Racing Groom Ambassadors

laura-winstanley

Laura Winstanley

Former Head Groom

Sir Michael Stoute
Newmarket

Now Exercise Rider – David Simcock

What was your background before you became a racing groom?

I started riding when I was about 9 years old at a local riding school after begging my mum for lessons like a dripping tap! Once I got the riding bug I joined the Cottesmore Hunt Pony Club where I took part in a variety of activities but soon realised that what I enjoyed the most was going fast in straight lines! From there I got introduced to polo which I loved and it gave me the chance to travel across the UK as part of a team taking part in the Pony Club Championships.

In my final year studying for my A Levels and applying to University to study Philosophy I realised that my heart just wasn’t in the route I was taking. I researched careers with horses and the British Racing School’s website popped up. Once I’d read about the racing industry that was it, there was no going back! Nothing else seemed to compare with the opportunity to work with racehorses, I knew I wanted to wake up every day and do something I loved for a living.

What training did you have?

I completed a 9 week Foundation Course at the British Racing School in Newmarket. I loved my time there and it was that first taste of working in racing that made me realise I was doing what I was really passionate about. I continued the rest of my training whilst working to gain my Level 2 Diploma in Work Based Racehorse Care.

Sir Michael has always been really supportive of any extra training I’ve wanted to do and so I went on to complete my Level 3 Diploma in Work Based Racehorse Care and Management. The skills I’ve learnt whilst training with the British Racing School have been invaluable to me and have given me the confidence to keep asking questions and try and improve my horsemanship.

Did you arrange work experience beforehand?

Yes, I did one week with Scott Dixon in Retford and two weeks with Jane Chappel-Hyam in Newmarket. I found my time with these trainers really important because it I got to see what it really takes to get a horse to the racecourse. The horses and people I met during my time in each yard inspired me to keep pursuing a career in the industry.

How did you arrange this work experience?

I arranged it through a family friend who had worked in racing. Hearing the way she spoke about her job and the horses she had looked after made me realise that it had been so much more than just a job to her and that that’s how I wanted to feel too.

How did you find you first job in racing?

I remember Mr MacDonald calling me to the office at The British Racing School to tell me he’d found me a job. I never thought for a million years that it would be with Sir Michael Stoute! I thought I might be lucky enough to work for a trainer like him once I had more experience but of course I said yes, it was the dream job offer, and I’ve been there ever since.

What do you do in your job?

I had the opportunity to do lots of exciting things as part of my role such as travelling with horses to the races, going to the sales and breaking in yearlings. On a typical day though, I started by coming in early (sometimes as early as four in the morning!) to feed round the yard and check the horses’ legs. I then rode two or three horses ranging from two-year-olds to older horses which included galloping and stalls schooling. After riding out I completed medical treatments such as cleaning and bandaging wounds, icing and claying horses’ legs after fast work and working with the vets.

Sometimes I got the chance to watch the horses out on exercise, I loved seeing the horses from this perspective because you see everything coming together before they go to the races. I arrived early again for evening stables to check that the horses have eaten and drunk after exercise as well as to check for any injuries. I reported this information to the boss or the assistant trainer every day.

Sometimes the boss would look round the yard of an evening or would bring owners to see their horses so it’s important to make sure they are always looking their best.

At the end of 2018 I made the decision to pick up my studying again and work towards gaining my degree with the Open University.  I am very lucky to be able to ride out for David Simcock in the mornings  because, despite wanting to study again, I just can’t imagine my life without horses and riding out.  I love being out on the Newmarket Heath first thing in the morning and riding thoroughbred racehorses up the gallops.  It helps to blow away the cobwebs ready for an afternoon of reading and writing assignments!  It is really interesting to see how another trainer and their yard operates.  The brilliant thing about racing is that once you’ve invested any amount of time in the industry you will always be part of the community.

What do you like most about your job?

The best part of my job was being given the opportunity to progress and become a better horsewoman both in the saddle and on the ground. Of course, I love the horses! They are amazing animals to be around and it is a privilege to work with them every day. I also loved being in an environment with lots of very knowledgeable and experienced people – you never stop learning in this job!

Have you done any other training whilst in your role?

I’ve completed short courses at the British Racing School on topics such as clipping and first aid.

I have also completed a training day provided by the NTF and The Peplow Group which aims to improve leadership and management skills within the racing industry.  This training was excellent and gave me so much food for thought in the way I approach my job.

What are your plans to progress your career?

My dream is to become a racehorse trainer in the future and so my next step would be to progress into a pupil assistant role in the next few years.

What tips would you give a person wanting to start a role as a racing groom?

First and foremost, if you don’t already, fall in love with horses and racing because when you’re tired and cold it’s what keeps you going! It’s important to be patient because horses are not machines – they all have their own quirky personalities. Finally, dedication is vital. The more time and effort you give your horses the more they give you.

What awards have you won or been nominated for?

One of my career highlights was winning the David Nicholson Newcomer Award at the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards in 2016. It was amazing to even be nominated but to win on such a fantastic night was something I will never forget.

I also received the Fred Packard Scholarship in 2017 which sent me to work for Gai Waterhouse in Sydney Australia. This has long been a dream of mine and to realize it was something I will never forget.  It was an amazing experience and not a day goes by where I don’t use the skills I learnt during my time there.

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