With the recent ROR Champs at Barbury, the hot topic of discussion was why Ex-Racehorses can make such good event horses.
‘I have always loved riding thoroughbreds and had a lot of success in the past with the likes of Bahlua,
Face the Music, Regal Scot, and Bertie Blunt.’
With the modern short format and the emphasis taken off the endurance factor, we have seen a move away from the pure thoroughbred to warmbloods, with their more extravagant movement, but many still believe that a good TB can still be competitive at eventing’s top levels.
NZB Ocean (Percy at home) or Front Street in his racing days, is typical of these good thoroughbreds. He has a great temperament and a very willing mind, and from the very first time he went XC schooling he took to it like a duck to water. He is the one at home that everybody rides because he’s so laid back, and therefore I don’t ride him that much. He spent last year teaching my son James about eventing because I knew he would be safe with him. The thing I love most about TB’s is their generosity, they will usually want to work with you to please.’ said Sir Mark.
Claire Fielding who came 2nd in the Int-Nov bought YOU NEVER SAID (GAMBLE at home) 5 years ago direct from Charlie Eggerton Racing as a 6 year old. Claire said she didn’t even sit on Gamble when she went to view him, she saw him trot in a field and thought yup he can move! She never sits on them when she views them as there isn’t much to see really.
They don’t go in outlines, but as long as they are sound and have a good walk, that’s enough for Claire. Gamble was Claire first ex racehorse and she really fancies giving retraining one a go, hence his stable name of Gamble! She states ‘He was proper wooden and I couldn’t turn in the school only straight lines and sharp angles. I popped him over a fence in my field and he was just amazing just pinged. I had this massive grin and thought this horse is special’. Claire had to work hard on her balance and core to be able to help Gamble out. He used to launch her whilst jumping and Claire had to be conscious to stay in the middle and gather herself back up on landing!
Claire is now competing Gamble at Intermediate level, and says ‘He is the loveliest horse, very smart and clever and cool and chilled when he needs to be and a proper machine when we need it. I absolutely love the TB’s. I like there quick thinking and there nimbleness. And the quickness in speed they have’.
I asked Claire what she looks for in an ex racer. ‘A good walk usually means good canter I can always improve the trot. Reasonable feet which can be hard in race hoses. But I have good farriers. I don’t like anything personally that cribs or box walks. Means they are up tight. With a good temperament and brain your half way there. They want to please and learn. With mine I usually sit on them as soon as i get them back. We have a nice long quiet drive and some woodland I walk them about in. Then take them out for a hack with another. Then just piece it all together. They usually go out in the lorry quite quick to do something to get them focused into their new job. They all go out I like to kick them out overnight to settle. Once I’m hacking a bit I then start schooling. Then pop them over a fence quite soon so I know what I’ve got. What I also like is they have seen a bit already in their life. And even though eventing has a buzz it’s not the same as racing. It’s just me and them in a test in a show jumping arena and on the cross country. I love my ex racers they are the best’
Paul Tapner came 3rd with COUNTERPARTY, and we asked Paul his thoughts on why Ex-racers make good eventers. ‘It’s about the breeding and the blood. They will try to their death for you. If you kick when they are tired, they will still go. They are so willing and honest’.
We asked Paul if he had any tips or tricks whilst retaining an ex racehorse. ‘For 100’s of years they have been bred to go fast, and go fast is what they want to do! You need to allow them to feel like they have an escape route. You can’t wedge them between your leg and your hand and expect them to not want to run away. You have to allow them to go forward if they want to, and if they want to escape out through the shoulder on the lunge to start with, just let them for a while!’
Victoria Bax (VB EVENTING) has a team of ex racehorses that she has retrained as eventers. Victoria says they make awesome cross country horses as they like to stay on a line, and they just keep running! Show jumping can be tricky but with time and patience this can be hugely improved. Dressage can be fabulous for some, however not all of them can contain themselves in the bigger atmospheres for long enough to produce a fab test. Victoria has three words of wisdom. Time. Patience and Seek help from experienced trainers!
Photographs Courtesy of Jason Bax (Thoroughbred Sports Photography) and Lucy Hall Photography
Look out for more ideas and training tips on retraining the ex-racer soon!