Life After Racing Project Launched For Former Racehorses

Retrained Racehorse Eventing Championship -Gold Nugget and Andrew Downes winners of NTF prize at Gatcombe

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) have undertaken a project that seeks to improve the understanding of retraining and rehoming former racehorses, and they are calling for owners and ex-owners of retrained racehorses to help!

Owners are invited to take part in an online survey to divulge their experiences of taking on a former racehorse, with researchers aiming to secure at least 500 respondents over the course of the next month.

The Life After Racing project survey forms part of the RVC’s wider ‘Life After Racing’ project, which outlines the the processes involved in rehoming and assesses the different factors that influence a former racehorse’s suitability for a second career. This follows recent industry reports that call for more understanding of the criteria for a successful transition from racehorse to ridden horse. The study will provide a valuable evidence base with which to inform, monitor and improve initiatives and interventions in racehorse aftercare, and set a precedent of expectations of welfare.

The survey seeks to understand more about the former racehorse population in their new homes, and the key features of a successful partnership. Questions gather information about the horse as well as the owner, including their expectations versus their experience.

The survey findings will be complemented by wider qualitative research and interviews with current, previous and potential owners of former racehorses, including those who have not previously rehomed a former racehorse to identify challenges or perceived barriers.

Combined with the previous results from the first phase of the study, which examined how racehorses are rehomed, the results will help identify avenues for providing additional support to owners to aid successful rehoming and opportunities for broadening access to former racehorse ownership.

Dr. Darcy Bornemann, Postdoctoral Researcher in Pathology and Population Sciences at the RVC and Operational Research Lead for the Life After Racing project, said: “This is an exciting project and I’m looking forward to working with horse owners and hearing their stories. Thoroughbred horses are versatile and amazing animals, and it’s wonderful to be with the RVC, alongside Retraining of Racehorses, in their mission to support former racehorses’ lives after racing.”

“The information gathered in this survey will be invaluable for better understanding the factors associated with racehorses leading happy and fulfilling lives after they leave racing, be that in a competitive career in another equestrian discipline, as a happy hacker or a much-loved companion,” said Professor Kristien Verheyen, Professor of Veterinary Clinical Epidemiology at the RVC.

“We would love to hear people’s experiences of rehoming a former racehorse, regardless of whether that was good or bad; gathering data from people for which their former racehorse was not the right choice for them is just as crucial as learning about success stories. Only then can we start to unravel the key features of successful partnerships, with the ultimate aim of maximising the chances of a former racehorse being placed in a suitably matched long-term home when they retire from racing.”

The final stage of the project will link race performance to competition records in other equine sport disciplines, to assess whether and how success in racing is correlated with success in another career, for example dressage and eventing. These findings will help determine which pathway is best suited for horses post-racing including which other equestrian sport discipline they may perform best in.

This project is funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board and conducted with the support of Retraining of Racehorses, British Horseracing’s official charity for the welfare of horses that have retired from racing.

Life After Racing Project Survey

If you are over the age of 18, live in the UK and own a former racehorse, or have previously owned one, you can complete the survey here It will take no more than 15 minutes to complete.

Katie Gilmour is the host of Poles, Piaffe & Prosecco: the podcast for riders that love to train, laugh and drink prosecco! The podcast is free to listen to on Spotify and all major podcast platforms.

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