Living on a farm in her native New Zealand, horses were not alien to Jess Novak.
However, since establishing Silverfern Equestrian in Oakford, Novak has discovered a new found appreciation for ex race horses.
Such is her respect for these thoroughbreds and standardbreds, they now form the cornerstone of her riding school-and she wants more.
From limited resources when she opened her riding school in 2014 to 19 horses currently, retired racehorses have furnished Novak’s passion.
For many of these equine athletes they are now finding added value and second careers once the curtain has been drawn on their racing days.
The poster child for Novak and what they can achieve after retirement is Solar Medal, a mare bred and trained by Dennis Barker.
Solar Medal failed to set the world on fire as a racehorse and entered retirement four years ago with zero wins from seven starts.
But in Novak’s eye, despite a less than flattering win-loss record, Solar Medal has proved to be a star away from the race track.
“She is just so unique,” Novak said.
“She looks after all riders, young beginners and older.
“She is so versatile and reliable which you can’t buy.
“The standardbreds and thoroughbreds just try their heart outs.
“They are loyal, trainable and willing to please you.
“I have fallen in love with them.
“I started my school to make riding fun.
“They have formed a big part of it.”
Silverfern Equestrian, like many others, plays an important role in transitioning thoroughbreds and standardbreds post retirement.
But according to Novak, rehoming and retraining can also have a dual benefit in introducing a new audience to the world of racing.
“Some riders develop a bond with these horses and become interested in what their racing careers looked like previously,” Novak said.
“They also become involved and see the process of transitioning from a race horse.
“We had a girl at the school who formed a close association with a former race horse, Bodalin.
“Through that she became interested in racing, becoming a strapper and working towards being a track work rider.
“She had no previous background in racing, but is now heavily committed.
“The benefits can work and is working both ways.”