While there is much talk of the need to find homes for retired racehorses in the United States, many potential owners must ask, "and then what?" Perhaps a look across the pond at the British organization Retraining of Racehorses would open some eyes.
Consider what's going on this weekend. More than 180 of the world's top eventing horses, many of them in contention for national team berths to the Olympics in Hong Kong next month, are competing in the three-star The St. James's Place Barbury International Horse Trials ("Barbury"). You'll find Gina Miles, Amy Tryon, Clark Montgomery and Karen O'Connor on the entry list there, all short-listed USA riders who hope to make The List.
Also on the program at Barbury is today's second running of The Retrained Racehorse Event Championship sponsored by RoR and the National Trainers Federation (NTF). The special event will pay out ?5,500 (roughly US$11,000) in prize money (with roughly $3000 to the winner), and has attracted some big-name international entries including horses ridden and trained by international riders Andrew Nicholson, William Fox-Pitt, Kristina Cook and Clayton Fredericks.
The class is run at Open Intermediate Level with the cross country run over the CIC** course and the horses - which can be raced or unraced - must carry a Weatherbys passport. (All British horses are required to have "passports" with identification and health records detailed; Wetherbys is the UK's Thoroughbred breeding registration administrator.) The top 10 horses have been invited to continue with show jumping tomorrow.
A showcase parade of available racehorses that have been identified to have some potential for eventing will follow the Thoroughbred class tonight.
A similar class for ex-racehorses in showjumping was held at the Hickstead Derby, for show horses at the Royal Windsor Show, and also there is a series of awards for ex-racehorses who are now polo ponies, endurance horses, etc.
In addition to rewarding exemplary ex-racehorses and encouraging the public to retrain and rehome ex-flat racers and jump racers, ROR also educates new owners about caring for ex-racehorses and gives seminars.
On the admin side, the new organization has established a registry of ex-racehorses in Great Britain who are eligible for its programs and benefits.
The work done by Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) was recently recognized by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), which awarded ROR the BEVA Equine Welfare Award for 2008.
The award, sponsored by the British animal charity Blue Cross, will be presented at the BEVA congress in Liverpool in September.