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  Careers in Racing

Preparing a thoroughbred horse for success on the racetrack is a complex and time-consuming job that depends on an extensive team within which everyone has a vital part to play. There are many positions available to those wishing to progress their career working directly with thoroughbreds ranging from stable staff to jockeys, trainers and racing secretaries. Some of the key jobs are described in this section, starting with entry-level positions, and reference is also made to employment opportunities within the breeding and stud sectors.

Stable staff
Stable staff duties include all the routine but essential tasks around the yard such as mucking out stables, cleaning tack, sweeping the yard, grooming and riding thoroughbred racehorses. The attractions of the job are working in the open air, caring for a potential champion horse, travelling with horses to racing around Ireland and sometimes abroad, meeting owners and possibly appearing on television leading a winning horse into the winner's enclosure. With increased experience and training, it is possible to attain positions of increased responsibility such as Travelling Person, Head Lad or Assistant Trainer. Exceptionally good riders can become jockeys after serving time as Apprentice (flat) or Conditional (jump) jockeys.

A desire to work with horses in the outdoors must be matched with personal qualities of commitment, determination, alertness and an ability to work with others as part of a team.

A 30-week FÁS traineeship programme is now available at RACE to provide new entrants with a range of practical skills and related knowledge in stable & yard routine and racehorse care & exercise so as to become a competent exercise rider and stable groom in the racing industry. Click here for details

Most professional jockeys emerge from the pool of young stable staff who show real aptitude for race riding. In Ireland, many of these have come through the FÁS sponsored Trainee Jockey programme at RACE  while others have gone to work directly with trainers and been given the opportunity to ride as an apprentice. Many jump jockeys start as amateur riders in Point-to-point or National Hunt racing.

Prospective jockeys must have the right physical characteristics and a determined attitude as well as talent if they are to succeed in a highly competitive environment where great sacrifices must be made. The lifestyle is demanding, competition is fierce and most have retired by their late thirties. The weight ranges in Ireland are currently 8 stone 4lbs to 10 stone in flat racing and 9 stone 10lbs to 12 stone for wNational Hunt jockeys.

Travelling Head Lad
Travelling Head Lads accompany horses to race meetings, often driving the horsebox as well as being responsible for the horses and all necessary equipment, racing colours, horse passports etc. They take responsibility for feeding and overall welfare of the travelling horses, along with supervising the horses' regular staff who may accompany them. Once at the races, they may have to represent the trainer, declare the horses, saddle up, relay a jockey's instructions and take care of owners. Hours can be long and they may spend extended periods of time away from home, sometimes abroad. On non-racing days they usuallly work alongside other stable staff, riding out and performing yard duties.

This is a position that requires responsibility and reliability and most Travelling Head Lads have gained experience and progressed up the ladder while gaining the confidence of the trainer.

Head Lad
The responsibilities of a Head Lad are to ensure the smooth day-to-day running of the yard, especially in the trainers' absence, and to supervise the stable staff. Duties include feeding, checking horses for injury or illness, administering treatment if necessary, recognising when the vet is needed and breaking in yearlings. Head Lads must be able to cope with pressure and tight schedules, be good with people and have the ability to act calmly in an emergency while keeping staff motivated and getting the job done. Hours may be long but there can be great satisfaction from fulfilling such a vital role in the yard.

A Head Lad will usually have gained extensive experience as stable staff and have attained promotion by displaying the necessary management and leadership qualities. Most yards have only one Head Lad so the chances of promotion to this position are limited.

Assistant Trainer
The Assistant Trainer is the trainer's right-hand man or woman. He/she will assist the trainer in planning race entries, assessing horses' ability, completing racing documentation, public relations, recruiting and training stable staff, as well as frequently acting as his/her representative at the races. Assistant Trainers are often working to gain the expertise needed to apply for their own trainer's licence. This will require in-depth knowledge of horses and running a yard as well as learning how to run a business. Being an Assistant Trainer requires hard work, long hours and real dedication but provides an excellent way of gaining the necessary experience.

Those wishing to fulfill this role will have previous experience in a racing yard or as a jockey and should approach trainers with medium sized or large yards. Some trainers might offer the position of Pupil Assistant, which may be a more suitable route for those with limited experience.

The business of a Trainer is much wider than just training racehorses. Other aspects include: entering horses in suitable races in order to achieve the best possible success for owners, attracting and retaining owners, purchase and selection of bloodstock, management and maintenance of facilities, marketing and PR, media briefings, office management, racing documentation, attending race meetings and running a business enterprise. As an employer, a Trainer must manage staff, comply with legislation and deal with contracts and wages. There is endless hard work behind the scenes that contributes to the apparent glamour of a big race day and it is a seven-day a week job with very few opportunities for breaks. The ultimate satisfaction, however, comes from fulfilling the ambition to train racehorses and train winners.

Trainers must be good communicators and have a thorough understanding of the fundamental principles of training racehorses. They will usually have progressed from being a jockey or head man or assistant trainer and are required by the Turf Club to attend a two week preparatory course at RACE. Details may be viewed here. Applicants for a trainer's licence must supply references, a business plan and evidence of suitable training facilities etc.

The shoeing of horses is a skilled trade and a vital part of the preparation and care of valuable thoroughbred racehorses as “no foot – no horse”! The modern farrier is required to have an extensive knowledge of equine anatomy and physiology, practical forging techniques and therapeutic shoeing and must be a good communicator with owners. It involves hard physical work and training consists of a four-year apprenticeship under the auspices of the Irish Master Farriers Association.

Click here for details of the FÁS sponsored training programme at the Irish School of Farriery on the RACE campus.

Racing Secretary
A Racing Secretary assists the trainer in the yard office. Duties generally include entering and declaring horses for races, completing racing documentation, keeping the accounts, dealing with staff and wages and handling the day to day correspondence and telephone calls.

There are more than 400 licensed trainers in Ireland of whom the majority will require a good secretary. In some yards, secretaries may combine office duties with working in the yard and riding out, which combines the best of both worlds for someone who wants to ride.

A Racing Secretary must have all the basic skills of typing, computer skills and knowledge of the Internet along with a working knowledge of payroll packages, taxation issues and a good understanding of the racing industry.

Horse Transport
The transport of racehorses is an important part of the racing industry, involving taking horses to race meetings and studs at home and abroad. There are a small number of privately owned companies involved in transporting horses by road and they employ horsebox drivers, grooms and some administrative staff. Drivers must have some knowledge of handling horses, hold a current HGV licence, and be prepared to be away from home a lot.

Racecourse work
There are 27 racecourses in Ireland at present and a new all-weather facility at Dundalk is due to open in 2007. Generally they are independent businesses and vary in size but Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has ownership of the four tracks at Leopardstown, Navan, Fairyhouse and Tipperary. HRI is embarking on a major capital development programme for Irish racecourses to upgrade facilities over the five-year period to 2010 so the sector should be buoyant. Employment opportunities at racecourses include managers, groundstaff, administrative, marketing, maintenance and catering staff.

Larger racecourses, which sometimes use the land for other purposes such as golf courses, may employ a significant number of groundstaff whose duties include maintaining the track, rails and fences. This job can involve unsociable hours in all weathers.

Stud Work
For someone who wants to work with horses but not necessarily ride, work on a stud farm presents excellent opportunities for a career and offers the opportunity to gain experience worldwide. Ireland is home to some of the world's leading breeding operations and there are hundreds of stud farms of varying size throughout the country.

Positions include Stud Hands, Assistant Stud Grooms, Stud Grooms and Stallion Handlers. The duties of Stud Groom include the acre and welfare of horses, all breeding activities and liaison with vets, owners, staff and farriers and the person needs to have in-depth knowledge of horses, the breeding industry and pasture management, as well as having up-to-date knowledge of all available modern technology.

The Stud Manager has ultimate responsibility for the horses and the promotion and marketing of the stud. This role requires years of experience and is largely administrative and office based as duties include liasing with owners, overseeing accounts and cash flow, selection and purchase of bloodstock and, along with the Stud Groom, responsibility for stud personnel.

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Careers in Racing
Careers in Racing
Careers in Racing
Careers in Racing
RACE, Curragh House, Dublin Road, Kildare, Republic of Ireland. Tel: 353 45 522468  Fax: 353 45 521305 Email: info@racingacademy.ie
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