Rehoming an ex-racehorse

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Are you thinking of taking on a former racehorse but don’t know how to go about it? Or perhaps you like the idea of giving an ex-racehorse a second chance, but have been put off by people with bad experiences.

In this informative Q&A session, we asked Pam Hollingworth and Kevin Atkinson from New Beginnings, a charity dedicated to the retraining of racehorses, the questions that you need to know before taking on this challenge.

Why should I rehome an ex-racehorse?
NB: Former racehorses are intelligent, versatile, well-handled and athletic. Given the right training, most of them make excellent riding horses. We have re-homed horses who have gone on to have second careers in all kinds of disciplines – from happy hackers to successful showjumpers, eventers and dressage horses.
Do I need to be a good rider?
NB: You do need to be an experienced rider to re-home a former racehorse as most of them can be quite sharp to begin with. Occasionally we get a quiet, calm individual that’s very steady and would be suitable as a first horse, but this is not the norm. We wouldn’t advise novice riders to take on a former racehorse.
Where should I look for an ex-racehorse?
NB: We would always advise going to a racehorse re-homing centre. By doing this you’ll be able to get advice and back-up should anything go wrong.
How do I choose the right horse for me?
NB: If you go to a re-homing centre, the team will know each horse inside and out, so will be able to make sure you and the horse are a good match. You’ll have plenty of time to get to know your potential horse to make sure you suit each other, before you make the decision about which is the right horse for you.
Is it ever a good idea to buy an ex-racehorse from a sale?
NB: We wouldn’t advise anyone to buy from a sale. You’ve got to ask why are they at a sale in the first place? Sadly, many horses put into sales are cheap for a reason, and you could end up with a horse that has issues. Saying that, we do know people who have bought lovely horses from the sales who have gone onto successful second careers.
What are the most common mistakes when re-homing an ex-racehorse?
NB: The most common mistake is rushing them. Former racehorses need time to adjust to their new life following racing, and they need to learn to work with their new handler. They are all individual, and you can’t impose a time limit on how long it takes for them to settle into a new routine. Some will take longer than others, you need to be patient.
Quite often people get the feeding wrong with former racehorses. This often results in the horses having too much energy and becoming difficult to ride and handle. You get out what you put in, so we always recommend feeding a high-fibre, low-sugar feed such as Fibre-Beet. This high fibre feed has a high digestibility value providing slow release energy without the ‘fizz’, and it also helps former racehorses stay in great condition.

Is re-homing an ex-racehorse rewarding?
NB: Yes, it can be extremely rewarding but it’s not always easy! It’s fantastic to see our horses excelling in their new careers, but it takes a lot of time and patience to get to that point. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort needed, it’s a great feeling to know that you’ve given an former racehorse a second chance in life.
Who can I ask for help with re-training?
NB: If you take on a horse from a re-homing centre they will always be on hand to help. If you need any help getting in contact with a re-homing centre, look on our website to get in touch with us and we will put you in touch with your nearest re-homing charity.
What if it doesn’t work out with my new horse?
NB: At New Beginnings, we never sell our horses. Instead we look for long-term loan homes so we can ensure that if anything changes in the future, we can bring the horses back to New Beginnings. Most other re-homing centres will also loan out their horses, which is better for both the parties if anything goes wrong. The last thing you want is to end up stuck with a difficult horse that you can’t ride or sell. That’s why it’s always best to get a former racehorse on permanent loan from a re-homing centre.
About New Beginnings
Founders of the charity New Beginnings, Kevin Atkinson and Pam Hollingworth, have dedicated their lives to better the future of former racehorses and give them a new direction in life past the post. Being extremely passionate about making a difference to these horses’ lives and their welfare led them to start the organisation back in February 2010.

The passion and drive behind New Beginnings is to provide a safe and secure environment where former racehorses can adjust and be re-trained for their second career following racing. They are given a ‘Life Past The Post’.

British Horse Feeds has supported the team over the last year by providing Fibre-Beet for a high fibre diet. Kevin and Pam are delighted to have this support as they know how important a good diet is for the horses and their re-training.

New Beginnings is always looking for support to help it continue its work and any contribution is always welcomed.
Every donation can have a huge impact on looking after these magnificent horses and in recognition of their support, the Pam and Kevin intend to invite regular benefactors to an annual event where they can see first-hand what happens at the yard. There is also the opportunity to see some of the legendary horses, as well as seeing how valuable the donations are.

For more information on New Beginnings please contact the charity on 01759 369810 or visit their website