Elizabeth Charleston Chats Off The Track Thoroughbreds

The Races - Caitlin O'Sullivan
8 June 2020

Earlier this year LOVERACING.NZ caught up with top equestrian Elizabeth Charleston to learn a little about a very special ex-racehorse that came into her family’s care more than 20 years ago. Yodelling Romeo (or ‘Alex’ as he is affectionately known) has won many wide ribbons for the Charlestons since his retirement from racing. And at the grand age of 26, Alex is still the apple of the family’s eye. 

As a longtime fan of thoroughbred horses, we also chatted to Elizabeth about off the track thoroughbred’s (OTT) versatility and suitability for the show ring. 

What makes thoroughbred’s standout in the show ring?

I'm very biased when it comes to thoroughbreds being suitable as show horses because I've been a huge fan of the breed since I was a little girl going to the races. They are magnificent animals. I love their conformation and how they can carry themselves as well as their paces. I had a brilliant thoroughbred Show Horse in South Africa called Babylonian Towers that belonged to my husband. He had a magnificent gallop which won him several national titles (along with his other attributes).

Thoroughbreds are bred to be athletes and I've always loved them for eventing and the other disciplines. There's nothing quite like sitting on a thoroughbred setting out from the start box to get on the cross country course - and the great thing about a thoroughbred is that they don't run out of juice halfway round the track! 

Elizabeth and Babylonian Towers

I know you have introduced some thoroughbred specific showing classes. Can you tell us a little about that? 

When my mother Jocelyn and I ran the showing section at Horse of the Year (HOY) in 2011 and 2012, one of the changes I wanted to implement was to have both led and ridden thoroughbred titles available to competitors which was sponsored by Shaune Ritchie Racing - yes, I am that passionate about the breed!  

I also held the same titles for standardbred horses at HOY, as I wanted to create an equal opportunity for horses from both racing codes. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to rehome an OOT thoroughbred 

A race horse straight off the race track can take some time to settle down. You need to be prepared to invest time into the horse by allowing it to let down after racing. Some horses may need a good six months off.

In saying that, I bought a small chestnut thoroughbred mare once that I looked at in the paddock just before New Years. I pulled the cover off and bought her on the spot. A few weeks later I took her to the New Zealand Nationals and she placed in all her Newcomer classes. I didn't have high expectations but it was a thrill she picked up the correct lead each time and a huge bonus to win so many ribbons at her first event at such a big show. 

However, every horse is different and you have to be realistic when taking on a thoroughbred who has just stepped back from their racing career. You might have to put them in the paddock and just let them hang out for a period of time before pursuing them in a sport horse capacity. 

Elizabeth and Yodelling Romeo 

What is one thing you'd like readers to know about OOT thoroughbreds?

If you're looking for an athletic quality breed of horse, look no further than the thoroughbred. We are blessed to have these horses purpose-bred with great care and dedication within the industry - and they are very accessible in New Zealand. 

The top showies always keep an eye out at the barrier trials and race track and follow the racing careers of horses they've taken a liking to in the parade ring. My advice is to get yourself to the races and start window shopping for your future champion sport horse. They are a wonderful animal and if you treat them right you will have a friend for life like our family has had with Yodelling Romeo.

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