What happens to racehorses when they retire?

Exactly what happens to a racehorse when its racing days are over varies widely from horse to horse. Horses bred in the purple, or those that have enjoyed successful racing careers, or both, may well be shipped off to stud to become stallions or broodmares at the end of their three-year-old campaigns. Other, less successful, horses, or those incapable of breeding – that is, castrated male horses, known as ‘geldings’ – may not have that option, but nevertheless end their racing careers while still mentally and physically fit.

The nature of thoroughbred racehorses dictates that they need expert care and attention but, in the right hands, they can be successfully retrained for a further career away from the racecourse. This could include any of the sports horse disciplines, such as dressage, eventing, polo or show jumping or, for a competent rider, as a hack or riding horse. The charity known as Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), which is funded, in part, by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), supports five rehabilitation centres in Britain.