Louise Boyd, 40, has been involved in the racing industry since she was a child. By age eight she was mucking out stalls and grooming racehorses to be exercised. She started Track Heros Thoroughbred Rehoming eight years ago and now runs the business full time from her property in Kingseat, on the outskirts of Karaka.
Yvette Morrissey had a chat to Louise about how she started Track Heros, her achievements with rehoming ex-racehorses, and why thoroughbreds make fantastic sport horses.
What gave you the idea to start Track Heros?
People in the industry was aware of what happened to racehorses after they retired but it was never spoken about. I found this sad as some of the horses won their owners a lot of money but were discarded when they stopped winning.
I started slowly, producing the odd ex-racehorse as a sport horse or for showing. Word soon spread and I was contacted by more and more trainers. On average we receive six horses a week. When we are at full capacity we have around 40 horses which is a bit manic! We also receive horses direct from quarantine after returning from Hong Kong.
Who are the people involved in Track Heros?
I run Track Heros with my husband; I’m the main rider as he works full time but he helps me with feeding, veterinary care and some riding. My previous career was a Civil Engineer which I choose to give up once my third child was born and concentrate solely on the horses. We also have regular volunteers Fleur, Jane, Maddie and Tracey and some occasional riders who school horses for us when they have free time. We’re always looking for experienced riders to come and ride for us with the opportunity to compete.
What is your general routine when a new ex-racehorse arrives?
As soon as new horses arrive on the property they are quarantined and wormed. We also check for any signs of illness or injury. Horses are assessed, photographed, and a visit from the farrier and dentist is arranged if it’s required. We do some handling, observing for any vices. We ride the horses and assess them in different scenarios- for example, we ride them in the paddocks and arena, they get worked alone and in company, we hack them along quiet roads and take trips to the forest and beach. They get float training if required.
Tell us about your own horses.
I also own a nine year-old hack named Roughie who is super easy to ride after a day of riding green horses. I have a very talented five year-old Istidaad gelding I am producing named Billy. He is showing promise for show jumping so watch this space!
You’ve competed in show jumping to a national level, haven’t you?
I used to compete in the UK and Australia. I had a team of five horses that I produced, including a warmblood stallion. I was a very competitive rider and was fortunate enough to be trained by John and Laura Renwick, top riders in the UK. Since being in NZ my priority has shifted and I’ve become focused on Track Heros. I love working with young horses and I also have family commitments now, and my job allows me to do both. I still go out and compete and we’re always taking the young horses’ cross-country schooling which is fun for all!
What do you like about thoroughbreds as a breed and as a sport horse?
Thoroughbreds are athletic, agile and intelligent animals. I find them to be very quick learners, they have a good attitude and mature quickly physically and mentally.
What has been your greatest achievement working with horses, and why?
Successfully rehoming over 3000 horses and giving them the opportunity of a new career after racing. As they say, “life starts at the finish line”. This is very true as some of our rehomed horses have gone onto to do very well as eventers and showjumpers.
Why do you stick to the North Island when rehoming?
I would love to be able to help some of the horses from the South Island but we cannot afford the transport costs- many trainers and owners won’t assist in the costs involved with trucking the horses up to us. If we received assistance with transport we would accept horses from the South Island.
What are some of the difficulties when re-homing racehorses?
Making sure they go to experienced homes who can provide the correct care and training. Also making sure the new owners have the correct support systems to manage any issues that arise- after all they are just young green horses who don’t know anything other than how to run.
Thoroughbreds with vices and behavioural issues can be more difficult to rehome. I believe there is a home for every horse and while it can take time they always find a special owner.
What is your favourite success story with an ex-racehorse?
We took in a horse last year that was going to be put down. He was a three year-old gelding with super breeding. He had a nasty fracture to the hind leg due to a trackwork riding accident. I was contacted by a trainer who asked us to take him as nobody else wanted him and the owner had said to put him down.
We took him in and for five months he was on 24 hour box rest. We heavily bandaged him and x-rayed him regularly. He then spent two months confined to a small paddock until his final x-ray showed that the fracture had fully healed.
He is now sound, in ridden work and will make a great sport horse. He even has the option of returning to a racing career.
It’s very good outcome for this gelding and I had some very rough times with him on box rest. Some days I would be greeted with him rearing and kicking out at me as I went in the box, but I realised this was just frustration over being confined. When I see him running free in the paddock it makes it all worthwhile.
What are you goals with Track Heros?
I want to work with the local youth teams and set up a facility for young people who cannot afford to own a horse the opportunity to come and volunteer and learn. I also want to take on more grazing so I can expand the business and take on more horses as we currently cannot take all of the horses that we are asked to. I want to get more horses out competing and also have some more volunteers. In regards to facilities, I want to build an arena, purchase a horse truck to help with transportation, and also an Activo-Med electromagnetic rug to help with the sore horses.
Keep up with Louise and see her versatile and talented range of horses on the Track Heros Thoroughbred Rehoming Facebook page