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Beyond the Racetrack: Successful Second Careers for Retired Racehorses

The Transition: Challenges Retired Racehorses Face

Racing is an intense sport that requires a lot from an equine athlete. The high-energy diets, medications, and training routines take a toll on the horses’ bodies and minds.

When they retire from the racing industry, the transition to a new life can be challenging. In this section, we will discuss some of the common challenges that retired racehorses face and how to help them overcome them.

High-Energy Diet

Racehorses are fed high-energy diets to ensure they have the stamina and endurance to compete at their best. Their diets consist of high amounts of grains, protein, and supplements.

When retired, they no longer have the same level of physical activity, and their dietary needs change. Feeding them the same high-energy diet can lead to weight gain, digestive problems, and other health issues.

It is essential to work with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to come up with a balanced diet that serves the horse’s new lifestyle. More substantial emphasis should be placed on fiber-rich foods such as hay and grass, and the grains and supplements should be adjusted to match their reduced physical activity.


Retired racehorses were usually given medication during their racing careers to keep them healthy and injury-free. Anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and pain medication are common medications used in horse racing.

It is crucial to critically evaluate the medications a retired racehorse was given during their racing career. Withdrawal times and long-term side effects should be considered.

A veterinarian should be consulted to develop a medical plan that is safe and appropriate for the horse’s new lifestyle.

New Routine

Retired racehorses are accustomed to a strict routine that revolves around training and racing. The sudden change in routine can be a challenging experience for them.

They may feel bored or lonely when they don’t have their familiar daily tasks to do. The best way to combat this is to provide a consistent and predictable routine for the horse.

Making a schedule for feeding, grooming, and exercise can help the retired racehorse adapt to their new life.

Rehabilitation and Retraining Process

Many retired racehorses require a rehabilitation and retraining process before they can start their new careers. Racing puts a lot of strain and pressure on their bodies, and they need time to heal.

Equine athletes may have experienced muscle damage, joint issues and have sensitive stomachs from the high-energy diets and medication. It is essential to work with a veterinarian, an equine therapist, and a professional trainer to come up with a comprehensive rehabilitation and retraining plan.

The horse’s health and well-being are paramount during this process.

Trust, Love, and Patience

Retired racehorses come with a unique set of challenges that require patience, trust, and love to help overcome.

Show horses, lesson horses, or polo ponies, to name a few careers, require significant re-training to adapt to their new roles. The rehabilitation and retraining process can be frustrating and time-consuming.

Being gentle, kind, and showing the horse trust so the horse can learn to trust you is vital, especially during training. Communication is essential when working with retired racehorses.

Horses are social animals and want to communicate with their human counterparts. Understanding their body language and responding appropriately is crucial for building trust and creating a strong bond.

Consistency and clear communication are also important when training retired racehorses. Coaxing a retired racehorse into their new role can take time, but with patience and hard work, the horse will eventually blossom into a competent athlete that enjoys its new career.

Popular Second Careers for Retired Racehorses

After the rehabilitation and retraining process, retired racehorses can go on to excel in many different roles. In this section, we will explore some of the most popular second careers for retired racehorses.

Show Jumping

Show jumping is a competitive sport that requires harmony, agility, and athleticism from horse and rider. Many retired racehorses transition seamlessly into show jumping due to their quick reflexes and athleticism.

Neville Bardos, a horse rescued from a barn fire, transitioned to show jumping and became a champion. He has won several awards and participated in the London Olympics in 2012.


Dressage is an excellent discipline for retired racehorses that have a natural elegance and responsiveness to aids. The discipline requires the horse to perform precise movements at different paces, demonstrating their responsiveness, obedience, and willingness to perform.

Keen, a retired thoroughbred, is an excellent example of the successful transition to dressage. Keen went on to become a Grand Prix dressage horse.


Eventing is a three-part discipline, consisting of dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. The discipline requires horses to have versatility, endurance, and agility.

Courageous Comet, a thoroughbred, transitioned to eventing and went on to win several national titles, including the Advanced Horse of the Year award.


Polo is an intense sport that requires speed, agility, and endurance from both horse and rider. Many retired racehorses thrive in this discipline due to their natural athletic ability and quick thinking.

Service Animals

The horse’s disposition makes them perfect for therapy and service roles. Retired racehorses can provide companionship, empathy, and emotional well-being to service members, veterans, and people with disabilities.

Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A) is an organization that uses horses to provide therapeutic services. They work with retired racehorses to give them meaningful careers as service animals.

Recreational Riding

Retired racehorses can make excellent leisurely riding horses due to their intelligence, adaptability, and slower pace. They are suitable for all kinds of riders, from beginners to advanced.

Equine-Assisted Learning Programs

Equine-assisted learning programs work well with retired racehorses. Their calm demeanors and willingness to engage in communication therapy allow humans to achieve emotional balance and personal development.

Success Factors for OTTBs in New Careers

Retired racehorses have a lot to offer beyond the racetrack. They are athletic, intelligent, and quick learners, making them suitable for many other disciplines.

However, making a successful transition from racing to another career requires careful planning and attention to a few critical factors.

Identifying Suitable Career Paths

Every retired racehorse is unique, with a unique temperament and natural abilities. Finding a suitable career path requires careful consideration of these factors to ensure that the horse is fulfilled in its new role.

For example, some OTTBs may be suited to high-energy sports such as show jumping or eventing, while others may be happier in a more relaxed environment, such as recreational riding or equine-assisted therapy. An assessment of the horse’s individual temperament and physical abilities is vital to suggest the best career paths after retiring from racing.

Providing Proper Training and Support

The road to success after retiring from racing requires proper training and support. Professional and experienced trainers have a critical role to play in developing the skills and abilities of OTTBs to succeed in new disciplines.

Skill development and gradual exposure to new experiences is essential when considering new careers options for OTTBs.

Patience is a virtue when working with retired racehorses. It takes time for them to adjust to new routines, disciplines and training methods.

Trainers should provide support and encouragement throughout the transition process.

Building Trust and Understanding

Retired racehorses coming off the track may be distrustful and apprehensive with new handlers. Building trust and understanding with the horse is vital to ensure a smooth transition and success in new careers.

Dedication, adjustment, and excellence will build trust as early as the rehabilitation process. It’s essential to spend quality time with the horse to build a bond that promotes learning and provides therapeutic benefits.

Training should also be conducted in a safe and controlled environment, with positive reinforcement to encourage a sense of trust and achievement in the horse.

Feeding Tips for Ex-Racehorses

A retired racehorse faces several feeding challenges due to their previously high energy diets, including digestive issues, weight gain, muscle problems, and other health concerns. Feeding a retired racehorse requires the specific consideration of adequate nutrition to support their new lifestyle.

Gradually Reducing High-Energy Feeds

Retired racehorses require a diet change to adjust to their lower levels of activity. Forage-based diets such as hay or silage, and grazing on pasture over a gradual period, can help minimize digestive issues as the horse transitions into the new diet.

Reducing high-energy feeds gradually over time can help reduce weight gain and other health complications.

High-Quality Forage

High-quality forage, such as hay or silage, helps to maintain a healthy digestive system. These forages that contain high fiber content are essential elements in a retired racehorse’s diet as they provide bulk, reduce digestive related issues and promote gut health.

Balanced Concentrate Feed

Concentrate feed, given in moderation, provides a source of energy and essential nutrients. The amount of concentrate feed varies depending on the horse’s workload, body condition, and dietary needs.

A balanced concentrate feed can help regulate weight, promote muscle growth and development, and support good health generally in the horse.

Monitoring Weight and Condition

Retired racehorses should be monitored regularly to ensure they maintain their appropriate weight and condition. Body condition assessment does not only ensure the horses are maintaining their weight but also gives an idea of a horse’s general overall wellbeing.

Furthermore, horses in high-performance activity, such as show jumping, dressage, and eventing, are at risk of significant changes to their body condition due to the stiff workout routines. Monitoring weight in these high-performance horses is key to keeping them in peak condition.

Supplementation When Needed

Supplements are an excellent way to support retired racehorses’ health status. They are commonly used to provide additional nutrients that are crucial to support a healthy body or treat deficiencies.

However, it’s important to note that not all horse requires supplementation hence the need to consult with a veterinarian before supplementing your horse.

Fresh Water

Finally, it is essential to ensure that retired racehorses always have access to fresh, clean drinking water. Regular watering helps keep horses hydrated, which is vital for general wellbeing and healthy digestive systems.


Retired racehorses can achieve tremendous success in new careers with patience, skill development, good nutrition, and support. The process requires a deep understanding of the horse’s individual temperament, natural abilities, and needs.

Providing support and assessing the horse’s progress regularly are key components in the transition process. Feeding retired racehorses requires specialized feeding and adaptation to the horse’s unique needs, balancing forage and concentrate feed.

In short, the care and well-being of retired racehorses require thorough assessment, careful planning, proper training, and continued support.


Retired racehorses can have fulfilling and successful second careers outside of the racetrack. These equine athletes have the potential to excel in various careers, from recreational riding to competitive sports or even therapy and service animal jobs.

Potential for Successful Second Careers

Retired racehorses have a lot of potential in their second careers due to their athleticism, intelligence, and willingness to learn. They are versatile and can adapt to many different disciplines with the right training and support.

A successful second career can enrich the horse’s life tremendously, providing them with new experiences, activities, and forms of fulfilment beyond what they experienced in racing.

Finding the Right Match Between Horse and Career

It is crucial to find the right match between the horse and the new career to ensure success. Compatibility is key when determining which career path is best suited for the retired racehorse.

Factors such as the horse’s temperament, physical abilities, and disposition are relevant in making the right choice. The horse’s character, personality, and individual preferences will also help determine the activities they are natural at and willing to excel in.

In addition, the right training and support are essential for the horse’s success in their new career. Experienced trainers or professionals can help develop the skills that the horse needs to succeed, as well as provide a safe and controlled environment for consistent training.

Embracing the Journey of Retired Racehorses

The transition from racing to new careers is a journey that requires resilience and adaptability. Retired racehorses may face challenges in adjusting to their new lifestyle, and it takes patience and understanding to help them through the process.

Creating a comfortable environment where the horse feels safe and building trust is essential in ensuring a smooth and successful transition process. Retired racehorses deserve to enjoy fulfilling and enriching lives after their racing career.

Whether they pursue high-performance sports, therapy work, or leisurely activities, retired racehorses can excel in second careers when provided with the right support and care. The journey may be challenging, but with dedication, perseverance, and the right balance of care, retired racehorses can thrive in their new careers and lead a fulfilling life after racing.

In conclusion, retiring from horse racing doesn’t mean the end of an equine athlete’s career; it’s an opportunity for a second successful and fulfilling career. The key to a successful transition is finding the right career match for the horse’s temperament and natural abilities.

Providing proper training and support to accommodate the horse’s unique needs is critical to ensure success. Lastly, embracing the journey of retired racehorses, with patience, adaptability, and nurturing, leads to a fulfilling life for the horse.


  • What are the challenges retired racehorses face when transitioning to new careers?

Challenges retired racehorses face include adjusting to a new routine, dietary changes, and requiring rehabilitation or retraining.

  • What are the popular career paths for retired racehorses?

Popular career paths for retired racehorses include show jumping, dressage, eventing, polo, service animals, recreational riding, and equine-assisted learning programs.

  • How can I provide the best nutrition for my retired racehorse?

Retired racehorses require a diet change to adapt to their lower levels of activity, with high-quality forage such as hay or silage, and grazing on pasture, supplemented with concentrate feed.

  • How can I ensure the retired racehorse’s success in their second career?

The key to ensuring a retired racehorse’s success in their second career is proper training, tailored to the horse’s distinct natural abilities, and providing appropriate support and guidance throughout.

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