What happens to racehorses when they retire?

What happens to racehorses when they retire depends on a variety of factors, including breeding potential, age, physical soundness and temperament. Horses that are capable of breeding and have potential to become successful stallions or broodmares, by virtue of their pedigree or racecourse performance, or both, are often retired to stud. Of course, horses who have been castrated, or gelded , particularly National Hunt horses, who also race for much longer than their Flat counterparts, have no such option.

The ‘romantic’ notion of a racehorse being turned out in a field to enjoy its retirement may be appropriate if the horse is no longer fit for work but, otherwise, thoroughbred racehorses are best suited to an active life, even in retirement. This could simply be as a trainer’s hack, but there are numerous possibilities for alternative careers. With expert care and attention, former racehorses can be retrained as show jumpers, dressage, eventing or polo horses, thereby helping them to avoid physical and temperamental problems in later life. Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), which is funded, in part, by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), is the official charity for the welfare of retired racehorses and supports five rehabilitation centres across the country.