How sanctuary saves old nags like Lucas left on scrapheap
The cream of the equine world will be at Aintree this weekend - but this is one of the racehorses who didn't make it as a winner.
Lucas was barely alive when he was rescued by Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary, riddled with parasitic worms and covered from head to tail in infected sores.
He was already badly undernourished when he arrived at the knacker's yard and had such a low bodyweight that he had been left to die in a damp corner of the premises, barely able to stand to make the journey to the sanctuary after he was rescued.
Volunteers debated whether it was kinder to have him put to sleep, but Lucas has now been nursed back from the brink of death and was even able to resume his racing career.
Lyn Friel of Crosskennan says animals bred for racing are often considered unsuitable to make the switch into being normal riding horses, meaning the ones that don't make it on to the racecourse are virtually valueless and may end up wandering abandoned and starving on the roads.
She says Lucas is living proof that the right retraining can transform a racehorse into a riding mount suitable for even novice riders.
Research into his microchip revealed Lucas had been flown to the UK from America as a yearling.
"He must have been destined for great things, but by the time he was five he was on the scrapheap. We are not sure what happened in between, but that was his career over," Lyn said. "He was so undernourished that he looked like a little pony when we got him. He was very sick and we took a long time building him up slowly. When we were getting him riding again he was very anxious and we had to build up to it. We went to small shows, letting him walk around and realise there was nothing to be feared."
After rehabilitation, Lucas went on to take sixth place out of 15 in the championship class at the Balmoral Show. Now retired, he still lives at the sanctuary and is so good natured he is used for novice riders to learn how to groom and sit on a horse.
"Now he is one of the gentlest horses you could meet. A three-year-old child could lead him - he's so quiet and gentle," Lyn said.
"Many, many horses fall by the wayside before they even get to run in a good racecourse - there are so many thoroughbreds that a very high percentage won't race.
"If they end up in the wrong hands, they will not go on to achieve what they could have achieved." Lyn is pleading with anyone who is looking for a riding horse to consider one of the rescued racehorses at Crosskennan.
"People consider them not to be a suitable quiet riding horse for a novice rider, but we believe if that horse is properly trained - and the rider trained with them - most of them are suitable for riding," she said.
Crosskennan is also appealing to Grand National fans to consider donating to the charities that are left to pick up the pieces when once highly valued horses are cast aside.
The sanctuary can be contacted at 028 9446 5384.