Could you be a Work Rider?
A ‘Work Rider’ is a term that’s specific to racing, and used to describe anybody who can exercise ride a horse in training for a set piece of work i.e. a training session on the gallops. This rider would need to have sufficient confidence, control, skill and judge of pace to ride at a specific speed for a set distance as instructed by the trainer. Following this, they will provide knowledgeable feedback on how the horse felt in order to contribute to its ongoing improvement in fitness and performance. In jump racing stables this could also include schooling over fences.
A work rider can either be somebody who:
- works full-time for one trainer and also does the yard work before and after exercising
- works part-time in the morning and just rides
- is self-employed and freelances for multiple trainers/yards and just comes in to ride out. When employed on a freelance basis the rider would usually be paid per lot (horse) they ride regardless of how long this may take.
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Who can be a Work Rider?
Not just anyone can become a Work Rider. To have the physical skill and mental toughness to stick at such a trade is something that I think all other disciplines can admire. There are a few key skills and attributes that a work rider needs to hold his/her own;
1. SMALL ENOUGH FOR THE JOB
Weight limits which will vary from trainer to trainer but as a general rule they would prefer people under 12 stone for Jump racing and 10 stone for flat. Height is less of an issue providing you can still maintain a low weight.
2. EXPERIENCED AND FIT ENOUGH FOR THE JOB
While you do not need to be a traditional schooling rider for racehorses the art of riding short in a balanced fashion with control is a whole other skill set that can only be honed through extensive practice doing just that. Having the stamina to maintain such a strong position for several consecutive lots day in day out also requires a good level of fitness.
3. BRAVE ENOUGH FOR THE JOB
The sharpness and athleticism of a racehorse is hard to beat. With such high levels of energy unsurprisingly may come the odd unauthorised explosive movement or occasional carting off in not necessarily the right direction or at the desired speed. Unfortunately, close unintentional contact with the ground/fences/railings is a less desired perk of the job that it takes a certain kind of person to brush off and come back for more.
4. DEDICATED ENOUGH FOR THE JOB
Most racing yards will have morning stables finished and be heading out for first lot by 7 am when most of the rest of the equine world is just making morning feeds so they are truly the ultimate early riders. With Jump racing in full swing through the winter and so many punters bets depending on those horses being fit to go there are very few weathers that will stop play.
What equipment do Work Riders use?
- Lightweight back protector
- BRS approved hard hat
- Goggles and ear muffs to survive adverse weather
- Normal riding kit i.e jods/jeans, boots, chaps, gloves
- A good coat and thermals!
- Insurance if you are self-employed and it would be highly advised even if not
What are the HIGHS of being a Work Rider?
- Little can beat the adrenaline of flying up the gallops on a purpose bred and trained speed machine
- Seeing a horse you have been riding win at the races and knowing you were a contributing factor in its success
- Riding out with a like-minded group of people, the racing world has a notoriously high level of banter
- Seeing the sun ride every day, particularly stunning on a frosty winters morning
- A by product of such work is fantastically strong and shapely legs 😉
- There are always stables looking for work riders, a good and reliable Work Rider will never be short of work
- Racing is truly a wordwide sport so this job will provide great opportunities to travel and work abroad. Australia and America have particularly strong industries and are popular choices.
What are the LOWS of being a Work Rider?
- Racing does keep some sadly rather unsocial hours requiring even earlier starts on a more consistent basis than any other discipline
- As with any riding heavy job, rider falls whilst hopefully rare, do happen and being injured is no fun at all!
- Seeing the horses you care for injured and retired off early or in some unfortunate cases not coming home from the races at all is a sad reality of the sport and one that will always pull on the heartstrings
- Racing is a tough and competitive world, banter can be all good and fun but you do need to develop a bit of a tough exterior to not take some of the closer to the mark comments too much to heart
- Bitterly cold morning, sideways driving rain, hail and gale-force winds are all considered to be fair game and good training for actual racing
- While we all love horses some are undeniably more of a pleasure to deal with than others, the really tricky ones seemingly hellbent on burying you simply like to test how sure of that love you are
How much do Work Riders Earn?
As always this will vary from trainer to trainer but on average you can expect to earn between £10-£15 per lot as a freelancer. The wage for a Stablehand/Work Rider is usually minimum wage but working conditions for racing employees are strictly monitored so all staff are paid over time, a share of the pool money and various extras for working Sundays and attending the races.
How to start a career in Racing
There are 2 main Racing colleges in the UK which provide various entry courses dependant on your level of previous experience.
For Work Riders specifically, the British Racing school run this course here.
The Northern Racing school offer Jockey or Stable Staff specific routes of training but for those first starting out they have a 12 week residential course here.
Get an insight into the job of a Work Rider
TTimesVideo have produced a video which goes behind the scenes at Keeneland Race Course with Damien Rock, one of the primary exercise riders for trainer Charles Lopresti. A native of Ireland, Rock is a graduate of the Racing Academy and Centre of Education at The Curragh in County Kildare, Ireland. He worked as an apprentice jockey for three years after graduating from the jockey school, winning six races from 113 mounts for trainer Michael Grassick. Rock has since worked almost exclusively as an exercise rider in Ireland, Dubai, and the U.S., for such prominent trainers as Shug McGaughey, Christophe Clement, Erwin Sharpay, and Leo O’Brien. He started with Lopresti in 2011 and is the regular rider of the stable’s leading runner, Grade 1 winner and 2012 Ben Ali Stakes (G3) winner Wise Dan.
If you would like assistance and/or advice regarding finding Work Riders or Work Rider job vacancies please don’t hesitate to contact us.