A Guide To Choosing Retirement Livery for Your Race Horse

Posted on 18th June 2018

What is retirement livery?

If your horse is approaching his or her later years in racing competitions or has suffered a career-ending injury, then you will be in for a tough choice. The struggle and bustle of a busy livery yard can become stressful for a horse with complex medical needs, prefers peace and quiet or that simply struggles to get along in a herd of healthy or younger horses. If like many other horse owners, you have no field at the back of your house to retire your best friend peacefully, then you still have an option to keep your horse at a yard offering tailored retirement or resting livery for older or retired equines.

Why would you retire your horse?

Many horses get to a certain age where they struggle to maintain good health or fitness, or both. There are many common ailments affecting older horses or simply the toll that aging takes on them that can deem them no longer suitable for ridden or competitive work. Often, younger horses are also retired due to injury sustained in competition, on the track, or though training or field accidents. These horses may not be old, but they may no longer be able to take the stress of high level fitness in their chosen sport, such as racing. Retiring a horse generally means sending out to pasture with no further ridden work, and to rest out the remainder of their days at a specialised yard offering retirement or resting livery.

Is Retirement Livery expensive?

When you visit a retirement livery yard and ask for the weekly or monthly cost, do you know what is included within this cost? The inclusion of retirement packages can vary greatly yard to yard depending on the level and quality of care, and what consumables and facilities are included within this cost. For example, will you need to visit the horse daily, or do the yard take full day to day care and you can just visit as suits? Do you need to attend for the vet or farrier, or supply your own feed, bedding or forage or does the yard include this in their package? It is important to discuss the care package in full.

Whilst one yard may seem more costly than another it may be that the cheaper does not offer as much within the package and as such could become the costlier option in the long run. You will also likely pay more for a yard offering specialized care such as equine body treatments, or with solariums or hydrotherapy spas on site and this is a decision you must make based upon the wellbeing and needs of your horse. An increased number of retirement yards are based upon the principals of natural track livery which offer basic facilities, but a natural approach to keeping horses which has been proven hugely beneficial to retired and recuperating equines. Just make sure the services offered to your four-legged friend are necessary to their care and are of a cost you see the value in paying.

Retirement livery is usually slightly cheaper compared to standard full livery. This is because the facilities are often more basic- with no need for riding areas or equipment- and generally a calmer and easier routine with horses often living out a majority of the year. However, this may depend on where you live in the country. The price will vary yard to yard and area to area so its important to give yourself a few options and visit a few yards before making a final decision.

Why is it important to select a reputable livery?

Your horse just like a pet is a precious animal; hence it can be daunting trusting someone else to take care of your horse. Although there are plenty of retirements livery yards around the United Kingdom, ensure you know about their standard of care and what you can expect from the packages they offer. When you visit them, ask lots of questions and check they meet the expectations and standards you’d expect of somewhere you’d be happy to place your horse.

By retiring your ageing or retired horse at a reputable yard on one of their retirement livery packages, you rest assured of complete peace of mind. They take full care, and you won’t have to worry about your horse being subjected to any undue stresses during his or her retirement period. You should ensure you select a yard that offers specialised retirement packages as they will be used to dealing with the older horse and the care necessary for aging horses. All you need for your old horse is a relaxing private and retirement livery haven that meets the mental wellbeing and physical needs of your horse.

How to choose a good Livery for your racehorse to retire to and what to look for in a livery?

Here are essential steps to consider when choosing the right Livery for your retiring horse

Step One: Decide what type of yard you would prefer your horse to be at, the facilities you’d like, what you can afford and how much input you want in their ongoing care. This will help you find the best facility that matches your needs and the price that fit your budget.

Step Two: Once you have a list of potential yards, approach the yards to discuss in more detail and arrange a visit. This will help you learn more about how they run and what they can offer.

Step Three: Observe the quality of their yard, including the grazing and aspects of day to day management. Ask to see exiting livery horses and to meet any staff who may be caring for your horse. Ask any questions and fill them in with any important details about your horse. Check what’s included in their retirement package and ask to see a copy of their livery contract or ask for any specific requirements and additional costs.

Step Four: Once you have visited a couple of yards and spoken to them in more detail you can have a feeling about which would be best for you and your horse. Only when you have a clear understanding of all available options should you make the right choice.

Step Five: Once you’ve chosen a yard you should contact them and request a space and organize arrangements to move your horse to them. Get everything in order ready for the move and you’re all set to go!

The above steps should enable you to make that when you have to choose a retirement livery yard, you will be in the best position to make the choice that is appropriate for you and your all-time friend.

Could Your Racehorse Retrain Instead of Retiring?

If you read this article and decide that a retirement livery is not a good option for you and your horse another option is retraining. Retirement livery is costly and although young horses retired early through illness or injury mat need the time to rest, the long term retirement of a young horse can be a costly business. Whilst they may no longer be suitable for a high-level competition in their previous sport, once a horse has rested and recuperated from an injury, there is the possibility for them to gradually be brought back into work and train for another more suitable discipline. Ex-racehorses retiring and retraining is becoming more commonplace with specific classes and events featuring ‘ROR’ horses. You can find such classes being integrated in many equestrian disciplines such as showjumping, eventing, dressage or horse-ball.

Here are two examples of racehorses which were retrained successfully:

War of Attrition:

He became a winner of the Gold Cup in Cheltenham in 2006 during his race career, and had 147 race victories from just 347 starts. Just a few years later, following retirement from racing at the age of 11, was Champion of the Racehorse to Riding Horse class at the Royal Dublin Show in 2010.


Lizawake won 10 races in his career including the Beechers Chase at Aintree racecourse in 1963 and competed in the grand national for 3 consecutive years, from 1963 to 1965. Tom Brake suggested to his owner Mrs Mary Marshal, later in that year that he would make a better showjumper. Following retirement from racing, at the age of 12 he made his debut in showjumping, and at the age of 17 made an excellent performance to jump a height of 2.24m during the John Player High Jump at Nottingham in 1970.

Courageous Comet and Poggio:

Both horses were former race horses, and both competed for the USA in the 2008 Olympics for Team US with riders Becky Holder and Amy Tryon respectively. After Comet’s racing career ended he was sent to a hunting yard where he learned to fox hunt before being sold as an event prospect to Tom Holder. Poggio has been a racehorse but not successful. He then spent 4 years as a pack horse before being retrained for eventing and within 4 years represented his country.

So while not all racehorses go on to retrain there certainly are examples of horses which have done so successfully and it is another option to consider if you feel a life in the field is not quite right for your horse yet!

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