Lou Abey will bring her stellar reputation in racehorse outplacement to HRV HERO, with Harness Racing Victoria’s life-after-racing program excited to welcome the principal of Abey Performance Horses as a standardbred retrainer.
After many years successfully campaigning and rehoming thoroughbred horses as part of Racing Victoria’s Off The Track and Reset programs, alongside her charity Beyond Racing, Abey has a deep passion for retired racehorses and believes standardbreds offer something unique to the equestrian world.
“I was introduced to standies many years ago,” she said. “As a teenager I found myself working alongside a friend breaking standardbreds to cart and also taking them for a few laps in the round yard under saddle. They were so chilled and easy to work with.
“My mother also had this ripper show jumper in the 1960s, which she campaigned to A Grade with. The horse was half-standardbred and it could just put in the extra stride when needed and jumped like a stag.”
As an accomplished show jumping and event rider, Abey has a diverse skillset as a horse trainer. She has invited an equally elite team of riders into Abey Performance Horses, which takes a multidisciplinary approach to training.
“We’ve got a pretty talented team of riders here, who are accomplished in dressage, showing, eventing and show jumping,” she said.
“Additional to schooling, we like to take the horses out of the arena and around the property. The horses are ridden near cattle and there’s a big flock of ducks that fly up out of the water hazard at the dam. It’s all very new and quite confronting for horses who have mostly been ridden on a racetrack.
“We take the horses for trails around the farm machinery and expose them to things which help us to assess their reactions and quirks. This positions our team to know each horse really well before advertising them.
“We identify exactly what type of rider will suit each mount and can offer a bit of extra training in whichever discipline the horse shows an interest in.”
When it comes to standardbreds in particular, Abey thinks there’s a big opportunity to serve riders who she had previously struggled to pair with her ex-gallopers.
“I get a lot of riders saying they just really want to go and have a nice relaxing hack out with friends once a fortnight, or join riding club on a horse who’s chilled by nature and going to take things in stride,” she said.
“Generally speaking, standies hit this brief; they’re known to be low-fuss by nature and typically go with the flow. I’m really excited to be able to get some standardbreds going under saddle and place them in lovely homes, with riders who particularly want a horse with a relaxed temperament.”
Abey’s first HERO horse is a tall five-year-old ex-trotter named Dark Cloud, aka Shadow, who is in the final stages of retraining.
“Shadow was a little bit anxious when he first arrived, but he’s really found his rhythm over the past few weeks. We started his retraining with a bit of groundwork and long-lining, as I knew he would be familiar with this from being driven in cart, and he was backed after this.
“In just under two months of training under saddle, Shadow is cantering nicely, has popped over a few jumps and we even took him to play with some cross country obstacles like banks and ditches. He’s been a legend in how he’s conducted himself and just gone along with everything we’ve asked of him.”
Shadow will be the first of hopefully many lucky standardbreds guided into their new lives beyond the track in Abey’s capable hands.
You can follow her retraining updates via her Facebook page Abey Performance Horses or click here for more on the HRV HERO program
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