Yesterday it still felt like it was the 1st of January, really it seems like it, how have we reached the end of October? My daughter is very excited about Halloween and it is like Siberia out in the yard, with a vicious East Wind, it seems like Summer never happened. Everyday is leafgate (what I like to call the daily battle with blowing the leaves off the drive and the school, like we have time, but our OCD is such that it cannot be ignored) and it seems like the clippers are a constant appendage that I would rather not have grown.
Thankfully this Autumn is wet enough to get the horses out and running, it feels like ages since we had a winner but it has only been 8 runners. It is very hard being a small yard who only runs horses when we feel they are either ready to go and at least improve for the run, if not get placed or win. I will not run when a horse is not ready or not quite right and then have 20 plus runners for the sake of it and no winners. Obviously some have to run to get fit, we can work them till the cows come home but they need the racecourse fitness which we cannot replicate at home.
I made it my ethos to be as honest and straight with my owners and staff as was humanly possible and I feel like it is my job to try to educate as many people as I can about every aspect of horse racing. Owners please, please get involved in your horse's training, welfare and planning, ask your trainer anything you need, don't be afraid to admit you don't know and if you are still unsure then speak to your vet. God knows you pay them enough money, my vets are always happy to speak to the owner, they are always happy to explain things.
As an owner if you don't hear about any setbacks, you are not being told the truth. Ask yourself this, do you feel more comfortable knowing that someone is on the ball and noticing a problem before it becomes career ending or would you rather have the horse broken and have to fork out again to replace it? Balance out the cost of rehab compared to the cost of purchase....
I have seen a lot of trainers calling for us lot to be more inclusive for the good of racing. I completely, wholeheartedly agree, we really need to educate the general public, not the racing fans as they are already on our side, but the unsure and actively against racing. So how about we start with our owners, surely they are the ones that pay the bills and keep us on the road and how lovely it is for owners to be able to tell their friends "my horse had a chiropractor today, isn't it amazing how their every need is catered for?"
I have had people come here for a morning who are anti jumps racing and they have gone away converted. If I had a pound for every person who said "I had no idea what went on in a racing yard, I had no idea how well these horses were cared for and how happy they are" I wouldn't be mucking out 10 each morning...Actually I probably would as it keeps me fit....
But and it's a big but, we need to do more for these horses outside of racing, we need to educate our owners to understand the psychology of horses and understand that they are all different and all need something different. Obviously racing is not for every horse, however I have heard owners say "its gutless, its a waste of space I just told so and so to get rid of it" Well quite frankly that is the stereotypical view that the anti racing has of our sport.
Where does that horse end up? What will become of him/her? I would rather (and this will cause uproar) have horses put to sleep that will not be rehomed easily, I don't want it on my conscience, that that horse I owned or trained has been found in a field starving to death, having been "rescued" by someone who has no idea of what these horses need to be understood and cared for.
So what do we do? As trainers if one is injured and won't race again, we know that owner will buy again but won't keep two in training, a broken horse is no good to a trainer and we are running to such tight financial constraints, we cannot carry all of them. So what happens to it?
The right answer is the owner and trainer work together to get that horse either sound enough to rehome, place it with a charity or if it will have no life, put it to sleep and know that they are doing the right thing for that animal. That horse has served both the owner and trainer, could have made the breeder/bloodstock agent money so why should we cast them out like rubbish, surely all of us who have profited from that horse are obliged to make sure it is cared for. How about a tax on the sales of horses through the sale ring, the more they fetch the more is "donated" to the life after racing of racehorses?
With a view to rehoming horses after racing, I love that more and more trainers are doing flatwork with their horses, thank the lord this is happening, the amount of abuse throughout the years that I have encountered about riding my horses properly is huge. "its a racehorse, it should't be made to do dressage" "she's an idiot" but the same people also saying "Jo Davis's horses are such good rides, they are so easy". Well hello, make the connection....
In doing what we do we can keep very difficult horses on the road and they win races. Starfoot was the most obvious one of these, he won 5 races and without the flat work and straightness, he would never have been racing for as long as he did. How I know this is everytime I put someone on him who allowed him to be lazy and crooked and allowed him to go like a typical racehorse, the horse became sore and crooked, lost power in his back and quarters and became sore in the sacroiliac.
Leading on from this when Star picked up a very small tendon injury, which we picked up very early, we reahabbed him very successfully (the owner paid for us to do this) for a few months, he went to Bridgett and Annie Broad to become an eventer and they love him. They also had Heroes or Ghosts (who also had had a massive list of issues, who also won) and they were amazed by his ability to do flatwork/dressage, his manners and his strength and soundness.
So maybe if more day to day care was taken, teaching our staff how to tell us "the horse felt a bit twisted today or he was grabbing the left rein" we can stop injuries happening before they do, maybe we could be less disposable as an industry. I do also think that all owners should receive their vets bills direct from the vet, that way nothing is hidden or unknown.
The more we show the public that we care and the more the horses are given a life after racing, the less pressure we will be under as a sport. Oh yes and we need to stop breeding from useless mares who have never won a thing, who are not related to winners and will never produce anything worthwhile as a racehorse. Stop breeding from mares who have conformational defects that they pass onto their youngstock, who then in turn break because they will never cope with racing.
In other news the horses are all ok, some have run and without being in the places, have run very well for their first time out. We have Marmont ready to go (I hope he doesn't read this as he is up there with the ones that are hard to keep right, an entry is an excuse to develop a niggle!), Miniature Daffodil (see Marmont!) is ready to have a run, he will definitely improve for the run, he is a fat, stuffy bugger.
Kens Well gave me a heart attack as there was blood in his nose after work on Tuesday, cue Jo sliding into a deep dark depression (trainers' mental health is a topic for another day) however we scoped and blood tested him yesterday and no blood in his airway, just some mucus from the guttural pouch, he is an allergic horse (remember the headshaking?) and his bloods have never been better. Cue Jo on a high again! So he will run soon and Its for Alan goes to Ascot Saturday, mainly so he doesn't have to travel far but he is very well and although Page has chosen to ride for someone else, we think he has a great chance.
Jack has been properly wrong since he ran, he didn't bite or tread on anyone for a whole two weeks, I didn't hear "Jackno" once...He is now giving the odd cough (again every trainer has it, just most would never admit it) and it shows that whatever it was is now on the way out. I am hoping to get him back into full work in a week or so, there is no snot just a tickle oh and I have been hearing in increasing frequency "Jack stop it, Jack don't do that, Jack let go".
Mr F had a fab days hunting Sunday with the Berks and Bucks Drag, however we scoped him yesterday and found his palate to be very loose, its amazing we never heard a noise off him, not once did he choke or gurgle, just shows the statistic of 30% of horses never make a noise to be very accurate. So today he has had a little op to help the palate regain some rigidity. I have to apologise to Mr F for calling him an Orange *** after Stratford. You see there we have it again, a horse who couldn't breathe looking and behaving like a horse who was a non trier. If anyone doubts the bonds we form with these horses, they should have come to the vets this lunchtime to pick him up, as soon as he heard my voice he wickered and wickered, it brought a tear to my eye.
Fat Pat (Into The Mist) has come out of her race very well, she has copped on and slimmed down a tad.
Touchy Subject is cantering everyday after encountering an annular ligament problem and he is looking fantastic.
Oscars Leader and Cronin's Hill have unfortunately left us to go to Jenny Candlish, John thier owner wanted them up closer to him in Yorkshire, so he could go and watch them each week in training, understandable but gutting for us. I wish Jenny and John all the best with them and hope they do you proud.
The babies are going beautifully, Jemima is just a revelation, she is changing before our eyes daily, she is more than I ever hoped and Eddie is just stunning, Patricia Brown is a fantastic person for allowing us to take our time with her, it is paying off.
Gallic Destiny is back in work, playing the fool but ironically moving better than he ever did before his injury...Go figure.
I would love to have a day when I didn't learn something, as a trainer our confidence takes a battering every day, don't let anyone ever tell you any different. Nothing is constant, you go up you come down, it is all relative to our own journey.