Retraining Retired Racehorses blog

By Retraining Retired Racehorses

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30 May 2012 15:29

Well here goes!! My first attempt at a blog for RRR(Retraining Retired Racehorses) - usually Rebecca does a great job with these but thought I would attempt it.

On Friday 4th May, we had our first community meeting for RRR at Chelwood Equestrian Centre. Rebecca and myself were apprehensive to say the least,  it was our first meeting of any sort and we really did not know what to expect where turnout was concerned. My Mum is always a fantastic support, and arrived early to layout the food and wine for everyone in the Clubhouse. Rebecca, Bec and I arrived soon after and got discussions going between ourselves.

We really could not have asked for a better location to hold such an event, it was so comfortable and its special touches were the massive log fire which Melanie was the master at starting up and maintaining throughout the evening. It let off a lot of heat and set such a cosy wonderful atmosphere. 
very large table, where many of us were able to sit around with wine to discuss ideas and various topics, comfy sofa's for extra seating around the fire, large kitchen for preparing food and storing supplies, and a toilet which was incredibly clean.

These are only some of the aspects of the room that made the atmosphere so very relaxed, but there are many more. If people would like to find it on the Internet then the address is 

Before we knew it, there were people flowing through the door and we were able to start talking about RRR specifically and what people wanted out of the group. Rebecca was able to gather everyone around the table to listen to some speakers that attended.

Gemma Porter-Rawlings, from Veterinary Thermal Imaging, kindly attended the evening to give everyone an insight into what Thermal Imaging is and how it could help when getting an Ex-Racehorse and maintaining them throughout the years. She explained  how Thermal Imaging shows up the hot and cold spots on a horses body where it is being photographed. The cameras are now extremely portable and easy to setup on site. 

This imaging can give advance warning of an issue up to 3 weeks prior to the clinical signs. This enables a Vet or Osteopath to then home in on the damaged area and treat it more accurately, as the area of issue is clearly identified by the heat rather than treating blind.  Costs are very reasonable at:

- Back £30
- Back & Saddle £50
- Full Horse £230

You can also image a horse before and after treatment to see if the desired action has worked. Gemma then went on to explain how thermal imaging treatment works especially well alongside the other disciplines such as a farrier, saddler and massage therapist. Gemma does also provide horse massage treatment. In fact there were so many interesting facts I just couldn't do them justice here.

So if you were unable to attend and would like to learn more, then take a look at their website Gemma will hopefully be attending more clinics and demonstrations, and is also available to do private sessions.

We were very fortunate to be joined by two Farriers ; Clive Meers Ranger and Tom Halpin who represented the Equine Lameness Prevention Society. ( This organisation not only represents care via shoeing but also barefoot (Moores Racehorse Trust keeps all their exracers barefoot). The vision of the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization (E.L.P.O.) is to facilitate the establishment of an Equine Community where equines are free from lameness and are able to maintain soundness so that they may be enjoyed by future generations.

Clive and Tom represented them well and they gave a fantastic talk on 'The Horses Foot' specifically focussing on how Racehorses are shod and the process of shoeing a Thoroughbred out of training. Clive has much hands on experience with Racehorses and gave a speech on the great 'Arkle', explaining the results from X-Rays on his feet. Not only did Clive and Tom have everyone laughing from ear to ear, the knowledge we all picked up in this evening was amazing. The organisation they represent run courses to spread knowledge and is currently running course for vets on hoof mapping, leg dissection and trimming.

They have kindly offered to run a similar course for us if we were interested and invited us to a couple of events coming up to extend our knowledge, in particular the event mentioned in our previous blog Prevention through Soundness where there will be lots of different disciplines there for people to chat to and learn more about. 

This event is on the 17th of October and costs £10 so its very affordable. We aim to have an RRR stand there also so you can come and meet us. Tom Halpin will also be talking so it will be another informative but enjoyable session.

Eventer Camilla Kruger (Millie) won the ROR award last year on one of her Ex-Racehorses Prince, this was in his first year of eventing demonstrating anything is possible with the right approach. Millie has a handful of Ex-Racehorses, straight off the track at one time where she retrains them to either event for their owners or to sell on for other purposes. With many years of hands on experience, Millie was able to give us an insight into her programme for retraining. This is a structured programme where for example, all horses are detoxed using a detox treatment from Cavolor and trained on a Pessoa for a month.

Why detox? An interesting fact that both Millie and Clive raised is that 80% of ex racehorses and now some competition horses have stomach problems due to their working life style. As a feral equine they walk 10 – 30 miles a say trickle grazing. The movement of walking and grazing helps the stomach work. High energy foods and constant stabling and anxiety may cause these stomach ulcers. (If you want to understand more about this it is covered in the new book Retraining of Racehorses by Fred and Rowena Cooke).

Millie explained detoxing is not expensive its about £18 for the treatment and this coupled with turnout sorts out most cases. Millie explained how she was really keen to support us and help in any way she can. She has been talking with her other event riders, they also share her interest and have offered to act as Rider Reps at shows such as Felbridge etc, where if you are having a problem or need advice, they can pop along and give guidance and support.  Millie is going to be a fantastic asset for RRR, and we look forward to working very closely with her. The information these people are kindly sharing is not only fascinating but they are such lovely people who are so supportive and happy to share what they know it was really inspiring that they were with us.

Once our three speakers had enticed us with their knowledge we were able to have a group discussion and put ideas forward as to where we go from here, Community members all fired up and keen to explain the support they would like to see for example Practice and Familiarisation Shows.

Jen raised the issue that at shows ex-racers are grouped with other horses that have not had similar careers. This can cause issues in the warmup arena. Although this may not be an issue towards the latter end of training in these early stages it can be very difficult and riders can struggle and as the horse is nervous and anxious be selfcontious . Having some “practice “ shows with a range of activities to introduce the horses to events  in a controlled organised environment, with people on hand to  support  and give guidance would be worthwhile.  This was where Minnie mentioned that there were several event riders interested in assisting and had offered to act as Rider Reps at shows to advise an assist when are having issues or just need at show guidance.

On The Spot Advice at Clinics From Experts
The discussion then lead to wouldnt it be great to be at a clinic and while at the event to have access to our recommended Advisors on for example:

- Saddle Fitting & Teeth
- Dentist
- Equisage Massage
- Nutrition
- Thermal Imaging

Possibly book  in to get on the spot advice. Sounded great, to be able to organise something like this we would need to know interest first.

Some members just wanted to be able to hack and spend time with like minded people and to gain the support and advice that this community can offer. Others were interested in affordable activities with like minded people like longer hacks, small shows, combined training etc , where the other attendees are patient and supportive of each other if their horse is nappy, the setup is calm and well laid out, basically what was mentioned above. All of which are an important part of  a successful familiarisation process when horse and rider start to go out into a show environment with other horses. Particularly if its one of the first events out since being on the racecourse.

The key point though was the access to knowledge and advice. Quite a few people mentioned that they were on yards that didn't really support the needs of an Thoroughbred and didn't understand them. This being said we were all in agreement that these are not the nutty animals that they are made out to be and really the key to us all succeeding was having access to a good support structure if an owner does not have access to it at their own yard. The website will act as a knowledge bank as we gather information and will contain links to as much product and other information as we can gather.

In summary, a great evening a great success made so by all the really lovely people who attended and joined in. Thanks to everyone we look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Becki :)