Life After Racing, for a Thoroughbred

| November 28, 2018

Buffering and The Cleaner live a peaceful retirement at Living Legends just outside of Melbourne.

Horses have helped shape human civilization since they were domesticated 6,000 years ago. They have been a part of many different aspects of everyday human life, especially in the agriculture, transportation, warfare and sporting industries. Before the widespread use of machines, horses were integral to daily life around the world.

Although horses are less commonly used to pull farming equipment or carriages in recent years; they are part of the thriving sporting industry with polo, racing and more. Horses have galloped into the therapy industry too. 

Equine Therapy

Horses have been used to help treat physical ailments since the fifth century. This has officially been known as hippotherapy since the 1960s. Patients ride and care for their 4 legged therapists to aide in muscle strengthening, increase flexibility, and ease other symptoms due to accidents, strokes, cerebral palsy, and many other conditions.

More recently, horses have been used in EAP, equine assisted psychotherapy, to help patients with psychological and/or behavioral issues. Horses are sensitive and intuitive, making them a great emotional therapy animal. Although there isn’t a lot of research to back up this new therapy yet, patients and proponents of EAP are thankful for their equine therapists for making a difference in their lives.

Just like it takes a certain type of person to be a therapist, a service animal must have a good bedside manner with its patients. A calm, intuitive, and understanding temperament is key to for a good equine therapy horse.  Thoroughbred racehorses often get a bad reputation for being temperamental and high strung.

New Hope for Older Horses

Thoroughbred race horses are similar to human athletes in their hard work, dedication, and intensive training. Also like human athletes, they can have profitable (sometimes earning hundreds of thousands of dollars) but often short careers that can end abruptly due to injury. Medical bills due to old and compounding injuries and lack of new revenue sources can lead owners to send retired race horses to the slaughterhouse.

But these older thoroughbreds love to work! They often miss the routine, attention, and connection that came with their career.  With some rehab and training, they can make wonderful therapy animals and are even able to work with autistic and PTSD patients of all ages. There are opportunities for horses to work with a variety of patients or be paired with one person for a long period of time. The one on one patient and horse bond can have positive outcomes for both, easing patient symptoms and helping thoroughbreds deal with any issues from their racing career.

Thankfully organizations and individuals are stepping up to help all horses have a better future. The Homes for Horses Coalition works to end horse slaughter and increase communication and cooperation in the horse protection and rescue community. There are many programs and organizations working to pair older race horses with loving new homes, therapy programs, and farms (like Old Friends) where they can live out their days safe, happy and fulfilled.


Category: Special interest

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