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Win still sinking in for QOTT Acknowledged Retrainer of the Year

24 January 2024

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By Andrew Smith

Her father and grandfather were synonymous with the Far North Queensland racing community but Rebecca Henry is now making a name for herself in the region through retraining thoroughbreds.

Rebecca was crowned the inaugural Queensland Off-The-Track (QOTT) Acknowledged Retrainer of the Year at the 2023 TAB Queensland Thoroughbred Awards in October.

“It came very last minute – I got a phone call to say I was one of two finalists, and ended up down at the Thoroughbred Awards,” Ms Henry said.

“It was a privilege just to be at the awards and to win the award was amazing…I felt really privileged.

“Honestly I was very honoured, it just cements what I’ve been doing with the horses…it’s hard to summarise it but it’s one of those awards that was super special to me, it was wonderful.

“I want to thank Queensland Off-The-Track, particularly the office ladies there, but also at home I am an Approved Coach for the QOTT Subsidised Lessons Program and I often go away doing official shows as well, so my dad is at home looking after my horses and feeding them when I’m not there.

“So a big thank you to my dad, it’s a team effort.”

RQ Senior Animal Care Manager Kim Duffy said Rebecca was a worthy recipient of the inaugural award.

“Rebecca is an extremely dedicated and passionate retrainer who puts in maximum effort and gives every horse an equal opportunity to find their perfect home post-racing,” Ms Duffy said.

“Rebecca has long been an advocate for life-after-racing, and has worked tirelessly to ensure former racehorses lead happy and healthy lives once they leave the racetrack.

“She’s a hard worker who goes above and beyond to ensure each horse finds a suitable home, regardless of any physical or behavioural issues they may have presented with.

“It’s fantastic that the award is presented as part of the Queensland Thoroughbred Awards, creating additional recognition and awareness of the outstanding dedication of our Acknowledged Retrainer network.

“I would like to thank each and every one of our QOTT Acknowledged Retrainers. They do a fantastic job and they are instrumental in helping us achieve our goal of providing the best opportunity for a successful transition for retired racehorses post-racing.”

Rebecca Henry (L) with RQ Senior Animal Care Manager Kim Duffy.

The Mount Garnet-based retrainer has been with the QOTT Acknowledged Retrainers Program since it started in 2022, and had rehomed 20 horses as of early December 2023.

It was the first horse Rebecca took on in August 2022 that she says has proven to be her biggest success story so far.

“Wilson Won was the first one that came into the program for me, he came from a racing trainer out of Toowoomba named Jennifer Williams – she wanted him to come up to me because she thought I could do a good job with him,” Ms Henry said.

“I’ve sold him to Sydney and he’s now jumping around at Sydney Showjumping Club and other events down there.

“Wilson’s owners love him so he’s found a really beautiful home there that’s competitive but he’s also part of the family.

“I feel that’s the heart of the program - that story of the relationship from the racing trainer, working with the horse, and then being able to find the right home to suit the horse - it’s been wonderful.”

It was almost inevitable that Rebecca would go into the industry, with her father and grandfather involved in racehorses in Innisfail.

“My dad (Robert Henry) was president of Innisfail race track when I was in my younger years in high school so I used to work there and spent a lot of time there,” she said.

“My granddad (Jim Henry) picked one of my first really good horses from the saddling enclosure when I was in my teens, and I took him off the track to Grand Prix level – so I’ve been doing it for quite a while.

“I reflect on that achievement – that was pretty cool to be able to do that when I was so young.”

Rebecca has rehomed around 20 horses so far.

Rebecca, who currently has 12 horses in her care, was full of praise for the QOTT Program which continues to go from strength to strength.

“It’s unique because it’s such a big program, but you feel like the office people are your friends – they’re so easy to talk to and there’s very clear communication,” Ms Henry said.

“I feel as the racing trainers start to understand what we’re actually doing, they are realising the program’s potential and how it can assist them to help find horses the right homes.

“The racing trainers send the horses to us; we can take the time to let them down and really get to know what their personality is and then through our networks we can match that horse into the right home.

“I know it’s not the easiest thing for racing trainers to do when the horse is coming off the track but it’s this beautiful step of finding the right person for the right horse from a buyers point of view.

“The other thing is we can allow potential buyers to ride the horse a few times at our property, or even during a clinic when I am giving lessons, and we can make a call on whether that horse would be suitable for them.

“The racing trainers know they’ve got a really nice horse but it’s important that the person that wants to buy that horse understands what they’re getting.”

Click here to learn more about the QOTT Program.

Rebecca is based at Mount Garnet.