Turning a stressy ex-racehorse into a star has been a real challenge for Feedmark customer Kathy Boothman – but it’s been worth every minute
Two years ago, Kathy Boothman had a phone call from her old boss, racehorse trainer Peter Niven. “The first thing he said was that he had a horse for me,” she recalls. “The second was that if I couldn’t do anything with him, I had to shoot him. So, no pressure!”
If you get the chance to watch the Retraining of Racehorses’ fabulous musical ride, you’d never guess that one of the lead horses – a stunning 16.3hh chestnut called Middlebrook – is that horse. Today, they and other members of the ride showcase the potential and versatility of re-trained racehorses and Middlebrook has also competed in BE90 eventing, dressage and showjumping with Kathy.
It hasn’t been an easy road to success, though. “He was tricky,” Kathy admits. “When I got him, he weaved all the way home in the lorry, then when I put him in a stable he galloped round it until he was dripping with sweat. I thought: what on earth have I done? I turned him out in the field because I thought he was going to hurt himself and he was much better.”
Middlebrook had made it clear that he didn’t like racing and he also made it clear that he didn’t like being stabled. What he did approve of was working, and by managing him in a way that he was happy with and doing everything she could to take the edge of his stress, Kathy has kept him happy.
She had already fed Feedmark’s Steady-Up Advance to another horse and decided that Middlebrook might benefit from the same nutritional support. Since then, it has been part of his feed regime.
“He comes off it when he has a short break in winter, but I always start feeding it again when he comes back into work,” says Kathy. “The Feedmark service is out of this world, I order it and it’s there the next day. You can’t go wrong – and there are some fantastic offers.”
Kathy has a real affinity with Thoroughbreds and is passionate about getting the message across that steered into the right jobs, with the right people, ex-racehorses have so much to offer. The RoR musical ride is an inspirational way of getting that across and is testament to the riders’ dedication.
“There are eight of us, all amateur riders,” she says. “One lady didn’t start riding until she was 50 and another had never ridden outside a school. We’ve got a new routine coming up which includes jumping, so hopefully people will enjoy it even more.”
She has qualified Middlebrook for the RoR dressage championships and also competes another ex-racehorse, 18-year-old Buzz – who is another Feedmark customer, this time for ExtraFlex HA with Rosehips. “I bought him when he was a three-year-old,” she says. “He was meant to be a project, but he’s still here!”
Middlebrook still isn’t a fan of being stabled, but has mellowed enough to settle indoors on winter nights. He will also stay in the field while Kathy rides Buzz and is a perfect gentleman towards her six-year-old daughter, Grace – even lowering his head to make it easy for Grace to put on his headcollar.
“He’s very special,” says Kathy. “As soon as his tack goes on, he’s happy because he knows he has a job to do.”