Ten top tips to retrain a former racehorse

Providing a racehorse with a loving home after their racing days are over may seem like a difficult task, so what can you do to make things easier if you choose to go down this route?

Even the most experienced horse owners might run into things they aren’t used to with a racehorse, so here are our top ten tips to help make things a little bit easier.

Ride them often

While you’ll understandably want to give the horse something of a break after they retire from racing, once they’re ready, it’s important to ride them regularly.

Even if it’s just a little work, it keeps the horse’s routine going. This is something which often catches amateur riders out as they find that they simply don’t have the time to ride a racehorse very often.

Don’t feed them too much

Racehorses are naturally lean and fit, and many new owners make the mistake of overfeeding them, with the intention of ‘bulking them up’.

Dietary changes should always be slow rather than sudden. Consult your vet on the best diet for your former racehorse, which will depend on bodyweight, condition and workload, among other things, and remember to feed little and often.

For more info on feeding an ex-racehorse, check out this post from Allen & Page.

Slowly get them used to leg aids

Many racehorses have little experience or understanding of leg aids, and the feeling of having the rider’s legs on their sides can take a bit of getting used to.

The level to which a racehorse is used to responding to aids will vary on a number of factors such as whether they’re flat or jumpers but bear in mind that most will need time to adjust.

Show them patience

This is an important point in itself, as you have to remember just how big of a change the horse will be experiencing.

Their usual routine and surroundings are going to be completely different, so give them enough time to get used to their new life.

Use long lining

A good exercise when first working with an ex-racehorse is long lining, also known as ‘riding from the ground.’

Long-lining can be a good way to check the horse’s steering and how well they can start and stop, and their turns and pole work.

Practice mounting

Racehorses are often used to being mounted while walking along, and might not respond well to being held still and mounted.

If this is the case, it could take a bit of practice, so try and get the horse used to standing next to a mounting block, and start out by trying mounting with someone helping you.

Get them used to cantering slowly

Racehorses don’t have much experience of cantering slowly, so you need to teach them to take more weight on their hind legs.

Spend some time with them walking and trotting with lots of transitions, circles and loops, and when cantering, let the horse go at their own pace before using your seat, weight and leg aids to slow them down.

Make sure their bedding is up to scratch

Racehorses are used to being stabled during the winter months so take extra care to make sure their bedding is suitable. This means that it should not have any dust and should provide them with plenty of support. Always keep the surface of their bed dry and uncontaminated.

Make sure their saddle is comfortable

Your horse’s body is going to go through many changes after he stops racing, and, unfortunately, this means that they’re going to need to have their saddle refitted regularly as their muscles redevelop.

We’d also recommend using a numnah or saddle pad, as the horse’s back will likely be very sensitive. You can view numnahs and saddle pads on the Derby House website.

Don’t be afraid to seek advice

Taking on a racehorse is a big ask, so don’t be afraid to seek advice.

This could be from an instructor or friend, or you could also get in touch with the RoR (Retraining of Racehorses).

They’re the official charity for the welfare of horses who have retired from racing and will always be happy to give you any help or advice.

Ultimately, retraining an ex-racehorse requires a lot of patience, but if you remain calm and confident, the journey will ultimately be a rewarding one for both you and your horse.

Read more about rehoming a racehorse.


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