Research explores retired racehorses in Australia; owners sought for survey

6 JUNE 2022

Research explores retired racehorses in Australia; owners sought for survey

A Charles Sturt University researcher seeks participants for an online survey to identify physical and behavioural attributes shown in retired racehorses (Thoroughbred and Standardbred) that are enjoying a successful post-racing career.

  • Researcher seeks previous and current owners of retired racehorses in Australia to complete an online survey about observed attributes of retired racehorses in their new careers
  • The survey investigates physical and behavioural characteristics that may make retired racehorses more successful in a post-racing career
  • The online survey is open from Monday 6 June for seven weeks and closes on Monday 25 July

A Charles Sturt University researcher seeks participants for an online survey to identify physical and behavioural attributes shown in retired racehorses (Thoroughbred and Standardbred) that are enjoying a successful post-racing career.

Ms Mollie Buckley (pictured) is a Bachelor of Equine Science graduate in the Charles Sturt School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences who is conducting Honours research to address the current lack of knowledge about what makes retired racehorses successful in their new post-racing careers.

Ms Buckley’s survey will investigate what it is that can make retired racehorses able to fulfil their new role, as well as the challenges owners face due to physical and/or behavioural limitations.

“Retired racehorses currently have a reputation for being ‘highly strung’ and difficult to manage,” she said.

“This may be true in cases where the horse receives a poor level of training for the new discipline, or the horse is not matched well with the new owner, or the horse has experienced poor welfare outcomes at some point throughout its life.”

The survey will also explore details about the current discipline the horse is involved in, whether that be competitive or recreational, and will also explore information and experiences regarding education (both ridden and groundwork), housing and management behaviours, and demographics.

Ms Buckley said that although many retired racehorses are involved in a wide range of non-racing disciplines, little is known about the factors that may make them successful once they leave the racetrack, and her research aims to reveal what makes retired racehorses successful in a variety of post-racing careers.

“Owning a retired racehorse can be a very rewarding experience,” Ms Buckley said.

“While there is definitely a market for retired racehorses in a variety of disciplines, the general public does not have access to information which shows how these horses progress beyond the racetrack.

“This may have a profound impact on the industry’s social license to operate, and retired racehorse welfare outcomes.”

Ms Buckley’s co-researcher is Ms Stephanie Evans at Hartpury University in the UK and their supervisory team includes Dr Glenys Noble and Associate Professor Hayley Randle in the Charles Sturt School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences, and international collaborator Associate Professor Jane Williams at Hartpury University.

“This is a really exciting project as the issue of whole-of-life welfare for all horses is more important than ever before,” Professor Randle said.

“There are many retired racehorses that go on to be very successful in a second career, including several ex-racehorses that have represented Australia at the Olympic Games and World Championships, winning medals.”

Dr Noble said, “While not every horse has to represent Australia to be a success, there are thousands of thoroughbreds competing in a wide variety of sports every weekend.

“This is due in part to the various off-the-track programs around Australia, and Mollie’s research will provide valuable insights for these organisations so they can better match horses with new owners.”

Ms Buckley said the research will identify which physical and behavioural attributes contribute to the successful re-homing of retired racehorses, and whether these attributes can be supported while still actively participating in the racing industry to better support a seamless transition from racing to retirement.

“The current goals for the racing industry on a national scale are centred around improving welfare standards throughout all stages of life and providing all racehorses coming off the racetrack with a secure new home,” she said.

“The information collected from the survey will allow us to identify main themes and trends that make retired racehorses appealing for a variety of disciplines coming off the track.

“When we understand these attributes and whether they can be supported while actively racing, the results will be able to help guide further research which supports better welfare outcomes for racehorses throughout all stages of life.”

“Once completed and published, this research may also be used by the Australian racing industry in its efforts to rehome racehorses.”

Ms Buckley encourages all previous and current owners of retired racehorses to participate in the research.

The online survey is open from Monday 6 June for seven weeks and closes on Monday 25 July.

The survey will take approximately 20 minutes to complete and participants can access the survey here.

Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Ms Mollie Buckley contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or via news@csu.edu.au

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Animal and Veterinary science Research Science