In just five short years more than 200 former racehorses have found new homes after spending time adjusting to life off the racetrack near Maryborough.
At Liz Andriske's Spare One Thoroughbred Rehoming the horses get time to "chill out" and relax for up to six months after their racing career ends before the next much-longer phase of their life begins.
Ms Andriske accidentally fell in to thoroughbred rehoming five years ago when she bought a horse from the Echuca Horse Sales.
She asked where the throughbreds go that do not find homes through the sales and when she learned many end up the the knackery she knew she had to act.
After falling in love with her horse, she decided she should rescue another one from the sales and work with it to find a new home.
"It was lucky for everyone else that the first one we got was such a lovely horse or we wouldn't have gone back," she laughs.
One new horse at a time quickly turned in to two at a time, then four and now there can be up to 28 horses using her property as a "half way house" before moving on elsewhere.
"I would get these off the track thoroughbreds at the sales and I would ring around trainers to get information on the horse so I knew more about them," she said.
"Then through doing that I made a lot of contacts within the racing industry to the point where we got so many horses coming in directly from trainers that we don't have space for them from the sales now."
Trainers from Ballarat, Bendigo, Echuca, Seymour, Warrnambool, interstate and New Zealand now directly offer her horses that either won't make the cut for a racing career or who are ready for retirement.
But that doesn't mean there are more horses going to the knackery via the sales. In the five years Ms Andriske has been working the number of people looking for thoroughbreds has also grown and now far fewer go through the sales.
Ms Andriske is quick to point out that she is a rehomer, not a retrainer like many who are part of Racing Victoria's OTT retrainer program.
She gives them the horses the time and space to settle down after the demands of life in a racing stable.
"Like any sort of athlete they have a letdown period. Like an athlete they are in full work and often they have a transition period to everyday life when they retire.
"We give them a period of time off after racing to get all that race feed out of their system, to let down, relax, chill and after around six months we reintroduce them to a new career.
"Thoroughbreds have versatility and personality. They are a breed that love people, have got a zest for life and they love to learn. If you do the right thing by them and put the right training in to them you get so much out of them.
"They are a very passionate breed. Their racing career is so short - the majority of horses we get are aged four to six and they can live up to 30 years and can be ridden usually until they are around 22.
"They have so much to offer for such a long span of their lives post-racing."
And often those six months off results in a completely different horse from the one that first stepped off the float.
"A lot of the time a trainer says the horse is this or this, but that's when it's on the track and once they have had a spell you find they aren't like that any more."
Ms Andriske can no longer ride herself because of a back injury, so during their time off a friend of hers comes over to ride them a couple of times to assess their suitability for new homes.
Often it is retrainers that buy horses from her for their clients, or experienced riders who can give the thoroughbreds the education they need to become eventers, showjumpers, trail horses or take on other roles.
IN OTHER NEWS
When Ms Andriske started to get serious about rescuing thoroughbreds she did some work around her 11 acre property to make it suitable - and she recently started redoing fences and other projects.
The horses coming in to her property from now will benefit from Ms Andriske's recent win in the prestigious Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards where she won the category for care and welfare after racing.
With it came a trophy and $10,000 prize which will help some of those projects and other maintenance.
"It will all go back in to horses and setting out stuff to make it safer for me because I do a lot of stuff around here on my own."
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