Fuzz (Racing name Golden Fitz) just over a year ago and ever since they have gone from strength to strength. Becky didn't have the best start to her riding life but when Fuzz trotted into it, everything changed. Fuzz is one of the nicest ex-racers I have ever met, he has bags of character and never fails to make you laugh. He's got such a fantastic jump and brilliant paces and is also enormous fun to hack!
Since buying him Becky has competed regularly in BSJA, jumping up to Discovery and won the RoR/SEIB Regional Elite Performance Award for region G, and were 33rd nationally, qualified in the 1m scope qualifier and qualified for Amateur 2nd rounds in both 90cm and 1m.
They have also both been cross country schooling for the first time and had a great time, jumping everything and anything! Becky also entered her first Dressage competiton with Fuzz and won their intro test and placed a decent 10th in their prelim. They have both had a fantastic 2011 and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
After all of Becky's hard work I have now got the pleasure of owning Fuzz as things didn't turn out well with my horse and Becky began her first year at Uni. I wasn't keen at first but I've now owned him for a month and we haven't looked back.
We've already qualified for the Trailblazers second rounds and have got our first Discovery double clear. I am hoping to start newcomers with him soon. I cannot thank Becky enough for all the hard work she put in with Fuzz and for letting me take over as his owner.
Ex-racers probably give you the highest satisfaction and pride out of all horses, and I'm so glad my sister and I have the pleasure of owning one.''
(written by Lucy Blain, May 2012)
Bobby's and Boo's story
"My riding career has been inundated with set backs, so much so that I feel it's only really beginning since I've taken on ex-racehorses. I took on 7yo Bobby (Fairlea Bob), who was trained by Rose Dobbin, with 4yo Charlie who had been bred to race. Both horses were sent down from Yorkshire to Hampshire and Bobby just turned up at the stables with Charlie, another ex-racehorse deemed unbreakable.
I have never had any funding from anyone not even my parents. I got a pony on loan aged 14 without my parents knowing and from that day when the pony arrived, I have worked so hard earning money to keep the horses going without any support at all from anyone. Bobby's career consisted of 8 starts and not being placed above 6th. I hope to compete him BE and BSJA this year which I am very excited about. I have put together a video of Bobby's story from straight off the track to how he is now.
I have taken to schooling other peoples horses, taking on full, part, backing liveries and doing the odd bit of buying schooling and selling to fund the horses. I also have a lovely mare Boo trained by Alan Mcabe, she had 10 starts and no placings above 8th place, she is now competing showjumping and competed last weekend 2ft 9 and 3ft and hopefully with be eventing BE this year. I am hoping to find sponsorship so that I can continue to take on ex-racehorses and turn their lives around then loan them to lovely homes so that they maybe enjoyed and loved.
(written by Lucinda Peat, February 2012)
Solo Volumes - overall 2011 RoR Heart Awards winner
I would like to nominate Solo Volumes (Charlie) for the RoR Heart Awards. Now aged 22, I bought Charlie from Ascot sales, 14 years ago. He had run on the flat and over hurdles. I instantly fell in Love with the 16.3hh, stunning, chestnut, gelding. Rehoming ex-racehorses wasn't so popular then, and most people thought I was mad.
Charlie always tries 100% in what ever I have asked him to do. He settled quickly with my other horses and in no time we were competing in dressage, jumping, cross country, endurance, showing, hunting (in a snaffle) and over the years I think we have had a go at everything, except polo, including BHS Trec and even gymkhana races at a 40th birthday party. Charlie got to 'Silver' in affiliated Endurance, never once failing a vetting and we have been 'County Show Champions!
My son now seven-years-old has ridden Charlie on the lead rein since he was two, even competing in a five mile fancy dress ride last year. Charlie invited 12 of his friends to his 21st birthday party ride last year, complete with rosettes, cake and party bags. Charlie is loyal, loving, an amazing friend and absolutely beautiful as well. He is still fit and well and hopefully has many years left. I have spent a lot of time in hospital over the past few years with Crohns disease and have ridden Charlie at times when I shouldn’t have, but never once has he taken advantage. He has never in 14 years bucked or reared (quite good at jogging sideways though). Charlie is a rare combination of family horse and successful competition horse.
He is a much loved member of the family. I have three ex-racehorses but he is 'Simply the Best ‘!
(submitted by Melanie Yarham, Norfolk - 2011)
Lucius Locket - RoR Healthy Heart short listed winner in the 2011 RoR Heart Awards
We would challenge anyone to find a more versatile and special horse than Lucius. We may well be very biased, being that we have had him in our family 13 years -he is now 20. He has thrilled three generations of my family and is still going strong.
He has shown immense fitness and staying power. As a two-year-old he ran nine times on the flat with Jack Berry and four times as a three-year-old. He was also tried in two point-to-points. Since his retirement from racing he has hunted over the Cottesmore, Pytchley and Quorn’s biggest hedges and won round the country’s biggest team chase courses. Just last autumn he came 2nd in the Cotswold Intermediate with the” Relentless Fight the Ban” team. His staying power is all the more remarkable since he is sprint bred.
My father, Mike Vergette, bought him as a seven-year-old (he was 78 at the time!) They enjoyed countless terrific days hunting always right up front in the action, and competed in the odd local WH class or Team Chase! When my father retired from hunting, Lucius came to us.
He spent summers teaching the children doing Open Pony Club eventing, winning Inter-Hunt relays and has represented the Pytchley in the Pony Club Show Jumping at Burghley. He has also won BSJA Showjumping. We have just added a new string to his bow this year with a couple of RoR Showing Classes, where he won the Best Veteran twice! He has the most phenomenal jump, he never touches a twig and has even jumped rabbit holes out hunting, to get us all out of trouble!
He often schools over National Hunt fences with numerous racehorses and nannies many youngsters. We have also put some Western tack on him and played at barrel racing.
The Greatest Family Horse you could ever wish to own. Thank you Lucius.
(submitted by Tik Saunders, Northamptonshire - 2011)
Alfie - RoR Healthy Heart short listed winner in the 2011 RoR Heart Awards
This big bright bay gelding caught our eye in the ring at Doncaster: with one undistinguished hurdle race behind him, we thought he might make me a point to pointer. Alfie is very laid back but once fit it became apparent that it was not just his attitude slowing him down but the fact that he needed a wind operation.
As he was then fit and ready to go, I decided to have a go at eventing instead. Alfie proved to be a neat accurate jumper and took to this new career well - less so I who rapidly lost patience with dressage and being balloted out.
His wind operation unfortunately made no difference to his speed and the highlight of his point to point career was a third in our members race. Finally, he became a team chaser. He has excelled at this, proving a consistent open team member with regular placings. He actually has brakes so is good on turns and has come to love his weekly outings.
Alfie is also very well travelled: we regularly take our team chasers down to the Pyrenees in the summer where we can enjoy a holiday as well as getting them fit for the autumn season. He has tackled the steep mountain tracks with his usual unflappability and has even enjoyed camping out on the mountain tops with his friends, enclosed behind an electric fence.
Finally he has a superb temperament, the proverbial gentle giant that is a pleasure to have around. All in all, he has done every thing we have ever asked of him and is surely a great example of just how adaptable and successful these ex-racehorses can be in all spheres of equine activity.
(submitted by Simon Coady, Wiltshire - 2011)
Bob Justice - RoR Heart Throb winner in the 2011 RoR Heart Awards
I feel that my dearest horse deserves a little more recognition for all that he has achieved so far in his life. Bob Justice started his racing career at 4 years running in 57 races, winning 5 including a big win at Aintree, and his earnings totaled £94,979. Bob ended his professional racing career at 10 years and began Point to Point racing until he was 14 years. Bob then came to me for his “semi-retirement”.
In the last year I have been re-educating Bob to learn to “chill” and take life more slowly, we have done lots of hacking, some hunting and schooling. We are currently working with Natural Horsemanship and this has proved very rewarding. I have learnt that Bob loves nothing more than praise, a rub on his forehead and lots of polos. Bob is totally sound, has no injuries, has very good feet and is extremely well.
Bob is a real “Heart Throb”, he is extremely handsome and has an amazing presence. He is very genuine and sincere, always giving 100% in all that you ask of him. When we are out hacking, people stop in their cars and admire him telling me how handsome my horse is, which makes me very proud.
I am very proud of his successes and he will spend the rest of his days with me at my home where he will be thoroughly loved and spoilt.
(submitted by Helen Thurtle, Norwich - 2011)
Blaise Wood - RoR Biggest Heart short listed winner in the 2011 RoR Heart Awards
I am entering myself into the biggest heart award because I am simply the most cuddly horse in this world and just love any attention I can get from my mum (Bryony) and other mum (Nadine).
Attached is a photo of me having a midday cuddle with Nadine in my stable - she always falls for it and gives me a long cuddle if I am lying down. I have now been with them for over three years and was a little worried when Mum took me for a lesson recently and a lady asked if I was for sale - fortunately she said "never"! I know they will never consider selling me as I am firmly one of the family with my funny faces, playing with buckets (even taught my best friend, Jade, to play with buckets too), and asking for flank scratches and nearly falling over every time!
I also ask very nicely for treats and cuddles by picking up my front foot which works most times, even if just a nice stroke and hug. They are always laughing when I am with them – we all have such a happy time both in the arena and out on lovely rides around the farm.
I’m also trying very hard to behave well at shows and lessons as this seems to get me lots of attention and hugs as well. I’ve also taught Jade to load and travel nicely in Mum’s new trailer – she was awful before but I’ve assured her that it is no problem and we both travel really happily now. I’ve also attached a photo that mum took this morning where I’m just asking very nicely to go out into the field – could you resist such a lovely face?
(submitted by Bryony Close, Somerset - 2011)
Fundy - RoR Biggest Heart short listed winner in the 2011 RoR Heart Awards
“Loyalty, Affection, great to know and love…” without a doubt are the qualities that make my thoroughbred my horse of a lifetime. Forget the stereotypical adjectives that characterise and define this wonderful breed – elegant, refined head, long neck and fine long legs because they all seem to have by-passed my 15’2” over-grown pony! Sad really, because instead of being the Johnny Depp of the horse world he’s more like Johnny Vegus.
Fortunately he does have a sense of humour! At the age of 14 Fundy was deemed to be on the racing scrap-heap and although adored by his previous owner, realistically what do you do with a old TB that has broken down three times? You tell your friend that he would make a nice little horse for his wife! And that’s how I ended up with him along with strict instructions…“suitable for light hacking only”.
So my expectation level for my new high-mileage friend was zero, which happened to coincide with what everybody else thought too! I can still hear their disparaging remarks resonating in my ears – “Why have you bought a broken horse, there are plenty of good ones out there”, “…permanent vets bill” “….always be lame”, “Once they’ve raced they’re mad” etc……….. I’m delighted to say he’s now 22 years young and I have hunted him every season since he came to me.
He has taken part in Riding Club, Pony Club and Riding for the Disabled activities and is the undisputed favourite horse of all my daughter’s Pony Club friends. He shows his kindness and generosity by letting anyone ride him. He is undemanding, utterly reliable and a great ambassador not only for the under-rated ex-racehorse but for all horses. He is a wonderful friend who I shall look after like a faithful old Labrador for the rest of his life.
(submitted by Julie Barnes, Worcestershire - 2011)
Billingsgate - RoR Biggest Heart short listed winner in the 2011 RoR Heart Awards
Billingsgate or Billy, came to me last June after the death of my previous horse. My last horse was very special to me and his death left me heartbroken, I knew it would take a very special horse to replace him.
Billy is so loving, there really isn’t a bad bone in his body. When Billy came to the yard he settled in from day one. As the new boy on the block everyone wanted to say hello to him and he stood there and lowered his head for the children and adults alike to fuss and stroke him.
Over the months Billy showed his amazing temperament in escorting all the kiddies and their ponies as well as the nervous youngsters on hacks around the fields and lanes never once putting a foot out of line, hanging back to reassure them and leading them when they were nervous.
Billy’s biggest role on our yard is talking to my brother. Dominic is autistic and bottles his emotions up inside him, he won’t tell another person how he is feeling or how his day has been, but he will tell Billy. Billy stands in his stable, and listens to Dominic, he gives him his full attention even when hay is in the stable, or when its busy outside his door, he just gently rests his head in Dominic’s arms, while Dominic tells him anything that’s bothering him and just generally how he feels. Dominic always comes out happier and more content when he’s had a chat with Billy.
Billy has given everyone on our yard a lot of love, not just me and Dominic but anyone who wants a hug or a kiss, he’s there always willing to listen, He truly, truly is an amazing horse with so much love to give and I think he should be honoured for it.
(submitted by Charlotte Fisher, Northamptonshire - 2011)
Charming Fellow - RoR Biggest Heart short listed winner in the 2011 RoR Heart Awards
Charming Fellow - never a more aptly named horse. He arrived with me as no one wanted him post racing, he has bar fired tendons and is big at 17.3 hh, but he literally is the BFG (big friendly giant).
He settled in with great ease. He has manners to die for, he never puts a foot wrong, he lets all the children in the yard handle him. Last summer he had three of them all brushing him at once, one doing his tail, one stood on a step to reach his back, and the other brushing his legs. He wasn’t at all bothered, in fact he fell asleep whilst they were doing it.
He is often found in the early morning sitting down in his field and I go and sit with him. He doesn’t get up he sits there with you and rests his head on your knee, I can also lie down with him and rest my head on him and he is just as content.
Whenever I school him he tries so hard to please. He is so safe that he lets an 11-year-old bring him in and out, he even lowers his head so she can put his head collar on. He never bites, spooks or kicks, and will standstill for hours on the yard.
He has been put in to keep the young hunter company, and he just puts up with all the bites the young one has given him from time to time never falling out with him remaining loyal to him. According to his old race owner he was a stress monster during his career, now he is a happy loving horse who no one ever says a bad word about in our yard. I would like him to win as he deserves these perfect manners to be recognised.
(submitted by Judith Pashley, Leicestershire - 2011)
Bonnie Lad - RoR Heart Throb short listed winner in the 2011 RoR Heart Awards
Bonnie Lad is his racing name and you can see why! If he was a person he would be one of those who don’t need make-up! He is a pretty boy and quite often when called by his stable name “Bonnie” people think he is a mare – until they look closer! He knows he is a pretty boy and boy does he show off, especially in the ménage!
The mares love him and his gelding field mates pick on him for being so pretty and popular! Once he has shed his winter coat he goes a lovely light bay colour – almost dun in some lights and he has an amazing knack of looking extremely well-muscled even when he isn’t worked! I know I’m biased but honestly, he really is bonny!
(submitted by Claire Rigg, Chester - 2011)