What to Expect on your first day of Work Experience
You should have already received some information from the yard regarding your exciting venture into the world of horse racing.
What to wear
If you are going to be riding, you will have been advised to ensure you have a body protector and a skull cap. This is vital equipment and without them you will be unable to ride out. Bear in mind, you will need a proper jockey’s skull cap. A velvet showing hat or hat with a peak will not be acceptable. If you do not have a body protector, let the yard know and they will loan you one whilst you are with them.
You may already know if you are going to be issued with a uniform. This is usually a jumper, polo shirt, jacket and hat silk. Uniform or no uniform, do not wear your white breeches (they get very dirty!) and wear a plain jumper, shirt and sensible jacket that will keep you warm and dry. You will also need to have long boots or jodhpur boots, and wellies or boots for mucking out or for handling horses. Racehorses may not be very big but they can still squash your toes – so no trainers please!
Arriving and what will happen
Make sure you are in on time, everyone works to a tight schedule in a racing yard and no-one will appreciate it if you are late.
First of all, it is likely that you will be pointed to a wheelbarrow and fork for mucking out boxes. Don’t forget, Thoroughbreds are highly strung, fit athletes. You will be expected to tie them up when you are in the box with them. They are sensitive and gentle animals and need to be handled quietly but firmly – otherwise they might just decide to sink their teeth into you!
Everyone will be bustling around, they all know what they are doing, but if you are stuck, ask any of the staff politely they will be happy to help you. There is no time for chatter at this time of morning I am afraid, but they will point you in the right direction.
Sometime during the morning, the Secretary will ask you to come into the office. On this first day he or she will want you to sign some forms, ask for information and maybe weigh you. For your own safety, you will be asked for your details, your next of kin information and their contact details. Try to give as much information as you can. If you have an allergy to hay, be sure to let everyone know and you will be shown where the dust masks are.
If you are going to ride, you may just go out on a hack to start with. These are usually ex-racehorses whose job it is to lead the string out and ensure they all go on to the gallops safely. Occasionally, they will be required to catch one of the horses that may have lost its rider and gone off on its own. You could be put on a horse in training and just trot on the first day. Don’t worry, you are just being assessed so they can work out what horse to give you in future and see what stage of riding you are at.
I am sure you will be aware how different riding a racehorse is to anything else you have sat on. Be prepared for it to feel completely different to anything you have ever sat on before. It is like driving a sports car after being in a Landrover! Even an ex-racehorse will not feel the same. The racehorses in training are on a high-performance diet and much fitter than the thoroughbred in the field.
After all the horses have been out, there are yard duties to undertake – sweeping, tidying up and feeding. You may be asked to hold a horse whilst its tail is washed or pulled. Then when morning stables are over, it is off for a break until about 4pm. When you get back for evening stables you will be allocated horses which you will then have to brush over. You will be expected to skip out the box, put fresh water and hay in. The trainer or assistant will be likely to come and check round all the horses after all the jobs are finished.
Enjoy it and we may see you again!
So, the first day is over and you will have learned so much! It all becomes so much easier after that – you will get into a routine, make friends and have a laugh and joke with the staff.
By the end of your work experience, you will pretty much know if you want a career in racing. We hope you do. It is a great way to see the country, meet people and even go abroad racing. You will make a lot of friends, work as a team and improve your riding – maybe progressing in time to riding work upsides a top jockey!
Never be afraid to ask for advice during your time at the stables. The older racing staff will be happy to help and will be flattered that you are asking their opinion. Be willing, hard- working and show how keen you are. You could even be offered a job at the end of the period!