A Life After Racing: Rehoming Ex-Racehorses

Although they have an average life expectancy of 25 to 30 years, the average racehorse’s racing career lasts only two to three years – not long at all. All racehorses, for whatever reason, will eventually stop competing and see their racing days cut short. So with that said, the question remains, what happens to ex-racehorses in their life after racing?

While some former racehorses go on to enjoy successful careers in other equestrian areas like eventing and dressage, some of the most successful horses are retired to breed the next generation of racehorses, and some struggle to find a new home.

In this guide, we’re going to explore the life of a retired racehorse and how they are rehomed across the UK.

What happens to retired racehorses?

Many of the best-performing racehorses are put out to stud with the intent to breed and produce the next generation of top-performing racehorses. However, a growing number of ex-racehorses go on to become champions in other equestrian fields, enjoying careers away from the racetrack. Since thoroughbreds are so adaptable and intelligent, they can be retrained for long careers in other disciplines – we’ll explain those in more detail below.

Retraining of Racehorses, a British charitable organisation, strives to increase the demand for secondary careers for racehorses after their racing days are done, as well as to safeguard the well-being of retired racehorses. Some British racehorses are rehomed to race abroad or to become hacks. Most former racehorses like an active lifestyle, so finding a new discipline or career is essential for them.

What retraining and other successful careers can ex-racehorses enjoy?

Thoroughbred horses, which are purely bred and used for horse racing, are very versatile and can adapt to other retraining and other aspects of equestrian outside of horseracing.

While horseracing is a rather competitive and physically demanding sport, many other disciplines are less demanding and allow thoroughbreds to have longer careers which still bring success.

Some of the careers that former racehorses can be retrained in include:

  • Dressage
  • Showing
  • Polo
  • Eventing
  • Showjumping

While each horse is unique and some will be better suited to particular equestrian activities than others, thoroughbred horses, in particular, are incredibly athletic and clever creatures. Since they have so many good qualities and have experienced constant handling throughout their careers, with adequate and appropriate retraining, many former racehorses can go on to become champions in new equestrian fields.

Rehoming former racehorses

Many owners rehome their racehorses to allow them to flourish in a new career that new owners could find rewarding. You can retrain ex-racehorses privately with help from an experienced re-trainer or by taking them to specialised facilities that have vast experience in retraining and rehoming retired racehorses. The truth is, the more adaptable a horse and the more effective it is in its retraining, the more likely it is to be rehomed.

If an ex-racehorse adapts well to its retraining and is destined to succeed in its new discipline, it is more likely to be rehomed and find success in its second career.

Breeding ex-racehorses

Depending on the breed of horse you need, the majority of racehorses have DNA and genetics that makes them desirable enough to breed. In the breeding shed, stallions (males) can be retired to stud and breed the mares (females), producing a large number of foals all year round. If male racehorses have been gelded (castrated), they won’t end up in the breeding shed for obvious reasons. Mares can only have one foal per year, which can affect the breeding pool of foals.

Retired for life on grass

Though racehorses prefer an active lifestyle, some former racehorses are retired for life at grass. A life at grass means the horse will lead a typical horse lifestyle where they are free to graze in a field and engage in activities that aren’t vigorous or physically demanding. This is true retirement for a horse and is often the best option for horses that have undergone injuries from their time as prestigious racehorses. So, when you see a horse at a farm, or on a random farm, they could well have been a racing superstar back in their heyday.

Why some owners retire a racehorse

Some owners are finding it more and more challenging to keep training their horses for lengthy periods, especially in the present day with less prize money. Many people feel that the expense of caring for a racehorse is no longer worthwhile, whether it be due to a lack of funds or a loss of returns from the horse itself.