Rock Magic and Natasha Barbarich of Red Hill lead out the field in the Rock Magic Stakes named in his honour. Picture: Anita McInnes

Rocky chills in Red Hill

One lucky former racehorse has gotten to swap the race track for a paddock and carrots thanks to one Red Hill resident.
March 28, 2024
Anita McInnes

FORMER racehorse Rock Magic, who sounds like he was a strapper’s nightmare, now spends his days chilling at Natasha Barbarich’s property in Red Hill following her around and eating a lot of carrots.

Trained by Chris and Michael Gangemi Rock Magic won 16 races and earned more than $1.7 million in prize money.

While Ms Barbarich was a speaker at a discover racing for ladies function at Ascot on the weekend, host Brittany Taylor said on the day Rock Magic retired and his girth was being done up he was trying to turn around and bite but now he’s nothing like that.

Later in the day Rock Magic with Ms Barbarich led out the field in the Rock Magic Stakes named in his honour.

Although at one stage the 14-year-old gelding stopped in his tracks and watched while the other gallopers went out to the starting gates the rest of the time he behaved like a perfect gentleman.

Ms Barbarich, who is a part time assistant steward at the races, has Rocky and another retired horse at her place.

Over the years she has rehomed about 14 retired racehorses and is still in contact with nearly all of their owners.

She is thrilled that they send her photos and messages from people telling her how their horse is going.

A former racehorse will come to her for anywhere between a month and up to 12 months if they’ve had tendon injuries or something wrong with them and needed rehabilitation.

“Once they’re rehabbed then I’ll start to ride them out into the bush and just give them a very relaxed restart and then I find them a home for someone to go on from there and do whatever they want to do with them,’’ she said.

“Racing is a sport – they’re an athlete so they come here for down time and relaxation and just to learn how to be a horse again.

“(Here) they get loved but they don’t get fussed over every day like they do at a stable and have to go out and work every day.”

Once they get a chance to really relax and get over the hard work and pressure of racing she notices a big change in them even Rocky.

“He came here and you couldn’t put him in a paddock without him bolting off and bucking and kicking away and now you put him in the paddock and he just stands there looking at me like ‘Well is that it? What else are we doing mum?’,’’ Ms Barbarich said.

“He’s probably been one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in a horse and he just follows me around like a puppy dog now.’’

She said in her opinion every horse when it finished racing should have time to just chill out and get that racing working ethic out of their head for a bit and just become a horse and relax again.

“It’s a very relaxed environment here and the dogs run around, the neighbour’s dog comes over to visit, we’ve got kangaroos that (hop) up and down the street – everything is just very, very low-keyed and relaxed.”

When asked what she gets out of it she said she loved the thoroughbred.

“I think they are just one of the most amazing horses, they’re intelligent and you can work so well with them.

“I love seeing the change in them and I love finding them a home where they are going to be loved, where they’re going to be someone’s horse not just my horse here that has to deal with a few different other horses getting my attention.’’

She takes time trying to match each horse with a new owner.

“I will have people come out – they can come out three or four times, they can come out and ride, they can come out and just play with the horse and get to know it,” she said.

But she is quite happy to say ‘No sorry’ if she doesn’t think the horse and a potential owner are a good match.

She had a hip replacement 18 months ago, which made it very difficult for her to keep up with heavy stable work but has got herself set up so is sort of semi-retired now although she continues to do horse rug repairs, which she has done for about 14 years.

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