Helpline: 01488 648998


The popularity of the former racehorse cannot be denied but for those of you considering rehoming one, you should be aware that the retraining journey can present a few challenges along the way.

In theory training these horses is no different to training a horse that has not been in a racing yard so the all-too-familiar issues relating to acceptance of the contact, achieving suppleness and engaging the hind leg have to be faced, worked on and resolved.

The horse has to be taught to use its body in a completely different way. This means you are typically faced with turning the classic “hollow outline” (head up and a rigid neck) with no engagement of the hind legs into a lowered, more rounded head carriage with top line muscle and hind legs that step under the body which allows the horse to more correctly carry the weight of a rider that is now sat on its back as opposed to being out of the saddle most of the time.

  • Remember that the racehorse doesn’t have to use its back in the way of a riding horse; it doesn’t engage the abdominal muscles to lift and round its back or take the weight behind; the galloping horse puts 60% of its weight onto its front legs. So, initially your horse will lean in trot and even more so in canter so don’t mistake this for a horse that is strong.
  • Allow for the fact that your horse has already been trained and conditioned to work in a certain way, a way which in the main is opposite to how you now want him to go.
  • Allowing time for mental development is as equally important as for physical development. Thoroughbreds can become stressed relatively easily especially during the early stages of their retraining whilst adapting to all the changes happening in their lives.
  • The Thoroughbred as a breed is very sensitive and intelligent; these horses readily pick up on a lack of confidence and inconsistency from those handling and riding them.
  • The amount of schooling you do and up to what level is personal preference and dependent upon what you wish to achieve. However a few basics need to be put in place so that riding out is a pleasant experience for you and your horse.
  • Competing with your former racehorse within weeks of coming out of training is not advisable. Whilst this may work in the short term at low levels, it is done so at the expense of properly establishing the scales of training: rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection. Be patient.
  • Work at a pace you and your horse are comfortable with. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to achieve results as long as you can see progress, however slight. The time taken to establish the basics depends entirely on the individual, his temperament, your skills and sometimes how long your horse was in training.
  • Along your journey take note of any changes in behaviour and temperament, feeding habits and water intake. Apart from any behaviours that manifest whilst be groomed, tacked up and/or ridden, a more disturbed bed, a dirtier bed and chewing are all indications that your horse may not be happy or as healthy as he should be. Keep an eye on saddle fit too as changes in body condition, although slight, can impact on how well the saddle fits.