Although a thoroughbred is still just a horse, the needs of an ex-racehorse can be more than that of a standard riding horse and all potential new thoroughbred owners should be well prepared. An ex-racehorse is used to a life of routine, high calorie feed and intense and fast exercise. They may also not have had a huge amount of turnout while in training and would have been consistently rugged. Some may have developed habits like weaving or box-walking and this may come to the fore when they move to a new environment. However, these habits are usually easily managed and sometimes even cease given time. Also be aware of ulcers as these can be a common occurrence post-training.
The diet of a racehorse is generally high energy and low fibre. There is considerably less forage in a racehorse diet with less hay being fed in the box and less turnout in grassy fields compared the standard riding horse.
Good Feeding Practices
- Feed little and often. Split concentrates in 2/3 feeds per day.
- Always water before feeding and ensure your horse has access to clean water at all times.
- Feed good quality forage. In the wild, horses are grazers which means they are eating constantly. Ad lib forage will promote weight gain, gut health and well-being.
- Make all changes to the diet gradually. Horses are prone to colic and sudden changes to the diet can bring about digestive issues.
- Remember a horse has a small stomach so limit hard feeds to around 2kg
Feet and Teeth
Like others, ex-racehorses, will require the farrier every 6-8 weeks depending on your environment and activities. Whilst in training, horses are shod more regularly as their ordinary shoes are swapped for aluminium racing plates, so allow some time for feet to harden to normal daily rigours.
Pick out regularly and use hoof improvers as directed. Thoroughbreds can have shallow feet, but most are easily managed. A shoeless period during the year can also benefit the horse. Good nutrition as well as regular attention is vital to maintaining hoof health.
It is also advisable to have a dental check as soon as possible to rule out anything that may affect weight gain or cause issues when it comes to riding.
A horse’s back may also benefit from a once over. Stack the odds in your favour before you start retraining.
While you may not be buying your ex-racehorse subject to a full vetting, it is still a good idea to ask a vet to give your horse the once-over. A vet experienced with racehorses will be able to advise on common injuries or ailments they may have coming out of training.
Horses that have come out of training will generally have up-to-date vaccinations and records of worming and any other treatments. If this is not recorded in the horse’s passport, be sure to ask for all records including any other significant issues.
Be aware that your ex-racehorse may need time to drop-down and put on some weight. It is advisable to do a worm-count and treat as necessary but if your horse is still not increasing in condition, check for stomach ulcers and have them treated or ruled out.
Do also insure your horse, for at least third party cover.