Destitutes, Double Bridles & Delicious Ice-Cream

Greatwood Ex-Racehorse Rehabilitation

Every since I was privy to some investigative journalism on animal charities, including a big name animal charity, I’ve always been skeptical first of these charities, particularly animal welfare ones. I happy to report I afford Greatwood, which re-homes neglected & unwanted ex-racehorses no such skepticism, having just returned from an open day at their facility just south at Marlborough, ably supported by some of our local celebraties, including Andrew Hoy and Jodie Kidd.

Armed with my 2 small children, ready to pet and pat anything in sight, (including an attempt on a gaggle of geese – never wise!) I turned up at the open day half expecting it to be sparsely supported due to the down pour, but it was pretty busy and until the rain subsided at lunchtime the stable barns were overflowing with people taking shelter  – amazing how relaxed all these horses were considering the sheer volume of people in their barn.

Andrew Hoy 

Out behind the barns was a fenced arena surrounded by tradestands where you could buy anything from a painting of a racehorse to a burger in a bun – we took no chances with the event food, and brought packed lunch. Having missed the polo crosse demo due to weather and the crowded barns, I was determined to watch Andrew Hoy provide a riding demo on Cheeky Calimbo. This was less of a lecture and more of demo, intentionally I’m sure.

Now That’s A “Skinny” Fence

There’s nothing like jumping a fence that gets higher and narrower after each jump to engage the audience, and Andrew managed this pretty well encouraging numerate members of the crowd to count strides along with him on his radio mike. With emphasis on rhythm and straightness he talked through his process of bringing a horse up through jump training and preparing for cross country. He then proceeded to jump a narrow fence constructed from cavaleti blocks which got higher and narrower, followed closely by the obligatory oil drum (plastic barrel). It was the first time, for many years, that I’ve seen someone jump a horse in a double bridle, whilst schooling, as andrew puts it “….a nice easy way to adjust your controls as needed”.

Perhaps These Ran In The Shetland Grand National

After another round of patting horses, goats, shetland ponies, and dogs, my children were sadly flagging so we missed a few parades of current stars, re-homed horses, and those currently in residence, with commentary from Nigel Bunter, owner of Barbury Castle Horse Trials, and lifelong racing fanatic.

The whole day was of course about raising money and awareness for the work they do, which revolves around looking after unwanted or neglected thoroughbreds, probably the largest group of horse breeds to suffer from little chance of a second career, due to sheer volumes.

ROR Class Winner at Barbury Castle Horse Trials

However, ex-racehorses probably make the best  event horses, particularly at the lower levels where the demand for big flowing dressage paces are far less important, but do also make it to 4 star. Not all of them make it, and I have had one ex-racehorse that just didn’t take to the show jumping, but when my current horse retires I will undoubtedly be looking to the racetrack for my next one.

I’m a big fan of these retraining of racehorse initiatives, and would urge anyone to consider taking on an ex-racehorse for their next event horse, provided they have the time or money to go through tried and test retraining methods to adapt the horse to it’s new career. So give it some thought if you find yourself in that position.

As importantly, the event had lovely creamy Devon Ice-Cream on offer, enjoyed by many in spite of the rain. I will be adding Greatwood to my small list of supported charities, and would urge you to support the re-use of thoroughbreds, in anyway you can. It’s a big problem, without an all encompassing solution, so everything from raising awareness to taking one on will help. This gives me an idea for another post, so once I have time to research it I write more on the subject, in the meantime here’s a few photos from the day:

Greyhounds In Need Of Homes

One Of The Rescue Cases
Just Some Of The Supporters

The Barns

Always Wear A Helmet!
Not For Petting!
Recycled Horseshoes

A Novel Way To Apply Hoof Oil!

Cheeky Calimbo In Double Bridle
Caught Red Handed!
Amateur event rider, aspiring photographer. Technologist by day.


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