Once you’ve made the decision to purchase, or adopt, an ex-racehorse and got him home you’re ready to begin his re-training.
Some people recommend that the first thing you should do is to turn your retired racehorse out to pasture for six months, to allow him to forget the racecourse. While it may be advisable to give him some extended turn out time, to wind down and to allow any injuries to heal and stabilize, throwing him out in a pasture to fend for himself will create unnecessary stress.
Remember, during his racing days, he was stalled for 23 hours out of every 24, received the best quality feed and attention and had a very set routine. It’s a fact that my own ex-racehorse appeared not to know that the green stuff all around his feet was actually edible for the first month I had him. I’d recommend a routine that closely matches his previous one, or as close as you can manage around your own work schedule.
Introduce new experiences, such as turnout, slowly. After his morning feed, turn him into a small paddock for an hour or two each day, to allow him to get used to not being in his stall. Expect him to pace the fence line, it’s a natural reaction to this stressful situation. Annapolis paced so much there was a trench along the fence line by the time he settled down enough to be turned out with the other horses. As he settles down, gradually increase his turnout time.
At the same time your new horse is becoming accustomed to the increased freedom that turnout brings, he will have to become accustomed to interacting with other horses. Being turned out in the small paddock will allow him to “meet” them over the fence and there will probably be the squealing and running that usually happens when horses first meet each other. Annapolis may be 21 now, but he makes it abundantly clear that he rules the roost in the pasture – a far cry from the slightly neurotic and insecure horse I brought home 12 years ago.
Remember that everything will be new to your ex-racehorse, from the different saddle and bridle to heavier shoes. Give him time to get used to all these new experiences and feelings before moving on to the next stage.
With patience and tolerance, most ex-racehorses can have a successful second career. If you have retrained an ex-racehorse, why not share your story with other readers on the EquiSearch.com Discussion Forums?