The hot topic of the moment is the staffing crisis in racing. Many negatives have been highlighted and it leaves you wondering, 'why would people want to come into racing?'
I began rather a lengthy blog, wading into the discussion before realising I was pretty much rehashing much of what is already out there courtesy of trainers and staff alike, available to read on various social media platforms and often published in the Racing Post. So I scrapped it and shelved the thoughts in favour of a more positive outlook. Why work in racing? I'll tell you why.
First and foremost, the obvious. Horses. They are bloody wonderful creatures. When you catch the bug,that's it, you're a goner, life will never be the same because now they're under your skin and there's simply no way to remove them. They are the most beautiful animals to look at. There's nothing quite like watching a fit racehorse galloping in the sunshine, muscles rippling, ears pricked, hooves drumming the ground as they thunder up the gallop past you. Watching one school over hurdles and fences is quite the experience, see their ears flicking as they see a stride, watching their body arc over the obstacle and land showing a set of clean heels before they speed off to the next flight. The smell of a horse, the soft velvety noses, the whinny as you open the barn doors on a morning, the feeling of galloping a half-tone animal - all infectious, all leave you wanting more. They're also incredibly intuitive animals and make the best companions. Love them and they'll love you. The racing TV channels are making a real effort to show behind the scenes in racing, but we need even more of it. We need every one to see these animals up close, get to know what makes them tick, see them in their day-to-day lives up close and personal, see the bond that can be made between man and beast, feel the attachment and want to get involved.
Racing. One of the country's biggest sports, racing brings in billions and with good reason - it's a cracking day out. But a day at the races is very different for staff than it is for punters. We don't get dressed up in our finery, we don't frequent the bars or eat in the fancy restaurants and we don't stay behind to watch the band playing after racing. But that doesn't mean we've drawn the short straw. These are the days we look forward to, this is what it's all about! The hard work has been done; weeks, months, years of graft has been put in, and now we get to take our pride and joy to the races. We'll groom them, saddle them, lead them around the parade ring and take pride in doing so. We'll leg up the jockey, handing over the reins to them and praying that they look after your baby and return them to you safely. We'll bite our nails while they walk round at the start, we'll hold our breath as we watch them jump off and gallop around the track and should we be lucky enough to have a horse in with a shout at the business end of the race, we will shout and bounce and jump around like a mad man, willing them home in front. And if they win we will be so proud. Big race, small race, a win is a win and in this moment, your horse was the best and you are delighted. You will be so proud you'll nearly knock a hole in it's neck, patting and fussing all the way to the winners enclosure. More should be made of the staff. Again, efforts are being made to do so, but they really are the backbone of racing and they deserve to share the spotlight.
Legacy. If you work in racing you are instantly a part of a centries old institution. It's a community of people with a common interest, drenched in history. If you are unaware of the origins or horse racing, I strongly urge you to look into it, it's fascinating to see where it all began, the first thoroughbreds, the earliest races. How great to be a part of that?
Learning. You will learn something new, every single day. No matter how long you've worked in racing or with horses, you will never stop learning, you will never know it all. This helps to keep things fresh and interesting. Futher training is available - we've enjoyed visits from Yogi Breisner, had tuition on the mechanical horse and courses are on offer to further your knowledge and skills in many areas of racing. Yes, career progression may look limited but look a little deeper. Career opportunites are out there ready to be taken, a good foundation in racing will stand you in good stead in many of the different sectors - breeding, blookstock agents, sales, PR, journalism, marketing, the list goes on - you may even go on to train yourself!
I could go on, there's many reasons to work in racing. Don't get me wrong, the points being raised as to why we are currently neck-deep in a staffing crisis are true, and it's not all a bed of roses and perhaps you think this has been written whilst looking though a pair of rose tinted glasses. There's many reasons not to work in racing, if you're workshy - it's not for you. If you don't love horses (what's wrong with you?!) - it's not for you. And if you don't love the craic and commeradery - it's not for you!
But, if you think you may just find your calling in racing, pick up the phone...