Thoroughbred aftercare

The results

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This horse has genetic markers indicating it is built for power and early speed rather than distance.

With a bias towards strength, this horse may be physically suited to high-intensity sports like polo, horseball, team penning and barrel racing.

This horse’s long and low way of moving and flat knee action matches the judging criteria set out for saddle hunters, and western pleasure show classes.

This horse lacks endurance and stamina traits that will allow it to perform competitively over long distances.

Not just one-trick ponies

Every year, hundreds of thousands of racehorses reach the end of their racing career and are available for a new purpose.

Thoroughbred athleticism and intelligence make the breed well-suited to competing in a wide range of equestrian disciplines.

Since thoroughbreds are not bred to a specific phenotype, each horse has unique characteristics and performance traits depending on its genetic makeup.

Some horses are better at certain disciplines than others, and genetic testing can be used by owners to determine realistic second-career goals and understand whether a horse is likely to excel at speed and agility sports like polo, or endurance sports like eventing.

Even with the backing of high-level research and decades of genetic science experience, there is no cookie-cutter approach when it comes to retraining ex-racehorses.

While this report makes informed, educated statements based on this thoroughbred’s genetic factors, not every horse will fit the predictive mold successfully.

Making a sound investment

During retraining, this horse will benefit from slow conditioning with daily low-intensity exercise. The return to full activity should be a steady but gradual process.

The muscle fibers in this horse are prone to fatigue, and poor performance if they are not conditioned properly before work. If pushed too hard too soon, lactic acid will build up in the muscle tissue, causing inflammation, and sometimes lameness.

It is important for this horse to be sufficiently warmed-up in a long-and-low frame before training, and to take frequent breaks during exercise sessions to prevent muscle trauma.

Care should be taken not to introduce this horse to high-impact exercise like jumping or sprinting too quickly after any rest period, since the forelegs absorb up to 65 percent of the weight-bearing impact. Horses like this individual have extra muscle mass around the forelimbs and a slightly higher risk of injury.

Temperament

This horse’s genetic profile indicates that it is both mentally resilient, and able to stay focused under pressure.

Thoroughbreds competing in adrenalin sports like barrel racing or team penning must function mentally at a high level to not only handle, but also excel under challenging circumstances and high-stress environments.

Polo is an intense contact sport, so horses have to stay calm to keep their head in the game. Since this horse has a genetic bias towards being steady headed, it may be well suited to intense play during a polo or horseball matches.

Western performance

High-intensity western sports require a horse with a lower center of gravity, and the ability to accelerate and decelerate rapidly and sprint powerfully over short distances.

The well-defined muscles of this horse ensure a high stride frequency combined with a low, flat galloping profile that is helpful for barrel racers required to tightly maneuver around a cloverleaf pattern at speed.

An elite barrel sprint is over in less than 30 seconds, and while this horse is not able to sustain a rapid pace over long distances, it is innately suited to western sports like barrel racing, team penning and pole bending.

Show and pleasure

This horse’s conformation is not ideal for jumping or dressage, since these horses must be able to rapidly lighten the forehand, elevate and collect their frame on demand.

The long and low ‘daisy-cutter’ way of going is however favored by show ring judges.

If this horse moves with a sweepy flat kneed action and has a nice topline (with the head, neck, withers, back, loin, and croup proportionate to each other), then it could find a successful second career as a western pleasure horse or show hunter.

Polo and horseball

This horse’s low-set neck and head are able to shift the center-of-gravity forward and down, restricting shoulder movement, mobility, and stride length to produce maximum propulsion and speed for sports that run against the clock.

Polo players can benefit from this horse’s flat galloping profile, which helps them shift their center of gravity forward to effectively swing at the ball.

Polo ponies run an average of one mile during each chukker (which lasts seven minutes). This horse’s type 2 x muscle mass adds essential strength over distances of up to one mile, but the energy levels cannot be replenished, and depletion of power can occur quickly if it is not sufficiently rested between chukkas.

A note on welfare and soundness

Many thoroughbreds come out of the racing industry in excellent condition, ready for a second athletic career almost immediately. Other horses will finish racing with light health issues that simply require medication, turnout and rehabilitation.

Thoroughbreds that retire with some degree of chronic soft tissue injury will likely be unsuitable for high-intensity sports like polo or speed events, because they will have a heightened risk of sustaining a secondary injury.

This is because the new tissue is less elastic and is most likely to give way if put under stress like turning or stopping at speed.

These horses are better suited to a second career as pleasure/recreational horses.