Opened in 1983, The British Racing School has helped train thousands of people for a career in the racing industry. Based at Newmarket it costs around £3 million a year to run the School. The majority of this comes from Government funding via the Skills and Education Agencies.
Many people who attend have started out with no previous experience with horses. The school’s original aim was to provide the facilities to inspire young people to become professional jockeys. But it has developed into a ‘Centre of Excellence’, providing a whole range of different courses and training.
Over half of the Champion Apprentice Jockeys over the last 15 years started out on the Foundation Programme at The British Racing School. Kieran Shoemark is one such apprentice employed by Andrew Balding. He is currently enjoying summer Australian style, and recorded his first three winners on Boxing Day. Working for trainer Danny O’Brien at Flemington, Kieran is following in the footsteps of another BRS student Oisin Murphy. He had a successful spell in Australia last year with 13 wins from 89 rides
Still only 18, Kieran’s Boxing Day treble left his temporary boss describing him as; “a very accomplished young rider”. He recorded 21 winners from 207 rides in 2014, and will return for the start of the flat season in March.
The first step as a jockey is to become an Apprentice or Conditional depending on whether targeting a Flat or Jumps career. Those who hold a licence in the UK are allocated a Qualified Coach at the school. The jockeys receive thorough training on all aspects of a career in racing, including technical support, fitness and communication skills. The coaching can continue right through the season in which they ride out their claim, with the intension of helping them towards reaching their full potential.
All Apprentices and Conditionals start off with a 7lb claim which reduces to five and then 3lbs after achieving a certain number of wins. Once the jockeys have ridden 95 winners on the flat and 75 over jumps they will have ‘ridden out’ their claim.
The British Racing School also train individuals to become Stable Staff. Such training can be the first step towards becoming a Jockey or one of the more senior members in a racing yard. A diploma course teaches all aspects of working in a stable from exercising horses to the less glamorous yet vital work such as mucking out, sweeping and tack cleaning.
Racing is one of the few equestrian disciplines with a regulated pay structure and clear career path. Rates of pay are agreed by the National Association of Stable Staff (formerly SLA) and the National Trainers Federation (NTF). The more qualified and experienced a person becomes, the better they are paid. Much work is still needed to ensure that all people within the industry receive a decent wage. But a youngster starting out on a career in racing as a member of the stable staff could do far worse. Accommodation is often part of the package at many yards.
The BRS also support the men and women that run the yards. Training for the people that train racehorses is carried out at the school. There’s more to Paul Nicholls’ job than just getting the best out of a horse and winning endless championships. A trainer will be running a business, and will need to understand all that is involved in such an enterprise.
A full awareness and understanding of employment law, health and safety laws and the rules of racing are just a small part of the training provided. A Diploma in Racehorse Care and Management is required as well as attending the Trainers Courses at The British Racing School. When applying for a Trainers Licence, the British Horseracing Authority will look for a business plan, professional references and a proof of the relevant financial backing for such a venture.
The Racing industry also holds opportunities in administration, and again the BRS play a key part in the training for such a career. A Racing Secretary plays a crucial role within a race-yard. Dealing with all aspects of the administration of running a business as well as liaising with owners, racecourses, journalists and suppliers, will be part of each working day.
Careers within racing are numerous and varied. The British Racing School website (brs.org.uk) is a great place to start when thinking about such a career. Courses run throughout the year.