Retraining an ex-racer is challenging, but also hugely rewarding. You get to see him transform from a lean, highly tuned (and possibly highly strung) athlete into a calm-natured riding horse. Building trust, establishing ground rules and letting him take as much time as he needs is vital.
When introducing hacking, event rider Victoria Bax recommends you use your ex-racers experience of being ridden in a string.
Start the work in an arena or enclosed paddock, in case he becomes over-excited in open spaces. Once he’s settled in walk you can introduce trotting, then move on to acceptance of the leg and canter work. Conquer all of this before you attempt to actually go out for a hack. Even then, it’s best to start out with the more familiar.
“If you can, start in the school with other horses in there too,” says Victoria. “This reminds him about having other horses around.”
A strong relationship with your ex-racehorse is important because when you go out he needs to trust all is OK.
“If you’ve bought a horse who has always been the lead, the hacking out phase will be easier to master. If he was a follower it can be trickier, especially when hacking solo.”
Hack around your yard and paddocks first, with an equine buddy to help.
“Let him take the lead for a few minutes at a time, increasing this as his confidence grows, and don’t venture out of the yard until you have control. If in doubt, long-reining him around the paddocks and on short hacks builds confidence. It keeps you safe too.”
Victoria Bax is an event rider and coach who specialises in retraining former racehorses. She’s owned mostly ex-racehorses during her career and uses her skills in retraining racehorses to help riders solve the issues they’re facing with their own horses.
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