“When you are in a pen with an animal weighing 3-500 kilos, that could hurt you, and is looking for a leader – you have to put your problems aside...”
“You learn the skill of being in the moment.”
So explains Max Streeter, a veteran who volunteers for the Thoroughbred and Veterans Welfare Alliance, an organisation that teaches traumatised and injured soldiers to train retired racehorses.
Mr Streeter is just one person interested in Racing NSW’s plan to use a historic property in Capertee as a ‘shopfront for animal welfare’.
NSW Racing announced their purchase of the 1050 acre site and 1890 homestead in July least year. One hundred unwanted racehorses will call the property their home while being retrained for life as companion animals, mounted police horses and show jumpers.
The alliance will use the property for intensive training programs for returned soldiers.
“The horses are beautiful and often fairly young,” Mr Streeter said.
“They deserve a second life, as do veterans.”
The purchase of Bandanora is part of NSW Racings $5 million horse welfare program funded by a taking of one percent from the state’s race prize money.
NSW Racing says the money will be used to ensure every horse that races will be looked after when they are retired.
“We are the ‘medicare’ for racehorses, if they don’t have anywhere to go to we will provide a home for them,” Karen Day the equine welfare manager of Racing NSW said.
“We are committed to the life of the race horse.”
The welfare program currently has 150 horses in its care across the state.
“They are surrendered. For horses that can’t find a second home, our program is a support network as they are retiring from racing.”
The property was bought by Racing NSW a month before it introduced a ban on sending retired racehorses to the knackery in August last year.
While the hundred places at Bandanora represents a drop in the ocean of the roughly 8,500 racehorses retired each year, Ms Day said the welfare program is just one funnel for retired thoroughbreds.
“The horses that are retired from the industry about 50 per cent of them are mares, so that’s fifty per cent of them going straight into the breeding industry,” Ms Day said.
“There’s a huge equestrian industry that exists outside this program that has targetted race tracks for a really long time because any horse person who is watching races is shopping for their next horse.
“There’s a real appetite outside of racing for these horses and this is just another way to cater for them.”
MP Paul Toole said that due to Bandanora’s size it had potential to expand the number of horses homed at the site.
Bandanora’s homestead and shearer’s quarters are tipped to be turned into a bed and breakfast to provide overnight accommodation for prospective buyers.
Ms Day said the property will become an equestrian hub in the Central West, offering facilities for community groups and riders, like the Thoroughbred and Veterans Welfare Alliance.
“This is a grassroots area and we can really support this region,” Ms Day said.
“[This will be] A really good place to train. We want this to be a bit of public face for equestrian in general. We will do programs with pony club.
“This property is all about bums in saddles.”
Scott Brodie, the manager of Racing NSW’s retraining program said it takes about six months to ‘rehabilitate’ ex-racehorses.
“It’s a very systematic program, there is certain goals we need to achieve. Obviously the training of a horse goes on forever but we get the foundation right.”
Horses are put in a paddock for up to three months to get used to socialising with other horses and heal any racing injuries. They then start a training program overseen by Brodie.
“Its about 12 week program. It does vary from horse to horse, but its pretty standard and effective. By the end of the day everything’s drummed into them pretty firmly.”