A new rule of racing is now in effect to support racehorses in retiring from their track careers to new homes.
Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA) aims for all healthy and behaviourally sound thoroughbred and standardbred horses to retire to second careers as pleasure or performance horses.
To help achieve this, Chief Executive Officer Ian Edwards said a new local rule of racing requires owners and trainers to make a demonstrated effort to rehome horses from August 1.
“As an industry, we are committed to the continued evolution and elevation of our welfare standards,” Ian said.
“Most racehorses leave the track with a retirement plan already in place, whether it’s for breeding or a new start in a different equestrian discipline, but now it officially becomes an obligation for owners to make every reasonable effort to rehome horses.
“The new retirement rule has been timed to follow the establishment of RWWA’s Off the Track WA, which complements existing pathways for rehoming racehorses.”
Off the Track WA (OTTWA) includes the OTTWA Estate in North Dandalup and OTTWA Retraining Program, which have been operating since September 2020.
Through the program, RWWA takes ownership of retired racehorses and covers all the costs of care and retraining until they are matched to the right new home. Priority is given to horses which may be more challenging to rehome, such as those in remote areas.
“We’re thrilled by the success of the OTTWA Retraining Program. We recently sold our 40th retrained horse, which was our target for the first year so we’re ahead of schedule,” Ian said.
“Demand for retrained horses is high and we have about 50 people on our waiting list. The program gives new owners peace of mind that the horses have been vet checked and retrained.
“The application process is thorough and horses are matched to disciplines and riders that suit them so they have the best chance of finding their forever home. We want people to form strong bonds with the horses, so we follow up with support such as OTTWA clinics to help horses and riders develop their skills together.”
More than 2000 horses now have an Off the Track WA Passport, a program which gives access to subsidised education and special events while also enabling RWWA to trace the lives of former racehorses.
“We have former racehorses now competing in all kinds of disciplines including dressage, eventing, show jumping, show horse, endurance and polocrosse,” Ian said.
“Several have been donated to specialist riding centres as therapy horses for people who have physical, intellectual, emotional and social challenges.
“The OTTWA program is the first of its kind in Western Australia and it’s proving the versatility and value of thoroughbreds and standardbreds as they find new purpose and rewarding lives after racing.”
A booklet titled Life After Racing has been produced as an industry guide to the new rule. It is available online and print copies can be requested.