No hurdles to a job in racing

18th February 2000 at 00:00
The sport of kings is big business and there are various routes into a career as a jockey or trainer. You don't even have to be able to ride as Rosie Waterhouse discovers

RACING is more than just the sport of kings: it is an international industry employing thousands of people in hundreds of jobs.

Many young people dream of becoming a jockey or trainer, but the starting point for any career in racing is in the stables.

There are around 15,000 people looking after 40,000 horses in racing stables and thoroughbred studs across the country.

Training yards are the engine rooms of the racing industry where stable lads and lasses are closest to the action, caring for and living with horses every day.

Jack Berry, one of Britain's most successful trainers, began his career as a stable lad. "We all work as a team," he says. "A jockey or trainer is only ever as good as his team."

Training opportunities include a national vocational qualification in racehorse care and modern apprenticeships in racehorse care and management. Broader challenges include the chance to travel. Trainees receive a government allowance of pound;40 a week.

The British Horseracing Training Board, the training arm of the sport's governing body, oversees the NVQ training structure for 16 to 19-year-olds with some openings for people up to the age of 25.

Perhaps surprisingly, being able to ride a horse is not an essential qualification - many trainees who pass the course have never sat in a saddle. In fact, no experience with horses or formal qualifications are needed. But a career in racing is challenging; requirements include ambition, motivation, fitness and enjoyment of working out-of-doors.

Applicants will usually be invited to an interview and if accepted will go on a 10-week course at the British Racing School at Newmarket or the Northern Racing College at Doncaster. The course, accommodation and food are free.

For those youngsters may like horses, but don't wish to ride an alternative is working on a stud, where stallions and mares are kept for breeding. Foals are usually born during the first half of the year and often stay at the stud for up to 18 months.

The training involves a four-week induction course at the National Stud, Newmarket, which also includes board and lodging.

The NVQ course includes the care of bloodstock, helping vets and farriers, how to assist at foalings, and paddock maintenance.

After completion of the induction course trainees are normally plced on a stud during a breeding season to work towards an NVQ l in racehorse care (breeding).

Billy-Jo Hitchcock, from Billericay, Essex, also did a key skills course in information technology, in common with all 40 young trainees on the course.

Living in a hostel was her first taste of independence before she left home to continue her studies with jump trainer David Nicholson near Cheltenham.

"It was a good atmosphere," said Billy-Jo who has now finished her course. "Because we lived so close together we all got on well, everyone helped everyone else."

"It was also been a brilliant introduction to the behind-the-scenes world of racing."

Over the past 10 years the number of people receiving formal training supervised by the Horseracing Training Board has increased from 300 to 1,100. The board has just launched a schools' education programme with pilot projects to introduce youngsters to the racing world - its purpose is ultimately to increase the number of racegoers and people who wish to work in the industry.

Martin Lawton, the board's first education officer, is developing a pilot framework of educational field trips to studs, training yards and racecourses initially for children aged 9 to 16, but for older students in 2001.

Mr Lawton believes the industry should talk to teachers and children about the contentious issues of gambling and animal welfare.

"I must persuade racing to open its door to education and at the same time provide schools with an enjoyable and productive learning experience," he said.


Number of licences issued to professional jockeys last year: flat 112; jump 93; apprentice 190 (young flat jockey); conditional 115 (young jump jockey).

Licensed trainers 512.

Five main training centres are: Epsom, Lambourn, Malton, Middleham, Newmarket.

Stable staff with trainers: 3,143 male, 2,632 female.

There are 59 racecourses in Britain.

A total of 13,000 horses are in training, with just under 10,000 active owners.

A report by KPMG Consultants into the value of the British horseracing and breeding industry found:

Almost 60,000 people are employed by the industry - 31,600 directly and 28,7000 indirectly;

About pound;613 million was generated by the industry with a further pound;58m spent by racegoers away from the course;

Government tax revenue excluding General Betting Duty was around pound;142 million;

Export turnover is estimated to be pound;90m.

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