Racing grooms are responsible for the daily care of thoroughbred racehorses. They work in licensed racing yards, caring for and riding horses as they work towards racing fitness. Their daily routine usually includes:
Racing grooms play a key role in ensuring the horses in their care are well, look good and feel comfortable. They have a strong bond with the horses they look after.
There are two types of racing. Flat racing is run on a track without obstacles. National Hunt racing, also referred to as jump racing, involves racing over fences and hurdles.
Apprentice jockeys ride in flat races. In jump racing, they are known as conditional jockeys. Apprentice/conditional jockeys ride horses in public races once they have a licence. Application for a licence is made once the trainer feels that a jockey is competent and has acquired the skills necessary to ride in a race. On days when jockeys are not riding at race meetings, apprentice and conditional jockeys have the same tasks as grooms.
Grooms and jockeys have a working week of around 40 hours, usually starting early Monday morning and finishing at around lunchtime on Saturday. They may be required to attend, or ride at, race meetings outside these hours. There will be a rota system in place so that some weekends are free. Overtime is common and some Sunday work may be required. Part-time work is possible.
Most of the work is outdoors, in all weather conditions. The job is physically demanding and involves lifting, carrying, bending, climbing and standing for long periods. Stables can be dusty.
These roles involve traveling to race meetings throughout the UK. This may mean living away from home for long periods.
Grooms and jockeys wear overalls when mucking out and cleaning and riding boots, a skullcap, a body protector and jodhpurs when riding.
Working with horses can be work a hazardous, high risk activity and occasionally accidents happen when handling or riding horses.
There are nationally agreed minimum rates of pay for stable staff, including racing grooms. The National Association of Stable Staff (NASS) and the National Trainers Federation (NTF) have details of the rates on their websites.
There are extra payments for work on Sundays, evening racing and racing abroad. Grooms will also receive 'pool money' which is a percentage of the money which horses in their stable have accumulated through winning and being placed in races. Pool money is paid every three months. Apprentice and conditional jockeys also receive a proportion of riding fees and prize money of winning and placed rides.
Many grooms live in accommodation provided at their trainers' yard.
Grooms and apprentice/conditional jockeys are employed by racehorse trainers. There are over 600 licensed racehorse trainers' yards throughout the UK, between them employing several thousand stable staff. Yards may specialise in flat or National Hunt racing, or train horses for both. Stables are traditionally concentrated in particular rural areas, such as Newmarket (Suffolk), Lambourn (Berkshire) and Middleham and Malton (North Yorkshire). The NTF website lists member trainers.
Vacancies are advertised in the Racing Post and at www.careersinracing.com.
No set qualifications are needed to begin work as a racing groom. Entrants do not need previous experience with horses or academic qualifications.
To become a groom, applicants must prepare by attending a residential foundation course. The courses last between nine and twelve weeks. They include:
- An introduction to the horse racing industry
- Routine care and maintenance of horses
- Riding skills
Funded training is available for 16 to 18 year-olds. Training at the racing schools may be available for the older age groups but funding is limited. Those aged 19 or more can enter the industry through direct employment.
Courses lead to National Vocational Qualifications Levels 1 to 3 in horse care and racehorse care, or approved equivalents, functional skills qualifications, a technical certificate and a recognised first aid certificate.
The two main centres offering the training are the British Racing School (BRS) in Newmarket and the Northern Racing College (NRC) in Doncaster. Applicants must meet the maximum weight requirements for BRS and NRC if they are to undertake the riding element of the course.
After the foundation course, successful students will be found employment with a licensed racehorse trainer as part of the stable staff team. Only the most able grooms with a real aptitude for riding are selected to become apprentice or conditional jockeys. Jockeys should meet the maximum weight requirement, be in good health and physically fit.
The Apprenticeship takes between 12 to 18 months and leads to an NVQ in racehorse care at Level 2. Some stable staff go on to an Advanced Apprenticeship leading to racehorse care and management at Level 3.
Most of the training is on the job, working with an experienced member of staff at the employer's premises. Additional skills and knowledge are provided by a local college or a specialist training provider.
Grooms who demonstrate the skills necessary to become a jockey will be put forward by the racehorse trainer who employs them for a five-day residential apprentice or conditional licence course at the BRS or NRC. They then apply to the British Horseracing Authority for a licence to ride.
Apprentice/conditional jockeys are employed on a full-time basis by a licensed racehorse trainer. They continue their development by taking a four-day apprentice or conditional continuation course and an advanced apprentice or conditional course when they have ridden the required number of winners.
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Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.
A groom or apprentice/conditional jockey should:
Promotion from a racing groom position is possible to traveling head groom, assistant head groom or head groom. A few head grooms become assistant trainers and trainers.
Some apprentice/conditional jockeys become professional jockeys, working either for a yard or on a freelance basis.
British Horseracing Education
and Standards Trust (BHEST),
Suite 16, Unit 8, Kings Court,
Willie Snaith Road, Newmarket,
Suffolk CB8 7SG
Tel: 01638 560743
The British Racing School (BRS),
Snailwell Road, Newmarket,
Suffolk CB8 7NU
Tel: 01638 665103
National Association of Stable Staff (NASS),
74 High Street, Swadlincote,
Derbyshire DE11 8HS
Tel: 01283 211522
National Trainers Federation (NTF)
Tel: 01488 71719
Northern Racing College (NRC),
The Stables, Rossington Hall,
Great North Road, Doncaster DN11 0HN
Tel: 01302 861000
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.