Melissa Jones: There is life after the racetrack
IN SIX starts on the racecourse, BB Boy earned just £577.
Well-beaten in National Hunt flat contests and novice chases, the owners gave up on the handsome gelding’s career and decided he would be better as a riding horse.
His destiny was to be determined through a magazine advertisement – but a last minute change of heart saw his ex-owner scrap the sale and give the then 12-year-old to Becky Adlam, who previously schooled him at Abergavenny’s Triley Fields Equestrian Centre.
The pair had enjoyed six months together as she taught him new tricks on loan, so she was loath to give him up.
She said: “I was crying my eyes out every time the owner rang me. They had him in Horse and Hound on the Thursday and called me on the Saturday asking if I would like to keep him. I was overjoyed.”
Five years on and the average racehorse has more than proved his worth away from the track.
The 17-year-old won his first racehorse to riding horse class at the Royal Welsh Show in 2011 and has excelled in the dressage arena.
The pairing qualified for the Retraining of Racehorses’ showing finals at Hickstead four times, enjoyed hacking, sidesaddle and taken part in the charity’s clinics.
But success had not come without its fair share of pain, as an accident in the field three years ago nearly cost the former racehorse his life.
Raglan-based BB Boy put one on his front legs through a five bar gate, causing a huge wound to the front of his knee.
The injury worsened and the development of a large pressure sore on the back of the joint forced Becky’s pal to undergo two operations and skin grafts.
Confined to his stable, the prognosis was not good.
“He was so depressed on box rest that we said we were going to turn him out in a field for a week and then say our final goodbyes. The wound wasn’t healing, it was absolutely horrific,” said Adlam.
“But the field perked him up and the wound started healing itself. He went against every vet’s opinion and survived.”
BB Boy made steady progress and was back in work within seven months.
His brave battle saw him shortlisted for an RoR award for ex-racehorses that had overcome adversity.
Despite the pain and the large vets bill, radiologist Becky said she has no regrets about taking on BB Boy – far from it.
“He truly is my horse of a lifetime, my best friend and soulmate rolled into one. He’s typical of a thoroughbred, eager to please, willing and anxious to get things right,” she said.
“Thoroughbreds have a reputation of being absolute lunatics but people need to remember how much of life that they have seen.
“They have been to racecourses with thousands of people cheering, they are a bit more streetwise than your average horse and that can pay off in the end.”
RoR, British Horseracing’s official charity, was established in 2000 for the welfare of horses who have retired from racing.
Like BB Boy, 240 former racehorses found a new home in 2011 and 145 of those were new out of training.
Although a lot of time and effort goes in to teaching racehorses to take things slowly, Becky would recommend it to anyone who has enough land and the necessary skills for a challenge.
“It’s not something to be entered into lightly,” she added. “But BB Boy is the first horse I’ve owned and it’s a bit of a fairytale really. RoR are doing a fantastic job and always need good homes for ex-racehorses.”
The charity is running an event for prospective owners at The David Broome Event Centre, Crick, on Wednesday.
A panel made up of Welsh racing trainer Evan Williams, triple gold Olympic medalist Matt Ryan ,vet Paulo Gay Guasto and an expert in equine nutrition from Saracens Horse Feeds, will be on hand to answer questions.
The session is one of a series called ‘Equestrian Time’ the charity is holding across the UK for people who may want to look after a horse following retirement .
RoR chief executive Di Arbuthnot said: “We hope that running these events in the evenings allows more people to come along to enjoy a fun social evening with an interesting and broad range of topics being able to be covered from behaviour, retraining to feeding and health issues.”
Tickets for the event cost £10 to include a glass of wine and a light bite to eat.
They must be booked via email@example.com