Retired Racehorses Thrive With Proper Care and Retraining Tips for Creating a Healthy Environment for Your Thoroughbred

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Retired racehorses thrive in new disciplines with proper care and retraining. The right environment and nutrition will help ensure that your new horse transitions successfully from the racetrack to his new job. Wood End Farms, a 501(c)3 non-profit devoted to the rehab and retraining of retired racehorses, offers owners tips for creating the ideal environment for their Thoroughbreds.

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Racehorses in training are accustomed to an environment that is very different from that in most show and pleasure barns

Racehorse rescues and retirement programs have successfully placed thousands of retired Thoroughbred racehorses into new homes. Ensuring that the new owners successfully transition and retrain their Thoroughbreds is one of the primary missions of Wood End Farms (http://www.woodendfarms.org), a 501(c) 3 charity located north of Chicago that's devoted to the care, retraining and rehabilitation of retired racehorses. The care a Thoroughbred horse receives can play an instrumental role in the success of a horse's transition into its new job as an eventer, a trail horse, or a dressage star.

"Racehorses in training are accustomed to an environment that is very different from that in most show and pleasure barns," says Nicola Birch, the founder and director of Wood End. "They're accustomed to a strict routine, are confined for most of their days, are working hard, and they're fed a rich diet. Taking a horse straight from the track and putting him in a pasture can cause a variety of behavioral and health problems that can surprise well-intentioned new owners."

Birch notes that Wood End has developed a variety of best practices for Thoroughbred care that that support ex-racehorses as they transition from the track and start their retraining. Key pointers Birch offers include these:

  • Establish a routine and follow it. Horses crave routine. At Wood End, horses rotate between spending time in turn-out and in their stalls. This provides both variety and routine, and the horses benefit from being handled several times a day.
  • High-quality feed is a must. Though retired racehorses will need less protein than those in training, good nutrition plays a vital role in developing strong, healthy hooves, and helping the animals' bodies recover from the rigor of racing. Pasture and new feeds should be introduced gradually to prevent the horse's digestive system from being upset.
  • Racehorses are used to activity. Barns that have open-front stalls, windows and wide aisles are comforting to busy, active Thoroughbreds. A bored or isolated horse will be stressed and can develop bad habits such as cribbing or weaving in the stall.
  • Understand that the training a racehorse receives is far different than for riding horses. Stark differences include the fact that crossties are not used at the racetrack, for example, and riders mount while the animal is walking. A retired racehorse will need to be schooled in the basics, and will need to unlearn some behaviors.
  • Give your new ex-racer a job. Thoroughbreds are eager to please and thrive when working. During the transition phase, while you're letting your horse down from the track, groundwork can be an invaluable tool to keep your horse busy and start his learning process.

About Wood End Farms
Founded in 2004, Wood End Farms specializes in the care and training of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses. The organization's mission is to promote Thoroughbreds' suitability for pleasure and performance disciplines, and to support Thoroughbred owners by providing expert education and resources.    Wood End also features a horse swimming pool, 42-stall barn, three arenas, a variety of turnout configurations and a half-mile training oval. Riders seeking a break from the arena can ride miles of trails in the adjacent forest preserve. A full range of horse boarding services, lessons and lay-up programs are available. For more information about any of Wood End Farms' programs, call 847-691-2243 or visit the Wood End Farms website at http://www.woodendfarms.org. A diary of the farm's daily events can be found at http://woodend.wordpress.com.

Note to photo editors: High resolution photos of retired thoroughbreds, the horse swimming pool, swimming horses and other farm pictures are available. Photo opportunities at Wood End include images of horses swimming, Standardbreds in training for races, retired Thoroughbreds and a variety of aspects of horse care.

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