Aust initiative aims to “Reset” racehorses into new careers

Chatsfield is among the first ex-racehorses to go into Racing Victoria's Reset Program to help him toward a second career.
Chatsfield is among the first ex-racehorses to go into Racing Victoria’s Reset Program to help him toward a second career. © Racing Victoria

A new program has been launched in Australia for thoroughbreds in Victoria who have struggled to find the right home following the conclusion of their racing career.

Racing Victoria’s (RV) newly developed “Reset” (Racehorse, Evaluation, Support, Education and Transition) program will provide direct support for those horses that are sound and have good prospects but have not been successful in transitioning to a second career outside racing.

The horses who will feature in the initial pilot of the Reset Program are those who have struggled to capture the imagination of the equestrian community for a variety of reasons.

It is one of several initiatives that will be introduced in the coming months to support sustainable after racing care for Victorian thoroughbreds.

The Reset Program is made possible by the Victorian racing industry’s $25 million commitment to accelerate and expand its three-year equine welfare action plan and will complement RV’s existing Off The Track program which promotes the thoroughbred to the equestrian community.

With the goal of responsible rehoming, each horse in the Reset Program will receive retraining from an RV Acknowledged Retrainer, funded by the industry’s equine welfare fund. It will initially welcome 10 horses, with an additional 20 to join within the first two months.

One of the horses receiving a leg up through the Reset Program is Chatsfield, a 13-year-old gelding, who finished last in his only career start at Echuca in 2011 before being retired the following year.

Surrendered to the RSPCA from a private home in 2019, in light condition, he will now get a new opportunity to be retrained by RV Acknowledged Retrainer, Amanda Porter, and have the prospect of finding a new home and second career. She said she loved working with thoroughbreds and was glad she was in a position to take him on. “There will no doubt be ups and downs as there is retraining any horse for a new career, but I’m confident we can reset Chatsfield for the next phase of his life after racing.”

RSPCA Victoria Head of Operations, Tegan McPherson said Chatsfield was one of 43 horses that came into the RSPCA’s care during the 2019-20 financial year, and the first horse RSPCA Victoria has sent to the Reset Program. “There are hundreds of horses like Chatsfield across the state needing homes and for those who leave the racing industry with many valuable years of life ahead of them, retraining programs like the Reset Program provide an opportunity for a fulfilling second career in a different discipline.

“We’re excited that he now has the opportunity to start a new life,” McPherson said.

“RSPCA Victoria believes that all horses deserve a healthy, happy and fulfilling life therefore we support re-training programs such as Racing Victoria’s Reset Program, because they form a positive pathway for horses that exit the racing industry.”

Challenging times

RV Chief Executive Giles Thompson said that various challenges had confronted the industry since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, but said equine welfare has remained a key focus. “Not only in the interim with the changing economic conditions, but long-term, to ensure the viability of a thriving racing industry in Victoria.

“The introduction of the Reset Program is an important opportunity to help support those horses that have not been successful in transitioning to a second career after racing.

“We made a $25 million commitment to accelerate and expand our three-year equine welfare action plan and the Reset Program is one of several new initiatives that will focus on the welfare of thoroughbreds after racing,” Thompson said.

RV General Manager Equine Welfare Jennifer Hughes said the program was intended to give horses the time and education to fulfil their post-racing potential, and it was also about creating demand for horses that were previously not sought after.

“Our job is to reset the stigma surrounding these horses and give them the opportunity of a second career. We have a terrific network of Acknowledged Retrainers across Victoria and we will be working with them to reset the careers of more thoroughbreds,” Hughes said.

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