How to Visit the Living Legends Racehorse Retirement Sanctuary
It’s believed that thousands of horses leave the racing industry each year.
That’s a lot of horses…
After their racing careers, many retire to be:
- Used for breeding (mostly stallions and females)
- Retrained to pursue active careers in equestrian (eg. dressage)
- Retrained as police horses
- Used as leisure horses or
- Rehomed with the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust
Champion racehorses can also be rehomed to a racehorse retirement sanctuary upon finishing their careers for additional pampering and care.
Although not an adventure sport in itself, it’s a really cool and unique experience that you can do in Melbourne.
Whether you’re a horse lover or not, I’m thrilled to share my experience with you and highlight why you should make time to visit this beautiful heritage homestead.
If you’d like a quick sneak peek into the day, ensure to watch the video below:
1) What is a Racehorse Retirement Sanctuary?
For 10 years of my childhood & teenage life, I was an avid horse fan. I rode, owned and did competitions with my horses for many years, particularly in showjumping and cross country.
Similar to leisure horses, racehorses can live into their late 20’s to early 30’s, which means that they are a long-term commitment for most owners.
When I eventually sold my horse, I felt so many mixed emotions. I felt happy that she was going to a new home that would love and care for her, but I also felt fearful that I’d never truly know where she’d end up.
This is why the idea of a retirement sanctuary for racehorses makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
It’s nice to know that many of the well-known champions (that we watched growing up) are given the chance to live out a full life in “racehorse retirement”.
A racehorse retirement sanctuary is simply a place where retired racehorses can live in comfort upon finishing their careers in racing.
Here they can enjoy the final years of their lives in style:
- Eating grass
- Frollicking around the paddocks
- Being properly looked after and
- Visited by owners and fans
It’s such a beautiful concept, and one that I don’t think many people know about.
If you’d like to spend a full day out with the racehorses whilst enjoying an indulgent wine or beer, ensure to check out Show Me Melbourne’s full day horse, wine and beer tour.
2) What Age Do Racehorses Retire?
Although the ages of racehorses can vary, most are believed to be in their prime between the ages of 2-5, with most hitting their peak condition at 4-5 years old.
Some incredibly fit and healthy horses can continue to race beyond 10 years of age. However, this is less common.
For the most part, a horse’s racing career only lasts 3-4 years.
3) The Living Legends Racehorse Retirement Sanctuary
Living Legends is a stunning racehorse retirement sanctuary in Greenvale, Victoria.
It occupies part of the historic Woodlands Park and Homestead and closely resembles the “Home of Rest for Horses” in the United Kingdom (UK).
Like the Home of Rest, Living Legends aims to:
- Support equine research
- Provide education and training to benefit horses of all ages and breeds
- Support the care of older horses
Living Legends was established to nurture the deep connection between the community and its racehorse champions, with a focus on promoting the “life after racing” of these beautiful horses.
Many champion horses have been owned and bred on this property since the 1840’s, making it the ideal location for racehorse retirement.
The homestead also showcases racehorse memorabilia that fans can view and explore throughout the day.
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4) How Many Racehorses Live at Living Legends?
These days, all of the horses at Living Legends are gelded male thoroughbreds. Stallions and mares are often used for breeding after their racing careers.
Currently, there are over 30 retired champions living at the racehorse retirement sanctuary, with most coming from Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
Some of the well-known favourites include:
- Fields of Omagh
- Silent Witness
- Rogan Josh
- Apache Cat
- The Cleaner
- Paris Lane
- Who Shot The Barman (NZ)
- Redkirk Warrior (GB)
- Peniaphobia (IRE)
- Tom Melbourne
- Fawkner and
At the Living Legends sanctuary you’ll get the opportunity to see, meet, pat and feed these beautiful racehorses.
If you’re lucky, you may even get to talk to the stable hands who care for them.
On site, you can also visit their memorial garden where they pay tribute to Legends who are no longer living.
Within the garden you can pay respects to horses including:
- Might and Power
- Chief De Beers
- Better Loosen Up
- Regal Roller and more-
5) Show Me Melbourne’s Guided Living Legends Tour
So, what’s the best way to visit the Living Legends racehorse retirement sanctuary?
Personally, I recommend Show Me Melbourne’s small guided tour.
Their tour includes:
- Transport to and from the venue
- Entry to Living Legends
- A personalised grounds tour
- A light lunch in the historic homestead
- Free time to explore the homestead and gardens
If you’d like to read more information about the Lunch with Living Legends Tour, click here.
How Does the Day Unfold?
The day starts with a pickup from Melbourne CBD, right near Federation Square.
Show Me Melbourne start the day with a convenient CBD pick up in their air-conditioned mini bus. We met up with the group near Federation Square.
Once on the bus, the drive to Living Legends is about 30 minutes (assuming good traffic).
Personally, I loved that they provided transport to the venue. Sometimes, it’s nice just to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride, rather than having the added stress of driving yourself.
The Tour at Living Legends Racehorse Retirement Sanctuary:
Upon arriving at Living Legends, you will be introduced to your tour guide. For our tour, we got one of the on site veterinary nurses.
You’re then shown around the venue and given the opportunity to meet some of the racehorses.
Some of my favourites were:
- Apache Cat
- Who Shot The Barman (NZ)
- Tom Melbourne
- Fawkner and
Given our group was quite small, we were upgraded to a “buggy ride” which was pretty awesome. This made moving between the paddocks a lot easier and quicker than if we were to walk.
After your meet and greet session with the horses, you’ll get to relax in the beautiful, historic homestead of Woodlands Historic Park with a light lunch and some time to explore the on-site museum.
For lunch you can expect a small spread of sandwiches, sausage rolls , spinach and feta pastries, scones, cream and jam, lemon slices, vanilla slices and your choice of a hot or cold drink (Eg. Tea & Coffee).
I must say, the lunch was really tasty.
The spinach and ricotta pastries were my favourite AND if you’re a scone lover like my partner, you will not be disappointed.
The homestead is particularly known for their scones, which I’ll add are a VERY generous size! He loved them so much that he ate his, mine and more.
They also had very delicious vanilla slices, or “snot blocks” as some Australians call them.
Despite my Aussie heritage, I had NEVER heard of them being called that before. And sadly, I don’t think it’s something I’ll be able to get over.
I doubt that I’ll be able to look at a vanilla slice the same way again.
Once you’ve enjoyed this delicious lunch and had some free time to explore the grounds, the bus will come back to life to transport you back to the city.
Sound like something that’d be right up your alley? Book a seat on their Living Legends Tour here.
The Advantages of Show Me Melbourne’s Living Legends Tour
Compared to other Living Legends tours, I really liked Show Me Melbourne’s tour because:
- Their tours are smaller and more intimate (with a max of 5-10 people) so you’re offered more flexibility and get to do and see the things you really want to see.
- Transport to and from the venue is included, so you don’t have to worry about traffic, fuel or getting lost on the way.
- Their guides are friendly and knowledgeable about the site and its racehorses. This means that they will do their best to make the experience as enjoyable as possible and answer all your questions. When in a bigger or more public group, you won’t get as much personal attention.
How Long Does the Tour Go For?
The entire tour usually goes for around 4-5 hours.
How Much Does the Tour Cost?
The tour usually costs $149 per adult.
I hope that this article has helped to explain what a racehorse retirement sanctuary is and encourage you to check out the Living Legends homestead for yourself.
It is a great tour, for horsey-lovers and non-horsey people too. If you’d like to read more about Show Me Melbourne’s Racehorse Tours, click here.