What does your horse's retirement look like?

Have you thought about your horse’s retirement after racing?

Did you know that by planning for their retirement home, their post-racing career can be just as successful, if not more so, than their time at the racetrack? 

Enter Lou Abey, the 2023 Racing Victoria Retrainer of the Year, who has been recognised for her outstanding work when it comes to retraining and rehoming retired racehorses for secondary careers.

Lou, who had a long-standing career working in racing, recognises the need for current owners to be thinking ahead and encourages them to talk with their trainers and consider options to help secure the future for their thoroughbred and its life after racing.

“It’s hugely important for owners to be thinking about what retirement looks like for their horse,” she said. 

“Many horses exit the racing industry quite young, often even as young as three to six years old, but they’re still going to live for many years following this and have potential to enter a broad range of career paths. To give each horse the best chance at a bright future, accessing a retrainer and considering their horse’s future is really vital.” 

Lou indicated that the current economic climate also means that more than ever some thoroughbreds are needing assistance to correctly transition to their new career. 

“I think there’s a bit of a misconception about the cost of spelling and retraining a horse and how long realistically this can be maintained and so owner-funded retraining needs to be considered,” she said. 

“Trainers should talk to their owners and vice versa about what life might look like for their horse post racing. Some trainers have even established a future fund built into their training fees which is definitely a step in the right direction and I’d encourage more people to look into this viable option.”

Accessing retrainers and looking at life after racing can be done through the Racing Victoria Off The Track Community ottcommunity.com.au where owners and trainers have the opportunity to search for Acknowledged Retrainers in their area, access Racing Victoria’s post racing programs or seek further information on the obligations and opportunities available when retiring a racehorse.

Click here to watch a short video to learn more about transitioning your racehorse to a life after racing.

Lou says that the connection between owners and horses when they go to a retrainer, or are rehomed, can continue and is far from over. She encourages owners to stay in touch with their horse and to even explore visiting the horse in its new career.

“I love it when owners and trainers reach out and check in with any of our horses. Last week, with an older horse we have I received a call saying, ‘I owned this horse 10 years ago’ and it’s really lovely to see when the interest and connection is still maintained,” she said. 

Owners need not worry about their horse when it transitions to an Acknowledged Retrainer as the care offered is of the highest standard. 

“When a horse arrives at a retrainer they may require a letdown period depending on their racing history. At Abey Performance Horses, we allow them to settle in and ensure that we check their feet, their teeth, look at their vet records, look at the riding records and really get a sense of where they’ve been and how we can tailor each program for each horse.

“How much time this takes depends on each horses’ specific needs. This initial period may be several weeks to six months for certain injuries. Following the let down the horses enter retraining for eight to 12 weeks before we look to match the horse up with a new home.”

Lou has retrained and housed retired horses from all over Victoria, New South Wales, Darwin and Hong Kong and is passionate about her role and the connections that she makes with horses and new and old owners.

“I love it, it’s really rewarding and I feel really lucky to work with these amazing animals. I’m passionate about giving horses a good life after racing.

“You get to meet great people and so many of the horses have had such incredible backgrounds and to get to know them is just awesome.

“I was stoked to win the Retrainer of the Year award and actually quite overwhelmed. It’s so good for the hard work of my loyal team to be recognised.

“I would encourage owners who do not have a clear retirement pathway for their horse to contact an RV Acknowledged Retrainer directly or Racing Victoria to discuss the options available to their horse.

“I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to safeguard their horses’ future,” she said.