The NSW Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust has been retraining racehorses to help them find quality new homes and careers in retirement since 2011. Recently rebranded to Team Thoroughbred NSW (TTNSW) to create a single brand for all of Racing NSW’s equine welfare programs and services, they are at the heart of Racing NSW’s commitment to the thoroughbred horse in every stage of its life.
As is the case nationally, 1% of prizemoney from all thoroughbred horse races in NSW is directed into the Equine Welfare Trust which is used to fund TTNSW. The 2017/18 racing season saw more than $2.2 million allocated to the cause.
*BackTrack Program Participants on a trail ride
In an extension of Racing Australia’s rules surrounding the detailed recording of retired racehorses, Racing NSW have also banned the sending of retired racehorses to slaughter.
Racing NSW has acquired three farms to be used by TTNSW:
Bandanora in the Capertee Valley north of Lithgow, is a 2500 acre mixed farming property which boasts a state-of-the-art equestrian centre.
On the north-western outskirts of Sydney, the 137 acre Princes Farm was designed by legendary horse trainer Bart Cummings and remained in the family up until last year. There are future plans to open the property to the public by establishing a racing museum as well as a home for retired champions of the turf onsite.
Previously used as a thoroughbred stud farm, The Grange is an 80-acre farm at Oxley Island on the Mid North Coast of NSW.
There are also up to 100 horses kept on 200 acres of land adjacent to St Heliers Correctional Centre at Muswellbrook. They form part of the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Program where minimum-security inmates learn to train horses in other sporting disciplines as part of their rehabilitation for return to society.
As well as the partnership with St Heliers, TTNSW also partner with Homes For Heroes, an equine therapy program that helps veterans build confidence, reduce anxiety and promote enjoyment.
Earlier this year, TTNSW also entered a partnership with Ballyoch Horses and BackTrack, for a new program designed to assist troubled youth. Below is an edited version of Julieanne Horsman’s article on the program’s first instalment:
When renowned horseman Patrick Herde walked into Armidale’s Burton’s Saddlery in early 2018, as he had done hundreds of times before, he had no inkling this particular visit would set him on the path for his greatest and most rewarding challenge yet. He struck up a conversation with owner Lee Burton who told him about BackTrack. Lee’s son Paul Dawson was working with the unique not-for-profit organisation which helps the most troubled youths get back on the straight and narrow and raved about its positive impact. Patrick wanted to get involved too.
One of the key elements of BackTrack is the Paws Up program where participants learn to train working dogs for shows. It promotes self-control and leadership and as the current Australian champions, it has given the kids a sense of accomplishment they’ve never experienced before. Having seen first-hand the emotional and psychological benefits of working with horses, Patrick came up with an ambitious plan to adapt the dog program for ex-racehorses. He approached BackTrack and Racing NSW’s Team Thoroughbred NSW and was given the green light.
Ten retired racehorses from Team Thoroughbred NSW’s rehoming program were delivered to Patrick’s Deepwater property, Ballyoch Horses.
Some had managed to win races, others hadn’t even made the trials, but they had all been assessed as retrainable for careers after racing. Once a week Paul Dawson from BackTrack would drive half a dozen kids the 140km from Armidale to Patrick’s place so they could help with the retraining process and in turn learn invaluable skills, form friendships and build confidence.
“Firstly, we made sure the horses were safe and once we were confident of that we started teaching the boys and girls the basics,” Patrick said. “It wasn’t long before we had bums in saddles and could ride up into the hills. I was blown away by how far the kids came in the first month alone. The horse mirrors what you are feeling so you have to control your emotions. The kids became very aware of the energy they were putting out. You would see them get angry or frustrated then realise it was affecting their horse and change their attitude.”
Some of the boys have shown such a great aptitude for horsemanship, Patrick has employed them to work at his farm.
“We are teaching them a range of horsemanship and general farm skills which will make them more employable in the future,” Patrick said. “I want to see these kids chasing their dreams and being proud of themselves. We’re certainly proud of them.”
With the first group of horses now trained up for stock work and trail riding, they are ready to be sold so new horses can come into the program. An auction and open day will be held at Ballyoch Horses on Saturday, 1st June 2019, where all sale proceeds will be donated back to BackTrack.
It’s not just the BackTrack participants and horses who are benefiting for the program. The local community is too. Patrick has sourced building materials and feed from the region and uses local service providers. They’ve also formed a polo club and are fundraising to build a field in the middle of Deepwater Racecourse.
“It’s a win win win situation,” he said. “None of us really knew what it was going to look like but we’ve all been determined to make it work for everyone. We’re looking forward to the next group of horses arriving and welcoming more BackTrack kids to the program. My goal is to create more permanent jobs for BackTrack graduates on our farm.”
CLICK HERE to find out more about the Ballyoch Horses/BackTrack Horse Sale & Open Day.