Trainer Magazine

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Trainer Profile: Colin Tizzard

PROFILEWeb Master
  “He’ll win the King George, two years’ time, you wait and see!” Given that the speaker is Colin Tizzard, who has saddled the last two winners of the Grade 1 chase, the opinion carries weight, but a warm chuckle from him downplays the gravity of his statement.        Tizzard, his son Joe, and a group of owners are in jovial mood as they watch a pair of promising young novices school upsides at the trainer’s Venn Farm Stables in Dorset, south-west England.       Home to some of the most successful trainers, past and present, in National Hunt (Jumps) racing, the region has long been a hotbed for the sport and also for Point-to-Point (PTP) racing, a related category of amateur thoroughbred racing over fences which is often a starting point in the careers of National Hunt jockeys, trainers, and horses.       Tizzard is one of a number of trainers in the area who have a background in Point-to-Points and have made a successful transition to racing under Rules. His team has firmly established itself as one of the top 20 National Hunt stables in the country season in and season out, having started with two pointers to support his son’s embryonic riding career more than two decades ago, while also running the family dairy farming business.       The stable’s run of form has notably progressed from very good to excellent in the past three years. Last season was Tizzard’s best to date, when he finished third in the trainers’ championship to the two trainers who have dominated the British National Hunt scene for the past decade or so, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls.       So what has propelled Colin Tizzard to the highest echelons of the trainers’ table?       One can certainly trace the origins of the stable’s current form to the emergence of Cue Card, who has long been one of the cornerstones of the Tizzard string. Since beating the highly regarded Al Ferof to win the Champion Bumper on only his second start, Cue Card not only elevated the profile of the stable but reassured the team that they were heading in the right direction.       “Cue Card came along when we were just ticking along with 15-20 winners per year, and we thought we were flat out at that point, but he gave us the confidence that we could do it,” says Tizzard.       In the seven years since that memorable day at Cheltenham, the stable proved they could indeed do it, and across the board, with nearly 20 individual Graded or Listed winners. Everything came together in the 2016/17 season for the Tizzards: third place in the trainer rankings, 33% more runners than the previous season but with a near-identical winning strike rate, plus six individual Grade 1 winners. So, what next?       “We won £2.5 million last season, including Irish prize money, and it would be amazing if we could do that again,” enthuses Tizzard. “It is exciting; some of those four-year-olds we schooled this morning aren't just winners, they're potential Cheltenham horses.”       When asked how he would assess his chances of landing the trainers’ championship this season, he takes a typically practical view of his situation.       “No, I'm 50 horses short of what is needed to win a championship. But I could be better set for the spring festivals this season and I probably have a better crop of novice hurdlers this time around too.       “Thistlecrack and Native River are late starting, and Native River faces a tougher task this season than last year. He jumped the last nearly upsides and you would have bet money that he would have outstayed anything up that hill (in the Cheltenham Gold Cup), but he didn’t. Whether it was that our stable wasn't in the best form at the time or we had been to the well a few too many times with him, but for me the Gold Cup is the hardest race of the year. It tests horses, their wind, and tests the jockeys. It tests the owners and tests the trainers, too!”       However, while the established stable stars occupy a special place in the story of the rise of the Tizzards and remain key players in plans for this season, it's apparent that he is also planning and building for the future.       Among Tizzard’s string are 18 newly turned four-year-olds. Once Tizzard has gone through plans for the runners with his son, he points out a nice type whose dam is a sister to the 2017 French Champion Hurdle winner L’Ami Serge. This is just one example of how the stable’s rising profile has attracted new owners and brought increased strength to an already successful string.       Although Tizzard remains coy about absolute numbers, it’s fair to estimate that his string now runs to more than a 100. One of the signs of a well-organised stable is its ability to adapt to changing demands, but not at the expense of the results on the track, and this is perhaps where lessons Tizzard has learned in the family farming business, which runs alongside the training operation, have paid dividends.       Certainly, the family ties to the training and farming businesses remain strong. Tizzard has been a dairy farmer in his own right for more than three decades, with 500 head of cattle, and along with his brothers Alan and Michael, who have farms on neighbouring land, has followed in the footsteps of his parents. Leslie and Marjorie Tizzard started out as tenant farmers on the Venn estate in the post-war years, just down the road from where the majority of Tizzard's horses are stabled today.        Tizzard’s elder brother Robert is an owner-breeder who returned to the area after a career in London. Situated close to Venn Farm on the Somerset/Dorset county border, Robert’s house overlooks the paddocks that are home to his select band of broodmares as well as the arena where Colin Tizzard schools his jumpers.       Displaying his typical shrewdness, Tizzard’s move into training more than 20 years ago was very much informed by the farming business and what he was learning in his early years as a trainer.        “We are farmers and it (the farming side of the business) is very much our safety net. We have seen a lot of trainers in the position we are now, but then they're 25th next year, 50th the next, and then they're gone.       “The pressure really is on the younger trainers these days, those who have a few horses, rent a yard, and maybe have families to support. The only pressure I get is the pressure I put on myself, so to be in that position, we make sure the stable is first run as a business.        “Simply, anyone who has ever had a horse loves training them. If you had a hunter, a polo pony, a show pony or a gymkhana pony, whatever you've got, you think you can beat the next one and that's all we're doing here.”       This measured, straightforward philosophy meant that the Tizzards developed the training business steadily rather than dramatically in the early years.       “There was no masterplan. We had pointers when we were teenagers, so we would milk the cows and then ride the horses and I also rode as an amateur under Rules. Later, we and our children Joe and Kim would go hunting, and we did that for years. But we enjoyed the training as much as the riding and we made a start with some pointers, and it was just a natural progression as Joe’s riding career started. When the pointers started winning all the time, we thought we would take out a licence.       “Not long after that we put the gallop down and then Joe became first jockey to Paul Nicholls, so we didn't get Joe much for a while. Then, even when he wasn't with Paul, he would be off playing golf, so we never saw him!       “After Joe retired from riding, he has worked as hard as anyone and he's very much involved with the running of the farm as well as the training side. Joe lives on the farm, in the ‘love nest,’ but I probably shouldn't call it that! Joe and I both have entry books and we sit down together and he does it online. We have debates and then he has to come around to my way of thinking.       “Joe and Kim are partners in the business, rather than assistant trainers, and Kim drives 19 miles every morning to ride first lot, before anyone else, does three lots per day and then goes to the stable office to sort out a lot of the administration with my wife Pauline, including the weekend staff rotas.        “Pauline used to run our bed and breakfast business, but it came to the point where we didn't have time to do that, so we finished that and she still does a hell of a lot now, dealing with owners, dealing with racing colours, going to the races, making sure the VAT is right, and checks on everyone, and she checks on me.       “Joe’s the man who makes contact with new owners coming onto the market. I'm a farmer, I can't quite go over and do it like he can. He does attract new types of owners.       “By and large, Kim and Joe do everything I don’t and try and do everything I do!”       As Tizzard is talking, his mother Marjorie, now retired and who lives close by, calls into the yard. Tizzard strides over and embraces her warmly and says, “Make sure you get a photo. I owe her everything!”       A member of the family's fourth generation is also present in the yard, to ride ponies out before school. Freddie Gingell, Kim’s son, has ambitions to be a jockey and has been riding in PTP pony races with success this year, winning two races in the Charles Owen series, at Chepstow and Ascot. “Seeing Freddie win was one of the proudest moments of my life,” says Tizzard. “He's into everything in the yard.”       By necessity, Tizzard and the team have adapted to the growth of the training side of the operation, and the family business has now expanded to a staff of around 35, including part-time employees.       “We were short of staff and one year, Pauline and I were doing about 25 horses by ourselves on Christmas Day. We have a good team now from a number of different countries and ethnic backgrounds. Some are now naturalised British citizens. We heavily subsidise the accommodation and the pool money was good last season.”       The yard’s expansion required investment in facilities, and one of the biggest advances was the erection of an American-style barn at the main yard three years ago, with the majority of the horses now based there rather than at the bottom of the hill, near the main farmhouse, or in the various satellite yards dotted around the local village, Milborne Port.        “The barn’s well ventilated and airflow is important, so being up on the hill does help, and if you walk in there, you won't smell any ammonia,” says Tizzard. “We get the odd bug but with the prevailing south-west winds coming straight through, they don't hang around. As with the cattle, daylight is really important; it's needed for their ‘zen factor.’        The crossover from cattle farming extends to meeting the dietary requirements of the string, as Tizzard grows his own haylage. “We still end up with twice as much as we need. So, if we cut it one day and it rains the next, we use it on the farm and then the next bit for the horses.”       Tizzard's practical approach extends to how and on what he exercises his horses. “Things evolve all the time. I used to use the uphill gallop every day for every horses, but I now also use the deep sand three days a week. The combination of the hill and sand trains the whole body.”       The deep sand was imported at some expense from Ireland until Tizzard experimented with different grades and hit upon a cheaper alternative sourced from nearby Wareham on the Dorset coast.       As well as being an area rich in natural resources, Somerset and Dorset have long been home to some of the UK’s leading National Hunt trainers, including Harry Fry, Nicholls, David Pipe, and Philip Hobbs. Tizzard doesn't see the proximity of such powerful stables as an issue for concern.       “It's a very competitive area around here. There are lots of local trainers, and they’re all good trainers. There's fierce competition but plenty of respect. Going back a few years, the likes of Martin Pipe, Philip Hobbs, and Paul Nicholls brought the standard up around here, which is good for all of us.       “However, it means that we will probably head north for valuable races. All the big chases will be ultra-competitive for the next three to four months, which is partly why Hey Big Spender won the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle three times.”       As one who has built up a training yard from scratch into one that could be mounting a title bid in the coming seasons, what does Tizzard think of the challenges that face trainers today?       “Well I think that the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) are very good and are talking to trainers. We should maybe look after the prize money for the lower end races to provide for owners and trainers competing in those races, so we look after those at the ‘other end.’ That was me five years ago and it might be me in five years’ time.”       In discussing their current situation and training career to date, it's clear that the Tizzard team are not content to rest on their laurels, and their results in recent seasons have of course put Venn Farm on the radar of many owners. One such is long-time National Hunt fan and professional gambler Russ Watts, who was celebrating his 50th birthday on the day of his visit to the yard accompanied by his two sons, Sam and John.       Already a National Hunt owner for more than 10 years, Watts has an interest in The Russian Doyen, his first horse with Tizzard. “I first thought of having a horse with Colin some years ago, as he was then a local, rising trainer and I live around 30 minutes away. Later, a friend had a horse here and that led to me coming on board last year,” says Watts. “Colin’s open, honest, and good fun.”       Watts is one of the more locally based people to have joined the burgeoning list of owners at Venn Farm in recent years. The yard’s success means it is attracting notice from further afield, including from high-profile owners such as the late Ann and Alan Potts, whose Ann & Alan Potts Limited entity has multiple horses at Venn Farm, alongside those of longer-standing owners Jean Bishop and Brocade Racing.       The passing of Alan Potts in November, just a handful of months after the death of his wife Ann, came as a huge shock to the National Hunt racing scene in the UK and Ireland. Their familiar yellow, green, and red colours have been very much a fixture at the major meetings from the days of the top two-mile chaser Sizing Europe onwards, notably landing the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March with the Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John.       The switching of some of the Potts’ Irish-trained horses to Tizzard’s yard in the autumn of 2016 was headline news in the racing press, but the results that followed warranted the faith of the prominent owners. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the arrangement were the circumstances in which Alan Potts and Tizzard first met.       “I was at Cheltenham, watching a race on the one of the TVs in the bar. This chap behind me told me,’Get out of the f***ing way.’ I looked around and said ‘I'm not in the way.’ He said, ‘Yes, you are, you’re still in the f***ing way.’ I said, ‘I'm sorry, but I would never stand in front of anybody.’ He said, ‘Well, you f***ing did.’ So I said, ‘Well, I'm sorry.’ Afterwards, someone told me it was Alan Potts, so I went back to him and said, ‘Sorry, Mr Potts, I won't do it again.’        “The next meeting I went to at Cheltenham, he was sat in the bar with a bottle of wine” -- and here Tizzard stretches out his arm -- “and he offers me a glass and says, ‘We didn't get off to the best of starts, did we?’ So I sat down with him.        “That was in the spring of (2016) and in October he rang up and asked if I could take 15 of his horses.”       Alan Potts’ death this year just ahead of the three-day meeting at Cheltenham was a shock for everyone, particularly as he had been due to visit Venn Farm that week. In accordance with the wishes of the Potts family, the entries ran, and the victory of Fox Norton in the Shloer Chase provided an emotional win for all concerned.       “I only knew Alan for 18 months,” remembers Tizzard. “He was a man that you wouldn’t forget. He wasn’t always easy, but he made things happen, so you can see why he achieved what he did, given where he started from. He left a lasting impression on me.”       The increased patronage of sizeable owners has undoubtedly helped to elevate Venn Farm to new heights, in tandem with the shrewd evolution of their stable and facilities.       Maybe it's an illustration of just how far the stable has come in recent years, in terms of the strength of its string and results, that while Tizzard had once talked of retirement in interviews as recently as five years ago, he is now quick to dispel the notion: “I have no plans for retirement. I'm enjoying it too much.”        With a string comprising multiple-Graded winners and brimming with potential talent for next season and beyond, it's not hard to see why.

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

“He’ll win the King George, two years’ time, you wait and see!” Given that the speaker is Colin Tizzard, who has saddled the last two winners of the Grade 1 chase, the opinion carries weight, but a warm chuckle from him downplays the gravity of his statement.

Tizzard, his son Joe, and a group of owners are in jovial mood as they watch a pair of promising young novices school upsides at the trainer’s Venn Farm Stables in Dorset, south-west England.

Home to some of the most successful trainers, past and present, in National Hunt (Jumps) racing, the region has long been a hotbed for the sport and also for Point-to-Point (PTP) racing, a related category of amateur thoroughbred racing over fences which is often a starting point in the careers of National Hunt jockeys, trainers, and horses.

Tizzard is one of a number of trainers in the area who have a background in Point-to-Points and have made a successful transition to racing under Rules. His team has firmly established itself as one of the top 20 National Hunt stables in the country season in and season out, having started with two pointers to support his son’s embryonic riding career more than two decades ago, while also running the family dairy farming business.

The stable’s run of form has notably progressed from very good to excellent in the past three years. Last season was Tizzard’s best to date, when he finished third in the trainers’ championship to the two trainers who have dominated the British National Hunt scene for the past decade or so, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls.

So what has propelled Colin Tizzard to the highest echelons of the trainers’ table?

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The Positive and Negative Effects of Oil in Equine Nutrition

NUTRITIONWeb Master

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

Oil is a regular addition to modern racing diets, either by feeding a high oil-containing racing feed or through extra addition of liquid vegetable oil. Research over the years has shown that oil is palatable to horses and digested very well, and that there is little difference in digestibility between the main types of vegetable-based oils used.

Oil that is integral to feed ingredients, such as that found in rice bran, linseed, naked oats, soya, etc., may have a marginally lower digestibility, as this will depend on how digestible the encapsulating matrix is to the horse. However, in the main both free oil and integral oil is well tolerated and digested in horses.  

In a natural environment, horses can easily consume between 2-3% of their body weight as dry matter from pasture. Oil has always been a natural part of the horse's diet, as grass contains about 2-3%, which may seem low but can provide the equivalent of 200-400mls of oil per day. Other forages, such as hay, haylage, and chaff, will also contain oil at a similar level on a dry matter basis.  

Horses can tolerate up to 20-25% of their total energy intake coming from oil, and this has been exploited successfully....

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Back to School: Dressage as a Training Tool

TRAININGWeb Master
  To those not familiar with the idea, or indeed not familiar with the intricacies of managing the mind and body of the young thoroughbred, it might seem peculiar to take an animal bred for generations and engineered over centuries to display nothing short of super equine speeds, gargantuan leaps, and feats of middle-distance endurance, and to then turn it to the steadiest, most controlled, poised equestrian discipline. As mad a thing to do as this might seem at the end of such a horse’s career, to delve into it a day or so each week, or perhaps to go for an out-of-season dressage “staycation,” could seem just plain bizarre.     So why are we hearing more and more about the speedy souls that inhabit the world of horseracing sneaking out of the realms of the snaffle bit, flat saddle, jeans, and Cuban heel to indulge jodhpurs, curb chains, extremely high cantles, and Spanish topped-boots?    Well, it might not be as bizarre as it sounds. Three generations ago it was hard to find a trainer who hadn’t enjoyed some formal equitation training, most likely through the armed forces, but that was also an age where there was still some form of reliance upon the horse for anything as fundamental as travel, so there was simply a greater and more widespread understanding of the horse across the board. Many would have also known how to drive as well as ride simply from necessity. Later we will speak to one of the very few young trainers to have actively pursued driving, itself now a sport with an element of dressage.     Fewer and fewer trainers with each passing generation have a formal education in the fundamentals of classical riding, and it is perhaps only natural that in the face of such a decline there will be those that look to find an advantage in redressing this balance. Of course, there are always trainers who come to horseracing from more conventionally classical disciplines, many of them hugely successful regardless of code, country, or surface, and these exceptions prove as interesting as those who seek the help of specialist dressage instructors or riders to enhance the complex set of skills that have led to their success.     Think back half a century and one might have expected to see a lot more of the training ranks having acted as officers in cavalry regiments, a noted school of equitation in itself. The evergreen Big Orange is nurtured by such an officer, Michael Bell, also an accomplished amateur rider. Major Dick Hern left the army to train as a riding instructor at the fabled Porlock Vale Equitation School before training the gold medal winning British Olympic Equestrian Team of 1952, ultimately starting his stellar training career in 1958. This multidisciplinary approach is nothing new.    There are numerous examples of riders crossing over from eventing or show jumping to train racehorses with great success: Harvey Smith, Henrietta Knight, Michael Matz, Jessica Harrington, and Noel Williams come to mind, and Mark Todd even made the move for a while. The successes of another discipline certainly sets them apart in terms of outside perception, yet we can, as is ever the case in this sport of exceptions, find as many if not more trainers of note who do not hail from a successful standpoint in another discipline. Indeed, some greats did not come into training through a classical or competitive riding background in the slightest.    In human sport words like “cross training,” “core strength” and “yogalates” are so often used for the least expected sports. Cricketers lifting weights, prop forwards taking to the yoga mat, and Olympic sailors even taking instruction in dancing have all been reported, and it is well understood that, while not seeking excellence in these supplementary disciplines, there is a benefit from occasionally spending a session or two performing drills outside the mainstay of what is directly required on Saturday afternoon.     In the same respect, a horse is unlikely to lose significant fitness by being schooled once a week. The use of different muscle groups offers a strength beyond that which is normally tested, a change of routine perhaps beneficial for the psyche. However, Yogi Breisner, former world-class performance manager to the British Eventing team, is at pains to point out that “in general the standard of horsemanship among trainers in the British Isles is very good. Most horses benefit from routine and have a very good introduction to the saddle with a good education starting in between long reins, and it is important to remember that all conditioning and strength work be carried out specifically with the end purpose in mind, working on the muscle groups most important for competition.”     Emily Graham has a unique viewpoint being a trained McTimoney animal therapist, former assistant trainer to the hugely successful Henry Candy, and dressage rider who has spent time as an exercise rider for Andrew Balding. Graham now treats a range of horses and offers some valuable and educated input. “The most common problem I encounter is lower neck pain -- predominantly thoracic and cervical trapezius muscular pain and lower back pain/lumbosacral pain, which can ultimately affect performance.” This isn’t merely limited to the lower neck, though: “These signs, when they become chronic, can be an early warning that lower back pain is the prelude to a potential career-halting injury. Concluding that lameness caused by repetitive strain can originate from back pain!        “This can be caused by the horses not using their back muscles or engaging their hindquarters correctly whilst being exercised.  In other equestrian disciplines this would be called a poor self-carriage resulting in a horse that is on the forehand and not using their body to the optimum.”       “I think any horse could benefit from adding some dressage to their programme and by dressage, I mean the widest sense: The art of riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance. Even simple stretches after exercise to help reduce the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles; for example, carrot stretches would also really help.”        Graham states that the aim of this is to help change the way a horse carries itself, not drastically but “working the horse a little differently, with the emphasis being on suppleness through the back and flexibility through the neck and a better-engaged hind quarter, transferring more weight to the horse’s hindquarters to take the pressure off the forehand!”       The British Racing School, with the support of the British Horseracing Authority, have engaged in a programme to help trainers educate even experienced riders by visiting yards as, Yogi Breisner explains. “The first step is to develop an independent seat. This allows the horse to move without hindrance. The rider’s centre of balance will be above the stirrups, hands neutral. Once this has been achieved we look to build upon this so that the rider can use their body weight, legs, and hands to influence the horse and help them overcome the shortcomings of the horse.”       In a similar vein, Godolphin’s pre-training programme in Newmarket has recently engaged Malcolm Holthausen, a dressage rider of international renown, to assist in the second phase of developing young horses who have recently been broken in. Pre-training manager Kate Grimwade is excited by this new development, saying, “Hopefully it will help the horses and the riders. It’s a different style of riding and we’re trying to teach the horses to be soft in their mouths, stretch through their backs, and learn to have leg on their sides as opposed to riders having their stirrups pulled up. “       This is easier said than done, as riders in a racing yard need three very different seats in the course of their work: riding long while warming up, carrying out roadwork and riding to/from the gallops; short while cantering or breezing, using the knees to keep the body still; and a lower position off the bridle when a rider can push at the final stages of a piece of work or race. However, each position is taught, on the same principles of riding with an independent seat.        While Breisner is not an out-and-out protagonist for all horses being schooled by a dressage rider regularly, he says that “it might marginally help one or two horses in a large stable and is certainly worth considering for individual horses, especially when returning to fitness after a break.”  Breisner suggests that a good rider, trotting at a sensible pace with the horse encouraged to a positive position, offers a good means to the end of a horse being schooled to be “rideable,” responsive to aids, and, importantly, to work on its straightness. “A young horse, even before it has been influenced by riders, will naturally tend to be skewed one way or another….when trotting too fast, a horse will take on a flat action and concave shape, the opposite to a canter which is a rounded action and outline. Trotting too fast is not something positive.”        Training aids and devices will always divide opinion and are a subject matter in themselves, but we have seen a growth in the use of devices like draw reins, the market harborough martingale, de Gogue, German martingale, chambon, etc. Whether one is pro, con, or ambivalent, the increasing growth in use of these suggests an awakening among our horsemen to help horses to carry out at least some of their training in a manner that is more focused on carriage and balance than building speed or stamina. Particularly at the trot, it is evident that the intention is to help develop a more productive carriage and encourage muscles to build into a more developed topline. This is certainly more aesthetically pleasing and it is no surprise that numerous leading consignors at the sales take a similar approach when preparing yearlings. As far as whether it is faster, the debate will rage on with little conclusive evidence and, as is often the case, for every proponent there will be a polar opposite opinion.       So what about using some form of schooling or cross training as a change, break, or just something other than the track? This is certainly something that Pat Owens (see European Trainer, Issue 59, October-December 2017, for more information) has carried out, having transformed the very headstrong 2013 Windsor Castle Stakes winner Extortionist as he rose from two to three years old, while NZ event rider Tim Rusbridge forms an important cog in the machinations of Qatar Racing’s operations, where his particular skillset is valued.        A continent away last year in the US, the Bob Baffert-trained Collected shocked the racing world when taking the scalp of stablemate Arrogate in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic before running a gallant second to the exceptional Gun Runner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar. Marette Farrell, a key member of Collected’s owner Speedway Stables’ buying and management team, explains:    “Collected came from a really good consignor at the two-year-old sales. Despite an excellent preparation he was overtraining with Bob, who called us after the Preakness Stakes and raised the concern that he was just doing too much, too aggressive, he couldn’t even stand still.    “We sent him down to Mal McGuire in Kentucky who has always done a lot of work for me. After giving him a complete break due to some slight bone bruising, Mal set to work with him. Some aspects of this were more conventional than others, such as desensitising him with a flag, coupling him to a donkey, and then one day, ridden in a western saddle. I went to see him doing half passes in the arena, engaging his rear end in a way I hadn’t previously seen.    “He went back to Bob a different horse, which was evident in his results.”     When asked if she will now send Collected back for a tune-up or recap, Farrell has no doubts. “Definitely. I think this will add to longevity on the track. They’re always just turning left, this redresses the balance. In an age where a lot of people are only focussed on the end product and getting there as quickly as possible, a lot of this has become a lost art.”    Longevity is also something that Graham feels could be assisted by adding even a little dressage into the mix. “If even a small amount of extra attention was given to ridden exercises whilst warming the horses up and cooling down, this could add to the strength and conditioning of the equine athlete and further improve performance and strength in the muscles. Most importantly, risk of injury could be reduced.” This sentiment is also mirrored by Kate Grimwade, who states that “being more balanced should help with injury prevention if they are picking up their feet properly.”       Joking (and donkeys) aside, this might just sum the whole thing up, and if all racehorses had the occasion to be a little more “collected” through educating riders, receiving some cross training, and embracing lessons from other disciplines while still keeping our feet on the ground, we might just start to make a change for the better. The resounding intention, whoever we spoke with, is that welfare could only be the beneficiary of improving riders and offering a variety of exercise, either frequently or as a break, for horses.       

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

To those not familiar with the idea, or indeed not familiar with the intricacies of managing the mind and body of the young thoroughbred, it might seem peculiar to take an animal bred for generations and engineered over centuries to display nothing short of super equine speeds, gargantuan leaps, and feats of middle-distance endurance, and to then turn it to the steadiest, most controlled, poised equestrian discipline. As mad a thing to do as this might seem at the end of such a horse’s career, to delve into it a day or so each week, or perhaps to go for an out-of-season dressage “staycation,” could seem just plain bizarre.

So why are we hearing more and more about the speedy souls that inhabit the world of horseracing sneaking out of the realms of the snaffle bit, flat saddle, jeans, and Cuban heel to indulge jodhpurs, curb chains, extremely high cantles, and Spanish topped-boots?

Well, it might not be as bizarre as it sounds. Three generations ago it was hard to find a trainer who hadn’t enjoyed some formal equitation training, most likely through the armed forces, but that was also an age where there was still some form of reliance upon the horse for anything as fundamental as travel, so there was simply a greater and more widespread understanding of the horse across the board. Many would have also known how to drive as well as ride simply from necessity. Later we will speak to one of the very few young trainers to have actively pursued driving, itself now a sport with an element of dressage.

Fewer and fewer trainers with each passing generation have a formal education in the fundamentals of classical riding, and it is perhaps only natural that in the face of such a decline there will be those that look to find an advantage in redressing this balance. Of course, there are always trainers who come to horseracing from more conventionally classical disciplines, many of them hugely successful regardless of code, country, or surface, and these exceptions prove as interesting as those who seek the help of specialist dressage instructors or riders to enhance the complex set of skills that have led to their success...

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Horseracing in South Korea: A GLOBAL VISION

INDUSTRYWeb Master

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

On the evening of 19th January 2017, something special happened in Dubai. To the casual spectator it might have seemed like any other horse race, but to viewers in Korea, the 1200m District One Handicap at Meydan was a watershed moment in their nation’s sporting history. Because the winner of this race was Main Stay, a four-year-old colt trained by Kim Young Kwan and the first Korean-trained horse to win at a significant international meeting since thoroughbred horse racing was established in South Korea almost 100 years ago. What is more, the winner carried the (KOR) suffix in the racecard, underlining the fact that the country is now capable of producing internationally competitive thoroughbreds.

Yet as Main Stay crossed the line on that fateful night, even switched-on racing enthusiasts and professionals with a broad international perspective may have asked, “So they race in Korea?”

Indeed, this otherwise significant nation’s racing industry remains relatively unknown across the globe. Recent developments have brought Korean racing into the spotlight however, and notable domestic and international expansion projects put in place by the Korea Racing Authority (KRA) could soon see it established as an influential player on the global racing scene....

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Starting Up: Where in the EU can New Trainers Get the Best Start?

BUSINESSWeb Master

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

In the previous issue of European Trainer (Issue 59, October-December 2017),  the Trainers’ Daily Rates Survey was summarised, while Europe’s best training centres were also featured. From the former we learned that only 38% of trainers derive their sole income from training, yet this doesn’t deter hopefuls from taking out their first licence. So, where is the best place to set up a new yard to tip the balance in your favour?

Just over half of European trainers keep between 10-50 horses; fewer than 10% have more, and it is generally not considered to be economically viable to train fewer than 30 horses. The average daily rate per horse charged by a trainer is €43, which would provide a weekly revenue of €9,030 for a 30-horse yard.

Comparing daily rate to staff wages, there is little benefit to be found in starting up in one country versus another. The EU minimum wage maintains a constant across the board although the stable staff associations of some countries, such as Ireland, do ensure that a higher rate is paid. Therefore, anywhere from 50-90% of the daily rate charged will go to staff. A shortage of good riders and experienced staff is currently being endured throughout Europe, so, again, a new trainer is free to choose any location...

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The On-going Effort to Minimise the Rate and Impact of Fractures

VETERINARYWeb Master

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

In thoroughbred racing, musculoskeletal injury is a major safety concern and is the leading reason for days lost to training.  Musculoskeletal injury is the greatest reason for horse turnover in racing stables, with financial implications for the owner and the racing industry. Injuries, particularly on race day, have an impact on public perception of racing.  

Upper limb and pelvis fractures are less common than lower limb fractures, but they can lead to fatalities. Reducing the overall prevalence of fractures is critical and, at the very least, improving the rate of detection of fractures in their early stages so the horse can be withdrawn from racing with a recoverable injury will be a big step forwards in racehorse welfare. Currently, we lack information on the outcomes following fracture, and an article recently published in the Equine Veterinary Journal (EVJ) from the veterinary team at the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) addressed this important knowledge gap.

Hong Kong Fracture Outcome Study

The HKJC veterinary team is in a unique position to carry out this work because their centralised and computerised database of clinical records, together with racing and retirement records, allows them to document follow-up, which is all but impossible elsewhere in the world. Dr Leah McGlinchey, working with vets in Hong Kong and researchers from the Royal Veterinary College, London, reviewed clinical records from 2003 to 2014 to identify racehorses that suffered a fracture or fractures to the bones of the upper limb or the pelvis during training or racing, confirmed by nuclear scintigraphy, radiography, ultrasonography, or autopsy....

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Getting to Grips with Strangles: Working Together to Break the Strangles-hold

VETERINARYWeb Master

READ OF THE WEEK - CLICK THE IMAGE TO READ ONLINE NOW!

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

Strangles, caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus equi, is one of the most frequently identified infectious diseases of horses worldwide. More than 600 outbreaks of Strangles are diagnosed in the UK each year. Infected horses typically develop fever followed by abscesses in the lymph nodes of their head and neck.

These abscesses are painful and the affected horses will often lose their appetites and become depressed. Some horses can be badly affected during an outbreak and the disease kills around one in a hundred animals. The bacteria can spread quickly through yards via contaminated drinking water, food, tack, equipment and people. Some outbreaks can involve all of the horses on a yard and all outbreaks require movement restrictions that usually remain in force for over two months. Consequently, Strangles is responsible for considerable economic and welfare cost. This article will provide an update on the progress being made towards eradicating Strangles and highlight what we can each do to keep our horses safe.

An age-old problem:

Strangles was first described in 1251 by Jordanus Rufus, a knight of Emperor Fredrick II. The disease was seen as inevitable and better for horses to fall ill sooner rather than later to get the disease over and done with. In 1811 Napoléon, Emperor of France, wrote a letter to request that the 543 horses being sent to his army should be “at least 60 months of age and should already have recovered from Strangles” so that they would be less likely to fall ill from this disease on the battlefront. More than 200 years later, many people still believe that it is inevitable that their horse will suffer from Strangles sooner or later. However, we understand so much more about the disease today and really can significantly reduce the risk of horses falling ill...

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Staff Focus – You are Only as Good as Your Team

Staff & EducationWeb Master

Published in European Trainer, January - March 2018, issue 60.

A major challenge facing trainers throughout Europe is the attraction and retention of skilled riders and grooms. Trainers are competing with many other industries, and fewer people favour the type of work offered in a racing yard, which means that trainers need to be more innovative and proactive when it comes to staff management, retention, and recruitment.

Entries for the Lycetts Team Champion Award in Britain closed on 1st December, but for those who didn’t enter, and for trainers in the rest of Europe, it is not too late to examine the aim behind the inaugural award and use the judging criteria to establish a team of excellence in your own yard.

The idea behind the Lycetts Team Champion Award is to reward the stables with good employment practices in place creating the best team ethos, and it is an initiative that will hopefully combat the long-term stable staff crisis affecting many yards. The award is judged on the methods trainers use to attract and retain staff, plus the safe working practices employed. The winning team receives an item of infrastructure or equipment that will improve working life within the yard.

It is hoped that the stories emerging from the award will publicly celebrate the benefits of teamwork and demonstrate that racehorse trainers provide rewarding and well-supported jobs, and this is an ethos that can be easily extended beyond the award itself...

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