IFAR: Why The Term ‘Retraining’ May Not Be Best For OTTBs

The International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses (IFAR) kicked off its 2021 virtual conference on Tuesday with a panel of international racing leaders discussing the importance of Thoroughbred aftercare to the health of the sport.

Irish trainer Jessica Harrington, American trainers Graham and Anita Motion, Aga Khan Stud racing manager Nemone Routh and former British eventing team coach Yogi Breisner gathered to offer their thoughts on the state of aftercare and its interaction with other equestrian sports.

A few key takeaways:

  • Breisner, who has worked with many former racehorses, believes a language shift is in order when discussing off-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs). Often, the process of transitioning a horse from the track to another discipline is framed as “retraining,” but Breisner points out that conveys an implication that the horse’s earlier training was somehow wrong.”Actually most racehorses I’ve taken don’t need much true retraining,” he said. “They’ve already learned a lot.”
  • Routh said that aftercare in France, where the Aga Khan Stud is based, now receives financial support from France Galop, racing’s regulatory body there. Previously it had been dependent on charitable donations, but Routh said after a certain point that was no longer sustainable. France Galop now encourages people to share their stories of their OTTBs as part of its tactic to market racing.
  • Also in France, racing connections are expected to pay for a horse’s castration and transport to an accredited rehoming center. That can be a tough pill to swallow, especially for owners who are also discovering the horse that once had value as a racing animal may be retiring with very little market value. Routh suggests owners who set aside as modest a sum as two weeks’ training fees could be enough to make sure the owner doesn’t feel surprised by those retirement costs later.
  • Harrington believes education is key for new owners, especially those who join in as part of a large syndicate where they are able to approach racehorse ownership with no equine background or racing experience. Many don’t even know a horse can live another 20 to 25 years after its racing retirement, let alone that they will need to find a new vocation for that time. “I think people don’t think about it,” she said. “I think it’s ignorance rather than willfully saying, ‘I’m not going to look after my horse.”
  • Motion believes part of the key to making aftercare sustainable — particularly in the United States, where it’s still so reliant on charitable giving — is to think twice about whether a horse needs to go to a retirement organization, where they will be on the organization’s books for many years. Motion believes that many horses are suitable for some kind of active job where they might be useful as privately-owned animals, and that retirement sanctuaries are often asked to shoulder the burden of horses who could find vocations elsewhere.
  • Breisner said there could be more exchange between the racing and sport horse world as far as the education of riders. As stable help has become more difficult to find in Britain, Breisner said he sometimes has racing staff who ask to spend time training with him to improve their overall horsemanship, which benefits the racehorses they’ll work with on and off the track. Likewise, he suggested that the many international racing schools that train jockeys and exercise riders could also include education on the basics of transitioning OTTBs off track. Riders who have the skills to be versatile will benefit the horses they work with.

The next IFAR virtual session will focus on aftercare for racing administrators and regulators and will take place April 13 at 8 a.m. Eastern. Registration is free and is available here.

The post IFAR: Why The Term ‘Retraining’ May Not Be Best For OTTBs appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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