Champion jockey Rosie Napravnik on retraining racehorses

Champion jockey Rosie Napravnik on retraining racehorses

Rosie Napravnik, the only female jockey to win multiple Breeders’ Cup races talks about her journey with retraining racehorses, courtesy of relyne GI


During her storied career in racing, Rosie established many of the benchmarks for female jockeys. In addition to her success in the Breeders Cup, she was the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks, the only woman to ride in all three Triple Crown races, and the highest finishing female jockey in the Kentucky Derby.

Although she is now retired from racing, Rosie’s passion for horses has evolved into a private training operation, transitioning retired racehorses into second careers. She mainly focuses on eventing in her training program but also uses her experience with Hunters and Jumpers. Rosie firmly believes that all retired racehorses can be retrained. “What’s important is that horses are individuals, and as such they should be trained appropriately toward a discipline in which they are most likely to excel and matched with the right person to get them there. They can be started in their retraining at any age, it just may be a factor for which direction you go with them and how quickly they progress. With upper-level eventing being my main focus for sourcing horses, I like to start with them at age four” she said.

When assessing a horse for retraining Rosie pays close attention to their conformation, their athleticism, and their demeanour, also considering their form and scope over jumps. This can determine which discipline they are ‘made’ for. She then likes to see how they react to a rider’s hands and seat under saddle, allowing her to decide on what level riders the horse may be suitable for. She also evaluates how brave and bold they are for a discipline like eventing with cross country in mind, how careful they are over jumps.

“The training program typically starts with ground work. The purpose of this is to help the horse become aware of their body and how they use it, as well as awareness of personal space. Ground work can also lead into exercises that will later be relatable to starting them under saddle in a new way, it can really help a horse change their mindset” she explained.

Rosie also dedicates a lot of time to hacking as this gives the horse an opportunity to realise there’s nowhere to go, no race they need to win. They learn to just enjoy themselves as she gains their trust while introducing them to new things like walking through water or hopping up a bank. “Some horses fall right into that like it’s nothing new and some start out convinced that it’s time to use their flight instinct. Once they get to the point of consistently hacking on the buckle with a buddy or two then they will hack alone. There have been a few horses who had to start one step further by being led, as the anxiety of not having that security in open spaces (or claustrophobic spaces) is too much. Once they’re confident with the concept, the next step is leading a group from the front and then finally leading another horse. This progression really builds their confidence” she commented.

Part of Rosie’s training program is rehabbing horses that will return to racing, so she deals with all types and severity of injuries too. “Proper rehab of injuries is crucial for the best prognosis for either returning to racing or starting a second career. There are many injuries that, with proper rehab, do not prove to be limiting in second careers. In other cases, when limitations are inevitable, we determine which disciplines and at what level the horse may be best suitable” she stated.

The biggest issue with retired racehorses is ulcers and that is so common because of the environment at the race track. Giving the horses ample turnout helps tremendously as well as other products that treat and maintain gut health. relyne GI is a great product for maintaining a healthy gut. Rosie stresses that her feed program is also a foundational part of her success. “The horses have the privilege of night turn out year-round and they eat free choice alfalfa while in their stable. Those two things are probably the best things you can do for a horse with gastric ulcers, and most of them, if not all, come with ulcers. They are so prevalent in racehorses that I don’t even bother scoping. We just treat them and use relyne GI as part of their effective maintenance plan” she said.

relyne GI is a thoughtfully formulated blend of gut-friendly hyaluronan and wellness-boosting beta glucan aimed at providing a natural, long-term alternative to support gastric health in horses. It is suitable for use in all horses to help support a healthy digestive system, is entirely natural and therefore suitable for daily, long-term use. It is recommended and used by veterinary surgeons and professional equestrian athletes around the world.

The Resolvet line of products, including relyne GI, was created by veterinary surgeons from the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, they have spent decades listening to owners, trainers, and riders. Whether they desire more natural ingredients, or worry about negative side effects, Resolvet products have been designed to address the specific needs above and beyond the effective performance of the product.

relyne GI £173 1.89

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