Framed photographs of award-winning racehorses hang on the living room wall of Michael Wayman’s Broken Hill home.
The self-described “hobby” trainer has trained dozens of horses over a career spanning 46 years.
After their racing careers were over, Mr Wayman rehomed his horses and said he liked to know that they will be retrained and taken care of properly.
“Every one of the 50, 60, 70 horses I’ve owned, I always find a home for them,” he said.
All, bar one.
“I sent him away three times to be rehomed and three times he came back to me,” Mr Wayman said.
“I cried tears of blood because I could not rehome him.
“We kept him at home for probably another 10 months and then he started to get sick. We could’ve kept him alive another 12 months with the drugs he was on, but I looked at him and I could see that he was tired and he’d given up.”
Approximately 8,500 racehorses retire from the track each year and not all of them are given a second chance.
A two-year investigation by the ABC’s 7.30 that aired in October revealed the widespread slaughter of racehorses in contravention of racing rules.
Are too many horses bred for racing?
Life after racing
Horse trainer Cecilia Norley met Sydney at the peak of his racing career.
At the time, the horse’s name was Outside and Michael Wayman was his trainer.
During his eight years on the racing circuit, Outside won 10 and placed in 22 races.
Sydney is now 13 years old, and Ms Norley and her daughter, Grace, are retraining him for a second career — in barrel racing.
Walking out to the yard where they practise running around barrels, Sydney is hesitant and takes a couple of backward steps.
It’s been a week since he has been ridden, Grace explained, and he’s still getting used to the feeling of wearing extra equipment.
“The jockey pads that they use are literally like a little piece of leather that they just sit on the back, so all this tack is new to him,” she said.
“This is where you’ve got to have patience,” Ms Norley added as Grace dismounted and walked alongside Sydney to the yard.
They trot around the course a few times before trying it at a canter, focusing on getting the turns sharper each time.
After two years of training, Ms Norley said Sydney was almost ready to start competing in barrel races.
In a barrel race, the rider and their horse have to navigate three sharp turns around barrels and then sprint to the finish line. The fastest horse is the winner.
“We needed to rewind his brain to start thinking how we need him to,” Ms Norley said.
Rehoming retired racehorses requires experience
Ms Norley said taking on a retired racehorse was rewarding but demanding work.
“Their life can be a little difficult after racing, so it’s really important that when people do take on a thoroughbred off the track, they do get some education and understand exactly what they’re doing,” she said.
Racing NSW’s welfare division, Team Thoroughbred, recommended trainers “clearly state” their retired racehorse was “only suitable for an experienced home.”
They said “racehorses are young, green and can be unpredictable”, so the “wrong match” could have serious consequences for the rider.
“Grace spends a lot of time with him, not just riding,” Ms Norley said.
“It’s about forming a really good relationship, so he wants to do stuff for her rather than he’s made to do it.”
The Norleys only have praise for Michael as a trainer, but they agreed that not everybody in the industry treated their horses with respect.
“People just sometimes treat horses as if they’re not really a pet,” Grace said.
In the future, Grace hopes to buy horses that are “just wasting” after their racing careers and retrain them.
“[I’ll] sell them on … just so that they get a third chance and that someone can love them as much as they should.”