By Michael Lynch 

Like all racing jurisdictions throughout the country, Racing Victoria (RV) is committed to equine welfare. A new program launched in July last year called RESET aims to provide direct support for ex-racehorses that have not been successful in their transition to a second career outside racing.

RV launched the RESET program to complement their acknowledged retrainer network, and the organisation’s General Manager – Equine Welfare, Jennifer Hughes is optimistic that this addition is already increasing the options for ex-racehorses to find good homes and useful lives once their track days are done.

“The program’s name is an acronym of what we are trying to do with the program, as it stands for Racehorse Evaluation, Support, Education and Transition, and aims to ‘reset’ the stigma around these horses,” said Hughes.

It can also be linked to the horse Lloyd Williams once owned a multiple Group 1-winning galloper called Reset, who retired from stallion duties last year] as well, so it works on various levels.

RESET is an evolution of an existing system, Hughes explains. “It is designed to maximise opportunities for all horses, not just those easy to rehome.”

“Previously, our post-racing approach was reliant upon our acknowledged retrainers to take on retiring racehorses at their own cost. This naturally biased our efforts towards the horses that were easy to sell on, or to retrain and find new homes for. That’s understandable, as they are running a business.”

Well, it worked, but only up to a point – which is why she and her colleagues sought to build upon it.

Brown horse looking over a field of grass

“What we were finding, is because the retrainers weren’t being paid to retrain, we couldn’t ask them to take particular horses, so there were certain horses that weren’t getting picked up, and they were going round and round in circles on a lonely carousel.

“They might have been a little bit old, maybe they had been turned out in a field for five years, maybe they had retired with a tendon injury and recovered from it but no one wanted to give them a chance, the ugly duckling type of thing.

“The RESET plan is very much targeting that problem.”

So, how does it function?

“Through the Acknowledged Retrainer Program we offer various incentives like subsidised clinics, education, promotion, subsidised adverts for horses and grant opportunities, but there’s no funding attached to specific horses,” Hughes explained.

VRC Quote Marks

RESET is very much targeting those horses that are sound and have every chance of making it in the equestrian community.

“It’s not sustainable to centrally fund the retraining of every horse coming out of racing, and in doing that you would devalue the ones that do find their own market.

“RESET is very much targeting those horses that are sound and have every chance of making it in the equestrian community, but for whatever reason, no one is giving them that chance. The money that people would make on turning these horses around may not be enough to cover their costs to retrain them for three months.

“But by covering the retraining costs to give these horses a chance, to put the extra polish on them at the end of their racing career, it does provide more options.

That extra polish is more than just grooming and teaching racehorses a few new ‘tricks’ to make them appealing.

“The way the horses are trained to race is very different to the job they do in the equestrian disciplines,” Hughes said.

“They are carrying a different saddle, the riders’ legs are in a different place, the aids are slightly different, they might never have been over a fence before and some of them will be asked to jump obstacles.

“So RESET is an upskilling program to convert the skills they have already got, into the equestrian field and is complementary to the existing retraining program.” And, Hughes says, RESET quickly had an impact following its launch last year.

“We officially commenced the program in mid-July and have already had over 10 horses graduate into a variety of second careers. We are actively seeking other horses appropriate for the program so any owners or trainers who have a horse that has struggled to transition to a second career after racing should contact RV’s Off The Track team.

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Second Chance Support article