Retirement Statistics

As the racing career of a thoroughbred is only a certain part of its total life expectancy, great efforts are made to ensure standards of welfare are maintained for the entire life cycle of a thoroughbred. In 2014, new rules were introduced requiring owners and trainers to inform Racing Australia about the retirement of horses, the reasons for retirement and the destination of the thoroughbreds.

Collated data from 27,000 forms reveals:

  • Nine out of ten racehorses were retired to the breeding (65.5%) or equestrian (19.6%) sectors. (Fewer than 1% were sent to the abattoir.)
  • Forty-five per cent of racehorses retire because of injury—which, in the great majority of cases, does not prevent secondary careers in the equestrian or breeding sectors.
  • Around a third of racehorses were retired at the request of owners (37%) and 9% because of proactive decision to breed.

This shows drastic improvements in the number of thoroughbreds able to be rehomed and a decline in the number sent to abattoirs. In fact, it is now illegal under some jurisdictions to send retired thoroughbreds to abattoirs.  

Equestrian 64%

Breeding purposes 23%

Sent to livestock sale 1%

Retired blank <1%

Other 1%

Died natural 4%

Euthanised 6%

Abattoir <1%


The racing career of a thoroughbred may cease at any time for any number of reasons. Racing Australia and its associated Principal Racing Authorities take their duty of care for retired racehorses very seriously. Racing Australia has led Thoroughbred racing globally in introducing reforms and rules to improve integrity and animal welfare; in fact Britain has adopted similar measure from January 1 this year.

  • Figures collected over the past 3 years reveal that 9 out of 10 racehorses retire to either begin second careers as an equestrian, pleasure or working horse or to the breeding sector.
  • The Principal Racing Authorities (PRAs), who work closely with Racing Australia, each have their own programs in place to assist with the re-homing of racehorses after they retire. Each PRA takes a different approach to the programs they have in place but the overall core vision is the same across the board.
  • The beginning of this process is raising awareness in the public eye of the many ways thoroughbreds can be re-trained after they finish their racing career. They are loyal and courageous animals who can adapt to many different training methods outside of racing, or can simply act as pleasure or companion horses.
  • Thoroughbreds are bred to be competitive and perform as elite athletes. The programs in place by relevant PRAs have a duty of care to the persons purchasing them to disclose details about the individual animal. This will include things such as their history and temperament which is imperative for the safety of those who will be associated with the animal in the future.
  • One of the main avenues for re-homing thoroughbreds is in the equestrian field, where their athletic ability and willingness to be trained comes to the forefront.
  • Other initiatives by some PRAs in Australia include; donating a specified percentage of total prizemoney to animal welfare projects and covering transports costs for owners to take the racehorses to their new homes.

Mandatory Retirement 

In order to protect the welfare of both thoroughbreds and riders Racing Australia implemented the following rules regarding the mandatory age of retirement:

(1) Subject to AR.45B(2), a horse that is aged 12 years is not permitted to race.
(2) The Stewards may give their express permission for a horse aged 12 to start in a race or races during its 12 year old racing season, if
(a) the trainer provides to the Stewards a veterinary report in respect of the horse’s condition and suitability to race, and any other information, examination or report as required by the Stewards; and
(b) the Stewards are satisfied that the horse is suitable to race.
(3) Any permission granted by the Stewards pursuant to AR.45B(2) expires at the conclusion of the horse’s 12 year old racing season, or earlier as provided by the Stewards.
(4) Upon a horse turning 13 years of age, it is immediately retired and de-registered under these Rules and is ineligible to race, trial or be trained.

Official Principal Racing Authority (PRA) Retirement Program Links

For more information in relation to retirement programs in each state, please follow the below links to the Principal Racing Authority (PRA) websites.

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