Second Lifers – OTTB Advice From An Expert Panel

The Retraining Of Racehorses Class Winner At Barbury Castle Horse Trials 2010

ROR Expert Panel

I’m not seriously considering taking on an ex-racehorse as my next event horse, but the ROR (Retraining Of Racehorses) seminar I attended this evening on that very subject was very interesting nevertheless.

ROR is British Horseracing’s very serious and credible charitable initiative aimed at providing viable second careers for “Off The Track Thoroughbreds” and has been running a range of activities to this end for a little over 12 years now. Tonight’s talk was all about the things you need to consider when taking on a an ex-racehorse for a second career.

Lizzie Drury of Saracen Horse Feeds provided a very useful top ten run down on feeding a horse out of training, with some really interesting information on forage and the ‘cafateria system’ for fussy eaters which involves a sort of snacking approach to feeding. Lambourn based vet, Bobby McEwen, took us through a series of x-ray and surgery slides  explaining common injuries and ailments seen in racehorses, and what they mean for second career suitability. For eventers this means horses with tendon, joint, and fractures that extend into cartilage are the obvious ones to avoid.  This was all interspersed with pictures of his son Tom who events ex racehorse Dry Old Party up to 4 star level, very successfully.

The real treat though was the very interactive QA session with the whole panel which also included Yogi Briesner, Sir Mark Todd and ex jump jockey turned flat trainer, Jamie Osborne. I asked Mark, Bobby & Yogi for some of the less obvious things to look out for when viewing a horse out of racing for eventing purposes. All three thought confirmation was pretty key. Bobby thought horses with any form of crooked limbs were not really suited to the rigours of eventing. Yogi put a lot of emphasis on temperament and trainability, and gave some good pointers, like make sure the horse is happy and relaxed in the box and when it’s walked out, also is it loaded with ‘gadgets’ to aid control or just in a head collar or simple bridle. Mark echoed all of this, and also suggested researching the breeding as some bloodlines can have particularly tricky temperaments, singling out the Marju line as an example.  Jamie suggested one of the most important things to remember was only take a racehorse from someone you trust (he confirms he is trustworthy).

The evening was a huge success and well attended, with over 100 people packed into the room, and from all walks of the local equestrian community. In addition to the league of us amateurs I spotted a number of racehorse trainers, vets and even an Olympian, four star event rider, Dan Jocelyn, who I sat next to. You never stop learning!

I worked in the racing industry during the 80s & 90s and was always staggered by the horse statistics and failure rates. British Horseracing really does have it’s act together with the ROR initiative, which for us includes help finding suitable horses, and plenty of ex-racehorse classes to enter with fabulous prizemoney like the one held at Barbury Castle Horse Trials.

There were so many humorous anecdotes from the panel, and so much useful advice I wish I had time to write it all up right now, and I had hoped to interview some of the panel, but they were literally  mobbed at the end!

I’ll leave you with one comment I found a little surprising that was confirmed by all the panel, and busts the common myth of the crazy, skittish thoroughbred. “Don’t discount getting a failed 2 year old racehorse, they’re probably low milage and the earlier you get them the easier they are to retrain, you just need to remember they have a little less life experience”

A great evening and the most worthwhile ¬£10 I’ve spent this week.

Find out more: ROR Website

Amateur event rider, aspiring photographer. Technologist by day.

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