When a new arrival turns up at the Sanctuary the first thing that happens is that the horse will be thoroughly examined by our equine veterinary surgeon.
It is not uncommon for retiring racehorses to be suffering from some level of bone stress or tendon injury. Between them, the vet, Graham and Sue will decide on a course of treatment in order to return the horse to good health if this is an issue.
In any case the horse will complete a period in isolation, typical to arriving at any new yard, to ensure that they are not incubating any infectious medical condition, which might affect the other equine inhabitants at the Sanctuary
One advantage of this period of peace and quiet is that the horse can acclimatise after their move, their diet can gradually be changed to build them up or let them down as required, their general attitude can be assessed, and they can start to establish relationships with their human carers.
The next step, subject to soundness, will see the animal being put to light work. This starts with lunging in the safety of the enclosed menage, leading on to being ridden, first by Graham, then if he feels the horse is making progress towards a change from the style essential to competitive racing to a safer style required for the less general rider, by other members of staff and volunteers.
At the same time, our horse will be turned out to share a paddock with other horses, with whom they can establish new equine relationships.
All this time assessment will continue as Graham and his team look to work out, what future would best suit our horse. The modern racehorse has been bred to an active life, so top priority for the team will be to determine the level of challenge most suited to our ex-racehorse: the more active, the happier they are going to be in retirement from racing. Future options for the active horse may encompass endurance racing, hunting, cross country jumping, show jumping, hacking or perhaps for the more sedentary individual, showing in hand; surprisingly ex-racehorses can take very well to dressage, which provides a combination of both mental and physical challenge.
But even for those horses with long-term injuries, such as kissing spines, a not uncommon later life consequence of too much racing as a two year old, Graham and his team do not despair; their change will be given the time and treatment needed to recover; and should the horse still be unsuitable for ridden work will be found a suitable home as a companion horse.
Only when Graham and his team are satisfied that our horse is ready and safe to move beyond the assessment stage, will the team start a personalised programme of retraining.