Turning a SETBACK into a COMEBACK | Taking on an Ex-Racehorse

Written by Tuesday, 27 March 2018 09:38

I can’t believe Freddie has been home for a whole 6 months! Fred had been injured since last June with a hole in his superficial digital flexor tendon. It’s been a long road since he came home in August with 24/7 box rest, icing, bandages and confined turnout, as well as hand walking him every day for 3 months. The biggest worry about this kind of injury for me, was the fear of the unknown… was it healing, or was all this time and worry going to be for nothing?

Freddie is actually a very easy going thoroughbred, as long as there was good grub he wasn’t worried about messing about or potentially further damaging the leg. However there were a couple of occasions where I did nearly have heart failure! The worst of all was a matter of weeks before his scan on November 1st where he decided to run the Grand National in his tiny paddock, bucking and flat out galloping for about 20 minutes! No heat or swelling showed from the legs so I prayed everything was ok…

One less thing to worry about.

grey pony grazing in field with checked horse rug

The middle of October was also when I decided to turn Freddie out full time in the field with friends Inky and the pony Munchkin. Fred had started to become a bit of a hooligan being brought in at night and was very wired up on his walks. We decided that with a matter of weeks to go until his scan the leg was most likely to have healed or not and Fred having the odd run about wasn’t going to make a lot of difference. We turned Fred and Inky out and then released the pony… moment of truth - NOTHING!… absolutely no reaction at all! Munchkin went straight out to eat and Fred didn’t look up from munching!!

The biggest challenge - Freddie’s weight.

When Fred first came to me he dropped an awful lot of weight within the first week. We believed this to be a bit of an adrenaline shock after leaving a racing yard after 7 years of his life, and also just the change in routine. Thankfully, he picked up after feeding him coolstance corpra and dengie alfa a chaff. However nearing the end of September we realised that this feed combination was not working for Fred. It was sending him a bit nutty and I will put my hands up to admitting that I didn’t realise that alfa a was more like rocket fuel than a conditioning feed for a thoroughbred on box rest! I have literally spent ALL winter looking for a combination of feeds that will put weight on Fred without sending his brain crazy, but finally I think I’ve found the answer…. ! Linseed oil! I have been adding linseed oil to the feeds for just over three weeks now and it has really started to make a difference. He has more condition over his back and bottom and his belly looks much better, much fuller and barely any visibility of his ribs. He is now on coolstance, speedi beet and high fibre nuts too.

1st November was the big day! It was scan day… after months of waiting it was make or break, I was petrified. The team at Whitelodge Vets are fantastic, Phil arrived and set about setting up the scanner ready. Phil scanned both legs and then gave us the verdict… SUCCESS! The hole in Fred’s superficial digital flexor tendon had completely healed and was now filled with scar tissue. I was so unbelievably happy, best day ever! Let the fun begin.


So, by the end of Fred’s recovery time he had become a bit wild and was ready to get on with a job! I had changed his feed, but he was feeling rather 'well' and his hand walks had become a slight challenge for me. He would get overly excited and quite honestly it scared me a little! After all, hand walking a 16’3/17hh horse who is getting very excited and growing even bigger is a bit daunting! I will admit I was frightened of him and I was scared to get on him in less than two weeks. Had I over horsed myself and had I let my heart take over my head?

horse rider on a bay horse standing in indoor menage

Let the journey begin!

The 14th November was the day that I finally climbed back aboard Fred, 178 days after my first and only ride. I was super excited but also very nervous. He had had 6 months out of the game and I was about to jump on at a saddle fitting! My boy surprised me again - he stood like a complete saint for the whole fitting until we’d picked our chosen saddle. I then tacked him up and jumped on. He seemed a bit shocked as to where his mum’s voice was now coming from but he was a complete angel.

horse rider in red jacket riding bay horse on road

 I rode him up the driveway and out onto the road to get a feel for the saddle and to ensure the saddle fitted. I was ecstatic, Fred behaved like a dream and we even had a few strides of trot, he felt huge though! The first time I rode him he had been off a track for 3 days, he was a muscled up athlete, big but not this big I swear! He’d since been off for 6 months and gained a nice summer belly, lost a lot of muscle and looked like a completely different horse. It would now be a case of riding and schooling him back into work and gaining back the topline and muscle he’d lost. 

Hacking out.

The following Sunday was Freddie’s first hack, Emma who owns the pony that Freddie lives with walked with me to be safe, but once again he was a total star! He didn’t put a hoof out of place and loved every minute of it, he seemed super proud of himself to be back in work.

Fred has continued to be super out riding, we have ventured all over the Quantocks and had our first few canters. We’ve faced every imaginable that’s scary and Fred has remained very sane only dancing about and really looking after me. We have only had one moment of utter madness and that came when he saw his old racehorse friends out and we had a display of squealing and mini rearing/jumping! I aim to ride him at least 5/6 times a week although with the recent weather that is proving sometimes difficult! (Snow in March!) He is really good though and hacks out alone or in company completely fine. Due to not having a school at home I have only been hacking and lunging Fred but aim in the next few weeks to get him in a local school to really encourage him to work properly and gain some proper topline and muscle. 

horse rider on bay horse riding on snow covered ground in woodland wearing high visibility clothing

To begin with I planned to winter Fred out as we have a large field shelter which we bed with straw and so they could all easily escape the elements and cosy down if they wanted, however with the dramatic weightloss that occurred I decided to bring them in at night to see if it helped at all. It helped a little, but with the horrendously long winter we’ve had and serious tough temperatures they have now been stabled most of winter. Next year I will see how he does, but the plan will be to keep him out.
So that’s my update on our journey! Still crazy in love with him and can’t wait to see where the journey will take us. Thanks for reading! 
kandf 250






Kaitlin and Freddie xxx



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