Gone but not forgotten - National Hunt racehorses enjoy retirement
Some former National Hunt racehorses are enjoying a new lease of life in their retirement
Published 11/05/2016 | 02:30
Each year hundreds of horses retire from racing in Ireland, but despite ongoing measures to ensure their well-being, many face an uncertain future after the racetrack.
While the vast majority of fillies and mares are usually sent to the breeding shed, some of the less-successful colts or geldings can quickly become a distant memory once their training days are over.
Stars such as Moscow Flyer, Beef or Salmon and Hurricane Fly are fortunate to have retired to the paddocks of The Irish National Stud and will forever be household names.
Efforts are also being made to ensure that those with less-illustrious race records are also not forgotten by being re-homed and then re-trained as riding and competition horses.
Since 2001 some 200 thoroughbreds have been successfully re-homed by the Irish Horse Welfare Trust.
Under their new owners many of these same horses have gone on to compete successfully in a wide variety of disciplines, especially the Racehorse to Riding Horse classes which are run regularly throughout Ireland during the summer months.
These include the class held at the annual Dublin Horse Show, in addition to the recent IHWT-sponsored class held during the Stepping Stones League, the Down Royal League, and the ITM series run by Racehorse to Riding Horse Ireland.
In addition to a league for ex-racehorses to be run this summer by Eastern Region Dressage, a new initiative by the IHWT has just been launched in a bid to further promote the idea of re-training thoroughbreds for other leisure horse sectors.
The IHWT Thoroughbred Club will host a new show series for retired racehorses throughout June and July, with the final taking place at Tullow Agricultural Show on August 21.
"The IHWT always believed that more could be done to ensure these horses are not forgotten about and could enjoy a bit of fun after retirement from the track," says IHWT event co-ordinator Sharon Power.
"These horses are not always easy to re-train, and we have been looking at how the US and Australia have succeeded with their re-homing programmes and competitions.
"So we were absolutely delighted when one of our sponsors contacted us to say they wanted to get involved and offered us prize-money to run the series. It's a fantastic prize as the champion and reserve will qualify for the RoR Championship Show at Aintree at the end of August."
Since its establishment in 2000 the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) charity has overseen the welfare of thousands of horses retired from racing in the UK, with some 500 horses currently competing in a wide variety of disciplines there.
A number of those also took part in the annual parade at the recent Cheltenham Festival, with 2008 Grand National winner Comply or Die among them. He is now enjoying a career in dressage, as is Kasbah Bliss who finished runner-up in the World Hurdle in 2008.
Recently gifted to Eugénie Danloux d'Harambure by his owners, Kasbah Bliss was ridden in the parade at Cheltenham by Kirsteen Reid, who in recent years has also enjoyed outings to the Dublin Horse Show with Beef or Salmon and Brave Inca, winner of the inaugural Racehorse to Riding Horse Class at the RDS in 2009.
"Both Beef or Salmon and Brave Inca have adapted very well, but it's not for every horse," Ms Reid said. "It's all down to temperament and if they don't have a good one, it is near impossible to get them into the show ring."
This sentiment was backed up by Joanne Quirke who over the years has successfully re-trained several high-profile racehorses, but has equally seen others struggle to enjoy to their new lifestyle.
"In the case of Forpadydeplasterer (winner at the RDS in 2014 and 2015) he came of the track in February 2014 and less than three months later was competing at the Northern Ireland Festival. Cooldine, on the other hand, was off the track nine months before we could take him to a show. He is now hunting in the UK."
A great supporter of Racehorse to Riding Horse programmes, Ms Quirke is delighted to see the IHWT launch this new series which she believes will encourage so many others with ex-race horses to get involved.
"There are so many thoroughbreds out there and when you look at what the US is doing with the Thoroughbred Makeover (it carries a prize-fund of $100,000), it's not before time that there are more classes here for them," she adds.
The opening qualifier takes place during the Tattersalls International Horse Trials on June 4, followed by AIRC National Festival, Stradbally, Co Laois (June 12), Wexford Equestrian Hunter Show, Ballygullick, Co Wexford (July 10), Castlewellan Show, Castlewellan Forest Park, Co Down (July 16) and Dungarvan Show, Co Waterford (July 28).
'Many failed racehorses make wonderful riding horses'
"The most important thing is that these ex-racehorses enjoy their new career," says Julie Edgar Morris, founder of Racehorse to Riding Horse Ireland.
Since last year she has re-homed some 50 horses, and these include Made In Taipan who is expected to make an appearance later this year under Robin Marrs.
"Of course everyone loves to see a famous horse coming back out but it's not always about that. I've seen so many failed racehorses make wonderful riding horses. Take Irish Twang who was a disappointment on the point-to-point circuit but is now show jumping, and Acclaimed Angel who didn't do well on the flat but won the Racehorse to Riding Horse Championship at the recent Northern Ireland Festival under Fiona Fitzgibbon and is now eventing."
"Then there's the great story of Silver Skirt who was on parade at the recent Punchestown Festival. She was found in a field as a retired broodmare having bred two foals and purchased by Richard Nolan for polocrosse. When she didn't take to that Richard started doing some riding club events and Racehorse to Riding Horse classes and she went on to finish reserve in the All-Ireland in Trim last year.
"It was only some time after he got her that Richard discovered that the mare was actually out of a full-sister to the top sire Presenting."