Before Starting work with your ex-racehorse
Have the teeth checked by a reputable equine dentist and if possible have the back checked by a chiropractor or physician.
If possible give the horse some time off for at least 1 – 3 months before starting any new routines or training. This gives the horse a chance to relax and settle into new surroundings.
Starting to Work with your ex-racehorse
Racehorses are not usually turned out daily whilst in racing training and therefore your horse may be a little excited settling into this routine.
Remember that not all ex-racehorses will be familiar with a general purpose saddle as may only have been ridden in racing tack so take a little care introducing tack.
Racehorses are rarely stood at a mounting block for mounting as jockeys often jump up from the ground or are given a leg up. Therefore it may take time and patience to get your ex-racehorse to stand quietly at a mounting block.
Work on the ground with your horse before starting any ridden work. A good partnership can be more easily achieved through groundwork whilst also giving the horse a chance to get used to his new surroundings.
Begin with long reining. It is best to use a helper initially so that one person can walk alongside the horse whilst the other is in control of the long reins. It is a good idea to use brushing boots for sessions in long reins and riding.
The long-reining stage can take from several weeks to few months with an ex-racehorse but helps greatly with teaching the horse to go forwards and come back with the aids which will be important when ridden sessions begin.
When you are ready to start ridden work, introduce flatwork sessions of no longer that 10-15 minutes building up to 25-35 minutes. Combine weekly ridden work in the arena with short hacks alone and in company. Most racehorses take time to gain confidence to hack out alone as will have been exercised routinely in groups. If problems arise it is often best to go back to groundwork and long reining.
Once your horse has become comfortable doing flat work which may take several months, you can start introducing some ground poles and gridwork. Many ex-racehorses adapt well to showjumping at moderate levels.
Some horses will show talent in other disiplines such as cross country and many top eventers started off in a racing career.
When you take your ex-racehorse to an event for the first time, he is likely to get excited and may think he is going racing. It is advisable to take your horse on several schooling outings before taking him to an actual event and aim for low key events to start with.
The important thing to remember is that every horse is different and will be better at some things than others.
It takes a lot of time and patience to re-school an ex-racehorse but it can be an extremely rewarding journey together.
If you have any questions please contact the IHWT for more advice.