Ex-racehorses are unique, and present different challenges when it comes to retraining. They’re incredible athletes, and while they’re quickly gaining popularity among riders, ex-racehorses aren’t for everyone. To successfully work with an ex-racehorse, you need to understand their unique mentality. Here are some things to think about.


The first thing that you should know about ex-racehorses is that they are typically not used to being mounted from a standstill. Jockeys are usually given a leg up while the horse is already walking forward, so being asked to stand at a mounting block is a very new experience for an ex-racehorse. Having a rider climb up the block is another potential source of anxiety for an ex-racehorse, so be sure to treat the mounting experience as a training opportunity in itself. With time and patience an ex-racehorse can learn to stand for mounting, but it is definitely a skill that must be taught.

Rein Signals

Understanding an ex-racehorse’s previous training for rein signals is paramount to being able to ride and retrain an ex-racehorse safely. Unlike the general horse population, which has been taught that a steady pull back on both reins means to slow down or stop, racehorses have been taught the opposite. Racehorses are taught to lean into and against rein pressure while at a full gallop, allowing the jockeys to help the horses balance while in a race.

Because of this prior training, pulling back on both reins when riding a horse right off the track will result in the horse speeding up and possibly taking off at the gallop. Instead, use your seat to slow the horse down, and let go of your rein pressure. Circling the horse can also help to slow him down. Whatever you do, resist the urge to pull back until you have retrained the horse to understand the new rein aids.

Previous Exposure

Ex-racehorses have gained the unfortunate reputation of being spooky, which isn’t necessarily true. In fact, during their careers, racehorses are exposed to a wide variety of stimuli that could set your average horse on edge. Racehorses have contended with busy crowds, running in tight space with other horses, loud noises, and willingly entering the narrow space of a starting gate. They have seen tractors, vehicles, umbrellas, baby carriages…you name it.

However, what you might not expect is that many ex-racehorses haven’t seen objects that we would regard as being far more ordinary. Boulders, cows, sheep, and objects found on trail rides can be a challenge for ex-racehorses, simply because they haven’t been exposed to them. You might expect your horse to be fine with these stimuli, but when you’re riding an ex-racehorse, you might be surprised at what they haven’t been exposed to.

Riding and training an ex-racehorse can be greatly facilitated if you have a good understanding of the basics of the horse’s prior training and mindset. Take the training slow, and be sure to enlist the help of a trainer if you are new to riding an ex-racehorse.

Original Source: How To Retrain an Ex-Racehorse

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