“Rehabilitating and re-educating retired NSW Thoroughbred racehorses for recreational or professional use and care.”
The Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust (TRT) is a not-for-profit charity that assists the rehabilitation and re-education of for NSW Thoroughbred racehorses.
Supported by TRT, The Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Program is an initiative set up by Racing NSW and Corrective Services NSW.
The program offers specialised techniques and processes to rehabilitate racehorses and inmates alike.
Once horses complete the rehabilitation they are re-homed and/or new equine careers.
On Saturday (the 26th of October) TRT hosted an Open Day at Canterbury Racecourse, with the aim of showcasing the benefits of the retraining program and gaining more volunteers.
Fillies Form were interested in knowing more about the initiative so we hopped in the car and set out on what would be a very informative day.
Upon arrival to the Canterbury stables, guests were welcomed by Scott Brodie, the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Manager at TRT plus a handful of the horses currently going through the program.
There were also a number of volunteers looking after the horses, maintaining the stables, running the sausage sizzle and the fundraising raffle.
The main highlight of the day would be the demonstration of training techniques used in the rehabilitation program delivered by Scott.
Scott’s knowledge about the intricacies of rehabilitating horses has developed from decades of experience in the field. As a horse trainer with the NSW Mounted Police for 20 years, he would re-educate ex-racehorses to become highly proficient police mounts and accomplished competition horses. Scott is also a qualified Instructor with the Equestrian Federation of Australia, has a competitive background in eventing and dressage and has even trained under many Olympians and world class instructors.
Even though he has an impressive resume, it is not until you witness him applying his trade, that you gain a greater appreciation of his “Natural Horsemanship”. A valuable asset that Scott possesses is his ability to engage the crowd and express his passion for both the horses he works with, and the program he runs. As we sat in an undercover arena, Scott enthusiastically spoke of the achievements reached by TRT since its establishment 2 years ago. He highlighted the hard work, dedication and patience required to rehabilitate and re-home horses.
Scott then put his thoroughbred to work. He took the audience through a step by step demonstration of the process from when the horse enters the program to when the horse is ready to be sold. With a crowd of 50+ on hand and the BBQ cooking in the background, the mare was not always on her best behaviour but Scott persisted and she responded.
So what horses are allowed into the program? The first criteria is that the racehorse must have been racing prepared or must have raced in NSW. It must also be a thoroughbred filly/mare, colt/stallion, rig or gelding that is physically sound, however respiratory issues will be assessed on an individual basis. Also to be assessed individually will be thoroughbreds with neurotic behaviours and/or vices such as ‘wind sucking’, ‘weaving’, ‘circling’, ‘woodbiting’ or ‘cribbing’ (unfortunately all the vices possessed by the Fillies Form staff). Each new participant will be assessed in regard to temperament and suitability for re-education. Horses donated to the Trust are surrendered to Racing NSW for retraining and sale.
On average the time taken to re-train an ex-racehorse is approximately 2 months, but it may take longer as the aim is to provide horses that are safe for their new owners. Horses that graduate often go on to have careers in the Police and Security fields, or are used for equestrian and leisure purposes.
Where do the proceeds from the sales go? All proceeds from the sales of the retrained horses are reinvested back into the Program. As mentioned earlier this is a not-for-profit organisation and Racing NSW provides funding and administrative support. Many sponsors also support the program but it the generosity from the public in terms of donations that is critical to the programs ongoing success.
What we noticed was the tireless work that the volunteers put in to make the program run smoothly. We were told that a group of volunteers dedicate every Monday to cleaning the office, stables, tack room and gear and more often than not provide a prepared lunch for the trainers and staff. Then there are the stable hands and track riders that are highly sought after as their skills and dedication ultimately lead to the success of the program.
After arriving at the Open Day with little idea of what TRT was all about, we left knowing that there is a group of amazing people out there who are dedicated to providing lives for horses once they retire from the track. Fillies Form would like to urge sponsors, volunteers and owner’s of racehorses in NSW to support the program as it’s desperately needed.
One of the highlights of the TRT Open Day was spotting one of our favourite horses of days gone by, the talented Pergola, who was taking part in the program.
Pergolas owner Ian Mackay and his 3 young boys were also in attendance, and Ian kindly retold Pergolas story and a little about his involvement with TRT.
Pergola is an 8yo, trained by the wonderful horse people Colin and Cindy Alderson, that at one stage in his career we held high hopes for a run in the Melbourne Cup. He was pre-post favorite for the Cranbourne Cup in 2009 and was around 70th in order of entry for the Cup. We dared to dream that he would win the Cranbourne Cup then the Saab Quality and grab a spot in the Cup. Unfortunately it all came crashing down when he injured himself the day before the Cranbourne Cup and it was more than a year before he made a return to the races. He still gave us a thrill when he returned to the track, winning two more races both at Moonee Valley before he gradually lost interest in racing.
He retired having won 5 races and over $200,000, providing us with some great thrills and experiences including running in the Adelaide Cup and running in the race after the Cup at Flemington in 2010.
As he was coming to the end of his career I had just joined Racing NSW and learned of the great work of the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust. The Trust is the charity arm of the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Program which is run by Racing NSW AND Corrective Services NSW. It aims to give retired racehorses a second chance in life after their racing careers are over.
I put my hand up to be Chairman of the Trust and quickly gained the agreement of the co-owners of Pergola to float him to NSW so he could be retrained in the program. He is coming along nicely and it was wonderful to see him again on the weekend. I am sure he’ll find a wonderful new home and provide as much pleasure to his new owners as he did to us.