EQUINE MANAGEMENT AND TRAINING - Fred and Rowena Cook
Retraining Racehorses, Rehabilitation, Therapy & Schooling
Email: Enquiries@equinetraining.co.uk or call 01780 740773
THOUSANDS of racehorses come out of training every year and what happens to them is an issue which is particularly close to our hearts and the retraining these horses is something that we are very passionate about. To this end the retraining of racehorses comprises quite a large proportion of our work.
WE take this opportunity to point out that the ex-racehorse horse is not for everyone, so you should take plenty of advice and correctly assess your own abilities both in and out of the saddle before deciding to re-home such a horse.
IF you equate the re-training of these horses as being akin to starting off a young horse, then if you do not consider that you could not do this, then possibly a racehorse is not for you.
HOWEVER there is plenty of help available if you ask, even if it means your horse having a spell at a retraining yard to establish the basics. Challenging as it can be sometimes - as indeed any horse can be - it is an extremely rewarding process.
THE re-trained racehorse can, in the right hands, provide considerable pleasure and fun and be quite capable of competing at levels which suit the vast majority of riders. And of course there are those that go on to excel at much higher grades and indeed international level.
WHILST sadly it has to be admitted that not every horse that has been in training successfully makes the transition from racehorse to riding horse in that one of two do retain a degree of unpredictability or inconsistency in their behaviour, the signifciant majority can be directed along other paths given the time, patience, correct handling, understanding and training.
SO DO not think that every "ex-racehorse comes out breathing fire and wants to tear off at every opportunity"; there is much fun to be had.
MANY racehorses have passed through our hands . Working with these horses is so enjoyable and rewardind – gradually erasing all what has gone before and effectively creating a completely new character.
HORSES that have been flat raced can sometimes be a little more difficult to work with than National Hunt horses because, in simple terms, they have taught to go from A to B as fast as possible, speed being the all important factor; for NH horses the test is jumping accuracy and stamina.
WHEN beginning a programme of re-education we are mindful that we are dealing with a horse that thinks it already knows is required of it, unlike starting with an unbroken horse; Also, the horse is required to change its whole of way life and thinking. It is long process and extreme patience is the criterion for success – even most seemingly simple factors all come into play.
FOR EXAMPLE even the yard routine will be very different to that which the horse has been used to and that in itself can have a very unsettling effect. And remember that mounting from a block is something the racehorse never encounters and it certainly will not be used to being tied up outside its stable! One of the biggest factors though is bitting - the ex-racehorse does not fit in to the normal mould of bitting principles so do not expect your horse to go in a particular bit because "the book" says he should!
RETRAINING a racehorse is not rocket science but a very calm, patient, methodical approach is required. In the early days some horses can appear as if they are never going to learn or change certain behavious, but given time the transformation is wonderful.
WORKING from the ground is by far the best way to get retraining underway. This we elect to do by long reining as we are able to work on teaching the forward driving aids, accepting the contact, using of the back, etc.
THE two horses below are at different stage of their retraining; one was a 6-furlong sprinter and the other ran National Hunt. "No", the NH horse is not the horse on the left!
WE ARE saddened by the number of ex-racehorses that retain a physique not far off the one they had whilst they were in training; even horses that we see out competing often lack proper topline and muscling over the hindquarters. This is purely due to lack of correct training.
REMEMBER that these horses have been broken as yearlings so have had to mature very quickly and this can have a tremendous mental impact which some do not ever satisfactorily overcome or do so but to varying degrees. Thus it is important to be realistic about possible future careers for such horses, in that for example, they may just become too uptight and stressed, however well the physical training has gone, to be able to accept the excitement and activity of a showground, so the less claustrophobic environment of cross country (hunter trials, jump cross, etc.) may be an suitable alternative. Having said that though, many flat horses make a successful transition to the polo field.
WHEN he first arrived Hero Worship was very cheeky, but great fun. He just couldn't contain his exuberance, but he preferred to play rather than knuckle down to work! Having been rehomed by Darley, he was sent to us progress his re-education.
INITIALLY Hero was a little stuffy in his movement when he first arrived and did not properly accept the contact and move forwards into the bit. However in just 9 weeks he changed dramaticall and these photographs illustrate, he would now readily grace the dressage arena or, as he is also extremely attractive, would not be out of place in the show ring either.
WE were delighted when asked to work with Hero again and be given the opportunity to progress his training. He had lost his way a little and ; he was no longer accepting of the contact and was rushing - running way as a form evasion. Upon arrival we could see that Hero had been pulling himself along instead of propelling from behind causing everything else to go a big awry. A few chiropratic adjustments, a bit change and some groundwork prepared him for work back under saddle. After 3 weeks we had Hero back where we wanted him - soft, round and taking weight behind.
CHARLI ran just 4 times before incurring a tendon injury. Tik Saunders was charged with the task of getting him fit again but despite going back in training it was decided that Charli should not race again. He returned to Tik for a while before finding his way here to undertake his retraining proper.
USUALLY these horses have had a little longer to mature (unless they have flat raced before going hurdling). Increasingly these days more and more NH horses are receiving a degree of schooling as trainers have come to realise the benefits such work has on a improving a horse's jumping accuracy. This of course all helps the re-schooling process as 'a disciplined way of going' is then not quite such an alien experience.
LEOSAID stopped racing due to a check ligament injury; he required several months of walking before exercise and re-training proper could begin and this did not help his already difficult temperament and behaviour - rearing and then walking backwards was his favourite party trick!
THIS little horse was extremely sensitive, not just mentally, but physically too. His re-training has been a wonderful experience although the road has been a bit bumpy at times. However he has been a terrific little chap to work with all despite his quirks and phobias – but that's his personality and character. He has been proof of how it is possible to work with a horse in a way so as to overcome what could be an obstacle if you let it become one. From being a horse that would not even step over a pole on the ground without 'throwing a wobbly', perseverance has prevailed and solid timber holds no fears.
LEOSAID almost died in 2004 from an unidentifiable intestinal bacterial infection. However he pulled through and continued to live life to the full for another 3 years. Sadly in August 2007 he was put to sleep having suddenly lost the use of his hindlegs. He will remain a feature of this website as he was such a fabulous little horse to own and work with; we loved him dearly despite all the challenges he would throw up.
IT is thanks to "Georgie" that we became so involved in racehorse re-education and in tribute to his memory our book, "Re-Educating Racehorses - A Life After Racing" is dedicated to him. For more about this book please visit "A Life After Racing".
NORMAN WILLIAMSON riding "Light the Fuse" when in training with Kim Bailey.
THIS little gelding stopped racing in December 2002 due to a recurrent back injury.
FOLLOWING recuperation after the rigours of racing, which included the removal of bone chips from both knees, a severed tendon and a shattered bone at the back of his knee, his re-schooling began, although not with us. Within 18 months he had found his way into the dressage arena.
"LIGHT THE FUSE" or "Bombie" - as he is affectionately known to his friends - is now with us to continue his dressage training.
BOMBIE'S temperament is quite complex. He is gentle and very sensitive so can soon become quite flustered plus he carries a lot of tension, yet he also very determined and tough so whilst his training is now proving to be very consistent, competition performance can still be a little up-and down!
BOMBIE is currently competing at both Novice and Elementary level and working towards Medium level at home - currently mastering half-pass!
HERE he is parading at Doncaster - not looking too bad for a little chap who has had a catalogue of racing injuries and is not far off his 18th year! Age is need not be a barrier with the right training.
THERE are a considerable number of people who have a horse out of training and do not realise just how much their horse can change physically.
WE regularly see horses that have been off the track for 2-3 years and still they look like a racehorse! This is only because they have not had the correct schooling to change their physique - it is not because the physique cannot be changed. Of course it takes time - as does the training of any horse - to achieve the musculature that Light the Fuse now has so do not use "he's an ex-racehorse" as an excuse!! Nor use age as an excuse either -- Light the Fuse is now 18 years young.
OSCAR was one of our "project horses" - he replaced the wonderful little "Blue" who sadly had to be euthansed just three months into our project with him.
OSCAR suffered a tendon injury when in training with David Arbuthnot which interrupted what was looking to be a promising career with 2 wins and several placings under his belt.
HE achieved a very creditable 2nd on his return to the track but sadly his next run saw him fall. Subsequently he suffered another injury when working on the gallops and it was decided to retire him from racing.
OSCAR took to his retraining very well; indeed he features in our book "Re-educating Racehorses - A Life After Racing"
WE successfully rehomed him but due to a change of owner circumstances, in accordance with our rehoming policy we were notified so that we could source and approve an alternative home. Oscar now has a home for life with Dianne Stuart (Ex Racehorse Rehoming and Rehabilitation) in Scotland.
"LORIE" ran 45 times over hurdles and fences notching up over £90,000 in prize money with numerous wins and placings when in training with Milton Harris and then
RETIRING from racing in February 2011, Lorie was rehomed in August. Unfortunately the rehoming did not work out and in May 2012 he found his way to us.
THE horse was not in the best of condition and he has also become mentally depressed. We spent several months restoring Lorie to the horse he used to be.
FULL of energy and raring to go, a passing comment has resulted in the decision to retrain Lorie for dressage.
IF YOU have a horse out of training or are about to embark on re-training one, then you may consider that "Re-Educating Racehorses - A Life After Racing" is a book you should read
AS A consequence of our vast knowledge and experience of retraining racehorses we were asked to write a book on the subject; after much debate we decided to go ahead. Two year later our book finally was in print! Please click on "A Life After Racing" to find out more about this book.
We have also written a considerable number of articles and provided "Ask the Experts" responses.
The links are too numerous to list but a selection can be found by following this link:
"REHOMING RACEHORSES - A Life After Racing" is our ex-racehorse rehoming programme; Wee take horses directly out of training as well as horses that are deemed to be vulnerable on behalf of other charities. We also work closely with the Greatwood Charity both in terms of fundraising and as its Retraining Consultants.
FOR those of you seeking to loan an ex-racehorse there are the 3 RoR-funded Rehoming Centres details of which can be found on the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) website,
IF YOU are looking to buy or sell an ex-racehorse please visit this website: Proceeds from all advertising are directed to "Rehoming Racehorses". .
WE ARE happy to provide help, advice and support to the owners of ex-racehorses. All we ask is that if you contact us, whether by telephone, email or social media, that a small donation is made to our racehorse rehoming programme - more information on which can be found at "Rehoming Racehorses". Whatever you are experiencing, we will have encountered it ourselves so we can provide straightforward, no-nonsense advice.