Retired Racehorses Retrained As Therapy Horses

Some of the horses that have been retired as racehorses are used as ride horses for fun. For others, the prospects for the animal’s life may be bleak.

But in England, a new idea emerged, namely retraining a racehorse that had been retired to become a therapy horse.

Sue Molloy of the National Horse Racing Museum explains, “Racehorses, when they end their careers and are only three or four years old, really don’t want to just sit around on the field for the next 20, 30 years. They are so versatile. I really believe that there are jobs for 99 per cent of them.”

Scientists are working with the charity “Racing to Relate” to develop an evidence-based standard for selecting and training horses as they transition from life on the racetrack to become part of Equestrian Assisted Therapy.

One of those horses is the four-year-old Boma Green, a classic example of a horse that needed a new home.

Dr. Helen Sharp of Racing to Relate said that many racehorses, which belong to the elite group of horses, then either switch to that way or live less active lives. He said people would be surprised to know how many purebred horses don’t know what to do when they are brought into the fields.

Who will benefit from a therapy horse? Veterans, children with disabilities, and those struggling with mental health issues.

Sue Molloy suspected that horses had some kind of sixth sense. There is good cooperation between horses and people who need therapy, whether for mental health or physical disability issues, he said.

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But not all horses can do the job. A research team is designing a series of tests to assess which horses are suitable for it. Among them, by using an umbrella test.

Dr. Joanna Hockenhull from the University of Bristol said: “This is a way to identify horses and how they react in different situations. So we’re trying to capture this in a test we put together so we know how they react to an umbrella suddenly opening in front of them; how they overcome that fear. Did they show interest afterward? Or are they away? We’ll see how they react to something they’ve never seen before and also how they react to the different surfaces beneath their feet.”

The three-year research aims to provide the racing industry a ‘global standard’, a tool for retraining racehorses.

Abraham Gajon (31), a paramedic and patient, strokes a horse named "Linda" during a horse therapy session to help healthcare workers suffering from stress and anxiety at the Miguel Hidalgo equestrian center, amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico City, Mexico October 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Edgard Garrido)

Abraham Gajon, 31, a paramedic and patient, strokes a horse named “Linda” during a horse therapy session to help healthcare workers suffering from stress and anxiety at the Miguel Hidalgo equestrian center, amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico City, Mexico October 16 2020. (REUTERS/Edgard Garrido)

Sir Mark Prescott has trained horses for over 45 years and thousands of horses have become champions thanks to his cool hand. Early training for horses, he says, is important for their long-term well-being.

Meanwhile Dr. Joanna Hockhenhull hopes this research project can show that horses can have amazing second careers. [uh/ab]


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