Thumbtacks’ new purpose

7 June 2024 Written by VRC

For many racehorses, retirement marks a transition to a new career that harnesses their innate qualities to benefit others. In Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) programs, these horses become invaluable partners in therapeutic riding sessions, offering people with disabilities a unique opportunity for physical activity, emotional support, and personal growth.

Thumbtacks is one ex-racehorse that is set to make this significant impact. The 17-year-old gelding competed an astounding 153 times during his career on the track, securing 13 wins and 34 placings, and amassing prizemoney of $635,000. His journey saw him trained by three different trainers, beginning with Lexus Melbourne Cup-winning trainer, Chris Waller. He competed at Flemington in a race in 2013 under Waller’s guidance, finishing fourth.

Now, Thumbtacks will be part of the RDA Pakenham program, which is dedicated to providing therapeutic horse-riding experiences, fostering a sense of accomplishment, and boosting the confidence of participants. Thumbtacks’ involvement in this program highlights the transformative power of horses and the unique blend of physical activity and emotional support that they offer.

RDA Pakenham Secretary Anne Beck said that Thumbtacks has settled straight into his new role.

“He just has the most beautiful temperament,” Mrs Beck said.

“He is so kind and gentle and is already building a lovely bond with my daughter Sarah.”

Sarah has been part of RDA for 10 years, participating as both a rider and a volunteer. She lives with an intellectual disability but Mrs Beck says that doesn’t matter when she is around the horses.

“She really finds a sense of belonging and achievement through her participation at RDA Pakenham. The activities that she does here, from feeding and grooming the horses, helping with property maintenance, and in the actual riding sessions themselves, fill her with confidence in a way that she can sometimes find hard in other areas of her life.

“She and Thumbtacks have already established a lovely relationship through their riding sessions, and he will soon start to extend his gifts to sessions with other riders.”

The VRC has a proud partnership with RDA Victoria and is collaborating with them for Community Race Day this Saturday, 8 June where eight races will be named in honour of RDA centres, coaches and volunteers across Victoria, shining a spotlight on the tireless work that goes into providing this lifechanging activity.

Racegoers will be able to contribute by donating via Ticketmaster or collection tins on-course, while the VRC will donate $1 from the sale of every serving of hot chips on the race day as part of a new ‘Chips for Charity’ initiative. By partnering with the RDA, the club aims to showcase the profound benefits of horse riding and promote a sense of unity and support within the community.