Three Chimneys Presents Good News Friday: A Horsey New Year - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Three Chimneys Presents Good News Friday: A Horsey New Year

The group of OTTBs greets the London crowd on New Year’s Day

New Year's Day dawned rainy and windy as London's New Year's Day Parade took to the streets. The weather didn't deter the crowds though, and it couldn't rinse the smiles off four riders who tacked up their off-track Thoroughbreds for the parade.

The quartet, sporting the yellow, red, and black quarter sheets that are practically standard issue for English racehorses, represented the rehoming program of racehorse trainer Jim Boyle and his wife Pippa.

Horses have had a place in the event since New Year's Day in 2012, when an equine group was added to the parade in honor of Queen Elizabeth's love of horses during her Diamond Jubilee year. The group, dubbed 'All the Queen's Horses,' totals 84 horses from nine different performance teams or breed organizations.

Aimee Oswin, who had recently purchased an ex-Boyle trainee, inquired about getting a team of off-track Thoroughbreds in the parade in late 2013 and found a slot had opened up. Oswin and Pippa Boyle pulled together three more riders and horses, all of whom retired from Boyle's yard within the last three years.

But just how do you prepare a group of Thoroughbreds, even well-behaved ones, for the noise and crowds in one of the busiest cities in the world?

Actually, Pippa said, they didn't.

“They just loaded up and off they went,” she said. “The first 100 meters were a little bit exciting, because the weather was horrific, the wind was terrible, and you sort of come off the side street and you're bang, in all this noise and wind and rain. The first 100 meters of the parade they're just like 'Woo hoo!'

“By the time they'd gone the course of the parade route, they were as relaxed and chilled as anything. They were happy to stop, start, do whatever.”

Tatawor greets visitors along the route
Tatawor greets visitors along the route

The horses also seemed to take to the job of greeting the crowd, stopping for photos and pats on the nose. The Boyles say they aren't surprised the horses took so well to the challenge—they know better than most just how versatile the breed can be.

Jim Boyle has trained in the United Kingdom for 12 years and has always worked to find suitable homes for the horses in his care. He estimates in that time, the couple has found homes for about 120 horses at the end of their careers.

Although Pippa has ridden horses on- and off-track for her whole career, the Boyles don't put any retraining on most horses themselves—they just fill the role of matchmaker.

“We haven't actually found that necessary, as long as you're matching the right horse to the right standard of rider,” said Jim. “Mostly, these racehorses are very well-adjusted, good rides, and contrary to popular misconceptions, they've been there and done that, and don't need a whole heap of retraining in our experience before leaving the yard.”

If a horse needs more time to find its perfect match, it's not a problem—while Jim Boyle manages a racing stable, Pippa manages a breeding and lay-up facility where they can turn horses out while they're waiting for their new home, even if it takes a year or two.

Perhaps in contrast to rehoming groups in America, Jim doesn't often find himself trying to place a horse that can't be ridden due to old injuries. A few may be limited to lighter mounted work, but he reports that the majority are retiring sound with clean legs.

The effort to find new jobs for OTTBs has blossomed in the past decade in the United Kingdom, as it has in the States. Pippa said that to her knowledge it's quite common for trainers to work to find loving new homes for horses when they retire, although many don't advertise that they do so.

The team poses in front of Buckingham Palace
The team poses in front of Buckingham Palace

The Boyles only made their rehoming project public when they grew tired of encountering misconceptions from non-racing folk about the treatment of horses after they retired. Pippa maintains the Facebook page Jim Boyle's Ex-Racehorses, which serves as an online meeting place for owners of former Boyle horses and helps the couple keep up with their ex-trainees.

“We got really, really fed up with people saying, 'You shoot them when you're finished with them, it's cruel,'” she said. “We spend hours rehoming these horses. We put a lot of work into it. That's how the Facebook page came about –it didn't seem to matter what you told people, they didn't believe you, whereas if you could show them, if they could actually see something, they believed you a lot more.”

As a result of their efforts, they get an overwhelmingly positive response to their message that ex-racehorses make great riding horses for almost any discipline.

nyd2The hours poured into Facebook and spent marching through the rain in London haven't just been beneficial for the horses—they've been touching for the Boyles, too. Thanks to social media, they have watched their former charges conquer cross country courses, dance through dressage quadrilles, tear up the polo fields, and canter with their new owners over sandy beaches.

“I think these horses are fantastic,” said Pippa. “Some of them we've foaled, and have seen them their whole way through their racing career, and we can follow them through in their next life. It's a natural evolution, because you want your horses to go somewhere safe.”

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