When a racehorse finishes its career on the track, the next step is to find their special talent so they can flourish in a life after racing. Some become polished show horses, others agile polo ponies, bold eventers or reliable trail horses. Every horse has a strength that can lead them to a successful second career.
However, some – such as 16.3-hand chestnut gelding Astro – are more than one-trick ponies. The now-22-year-old has showcased the true versatility of the breed, first retraining as an eventer before going on to become a confidence-giving schoolmaster, a revered member of the Victorian Mounted Branch, and now a semi-retired clinic horse for para equestrian riders.
Astro’s life after racing began when a young Hayley Crane purchased him not long off the track rising age five as an eventer, competing him to the old Pre-Novice level with success.
“Astro was by far the best horse I’ve ever had; he was so trainable. He was my one-in-a-million horse that took me from Pony Club Grade 4 to Grade 1,” recalls Hayley, adding that one of the gelding’s best attributes was how quiet and sensible he was. “I used to work for trainer Caroline Price and would ride him down the road to work in a halter, traffic didn’t bother him. When out eventing, he could be a little strong on cross country, however one time at Tonimbuk my bit broke… and he knew, he just stopped!”
When her friend’s sister, Ashlee Grech, came along in search of confidence-building lessons, Hayley recognised Astro’s aptitude as a schoolmaster.
Ashlee explains that growing up she was always a really nervous rider. “I stopped riding when I was 15 because I was always so scared,” she recalls. “I wanted to get back in the saddle and started having lessons on Astro, and I just felt really comfortable on him.”
“She drove me insane to buy him,” chimes in Ashlee’s mother, Donna. “Hayley initially said he wasn’t for sale, but she eventually gave in and we ended up purchasing him for Ashlee to get her confidence back after a long time of no riding.”