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16 October 2023

National Racehorse Week Q&A: Lauren Vickerson, The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre

This year for National Racehorse Week (NRW), The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre (BTRC)  took part in two activities, could you tell us a bit about them?

The BTRC get involved in National Racehorse Week every year as it is such a great initiative. This time we decided to head out into the community to meet those people who may not be able to visit a yard; our first visit was to Chirnside House, a Care Home in Lancaster. BTRC Drifting Star (8-year-old, raced 8 times) and BTRC My My (12-year-old, raced 10 times) greeted the residents, who were delighted to meet the horses and learn more about their life as racehorses and their options for a new career now they are retired. Both horses were so gentle and stood still while being patted and fussed over.

Our next visit took place at Slyne-with-Hest C of E Primary School, where BTRC Drifting Star met over 200 children – who were all VERY excited to see a former racehorse in their playground! BTRC Shetland Pony Mascot Washbear also attended for the youngest children to meet. They learnt about racehorses and the life they lead after their career on track.

Why is it important for aftercare centres to be engaging with NRW?

It is extremely important as Aftercare forms a large part of a racehorse’s life, often longer than they have been on track, so it is important to educate the public on their life after racing. Promoting Aftercare is a large part of our work and educating people on best practice is vital to ensure Thoroughbreds find the best homes in their post-racing careers.

How can engaging with horses help young people, particularly those who may have never interacting with them before?

Research has shown that spending time around horses is beneficial to promoting good mental health and can provide a sense of relaxation from the stresses and strains of daily life. Young people who may never have interacted with a horse before, are often a little wary and some even scared. However, over time they see the horse is kind and gentle and when they build the courage to touch/pat the horse, they always say how soft and warm it feels and a large smile often comes over their face. They feel a sense of achievement and their confidence has grown. Learning to be quiet and calm around a horse is a great life skill that demonstrates their behaviour has an effect on others.

Why you do you think community engagement is important for the thoroughbred industry?

Community Engagement is vital to the racing industry for the sport’s social licence to operate. It is not just about improving the public perception of the industry but going that step further and encouraging them to become directly involved. Whether that be attending race meetings or maybe even considering a career in Racing or Aftercare. BTRC always encourage young and older people alike, to consider a career in the industry as there is such a variety of roles and is often overlooked by those who are not part of the racing/equestrian world.

How would you like to see NRW develop over the next couple of years?

It would be great for NRW to have a chosen charity each year to highlight its work and to encourage the yards and public to donate. There is so much amazing work going on in racing and Aftercare that is funded by charitable money, it would be great to highlight this further.

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