What’s it like to work on a Pre-Training Yard?
Every horse has the potential to become a success and just like athletes, it all comes down to training. One of the many great things about working with horses is the huge variety of jobs available to us. This week we look at the world of Pre-Training and what exactly a job on a yard like this involves.
No matter how long you have been in the industry there is always something new to learn and another discipline you can experience. It is easy to become caught up in the mainstream disciplines e.g. Dressage/Showjumping/Eventing/Racing/Stud/Hunt, and focus is always a good thing to see on a CV, BUT if you aren’t 100% sure yet which discipline is for you yet, there are always other options and we are always here to help with a suggestion or two! Breadth of experience is also a good thing as long as it comes with respectable periods of time employed in the various jobs you have i.e. a mininum of 12-18 months ideally.
What is a “Pre-Training” yard?
A Pre-Training yard is essentially a prepping centre, like a prep school for horses! This is most popular within the racehorse industry, as going straight into full training on a busy yard can be quite the mind blower for the young horse. Some owners/trainers will prefer for the horses to go first to a Breaking and Pre-Training yard where they can be started and have the basics established in a smaller yard and hopefully calmer environment. Some of the larger studs, will have their own separate Breaking and Pre-Training facilities.
What do Pre-Training yards do?
BREAKING: Most Pre-Training yards will also offer a breaking service, starting the young horses from scratch with the ground work, backing and riding away to whatever level the owner/trainer requires.
GROUND WORK: One of the greatest advantages of a Pre-Training yard is the additional time and man power they tend to have over traditional training yards to put in the individual time with ground work. They use lunging and long reigning, even with the older established horses, to build balance and muscle tone before adding the weight of a rider on board.
SCHOOLING: Though it is not required for a racehorse to work in an outline it is becoming ever more popular to put in some work teaching the horse to work in a balanced correct way. Putting the right ‘building blocks’ in place at the outset, helps a horse to build better muscle tone, push through from behind and carry themselves in a lighter and more correct way reducing the risk of injury and extending the working life of a performance horse. It also helps the jockeys greatly if they have a softer mouth and therefore greater control!
JUMP TRAINING: During this process they teach the horses to jump initially from a slower pace so they can develop a better technique and greater confidence in order to tackle the fences safely when at faster speeds.
FITNESS: A large part of Pre-Training is simply building a foundation of fitness through walking work, hacking over varied terrain, hill work and the initial canter work so that when they go into full training it is only the final fast pace work left to do.
REHABILITATION: Pre-Training yards also do a lot of work with horses who have already been in training and are now returning from an injury, usually a tendon/ligament injury or a kissing spines operation. Most yards will have access to a selection of therapy equipment and may also use hydrotherapy. Here again they will employ a strong base of groundwork to build strength before starting ridden work.
SPELLING: When a horse has suffered an injury and it will be off for a while a spelling service, (a spell away) to recuperate and rehabilitate before being reintroduced to work and pre-trained ready to return to the track.
Who can work on a Pre-Training yard?
- Grooms and Yard Workers (Ground Staff)
In order to work on a Breaking and Pre-Training yard and ride, you need to be:
A) Light enough to ride Thoroughbred youngsters!
B) Brave enough to ride Thoroughbred youngsters!
This is a job best suited to those with a real interest in and enthusiasm for working with young horses and rehabilitation work including putting in the foundations with groundwork. You will need to be confident riding and handling young and fresh thoroughbreds some who will have had very little handling before arrival and so will need sympathetic kind but firm handling as they re-adjust to working life. Good communication and teamwork is a key element of a job such as this not to mention adequate and specific insurance! Do check out the British Grooms Association’s information on Why I need insurance by clicking here.
What are the highs?
- The satisfaction when a young horse grasps something new and takes a step forward in their training
- Following the career of successful horses that have passed through knowing that you played a key part in their career
- Seeing a horse successfully rehabilitated and getting a second chance
- Taking a scruffy, unfit, hairy looking creature from the field and transforming it into a fit racehorse
- The variety in levels of horses you work with a mix of breaking/fitness/rehab
- Most Pre-Training yards will have excellent facilities
- Gaining a wide understanding of multiple fields i.e. starting youngsters/fitness/veterinary skills/racing industry/yearling work – that can set you up well for the rest of your career
What are the lows?
- Thoroughbred yearlings can be a handful so the chances of taking a few tumbles are high
- Some yards work on racing hours, which aren’t for everyone. Find out more about ‘racing hours’ by clicking here.
- It’s quite a ‘behind the scenes’ role/sector in many respects, so you don’t get as much recognition for your part in the horse’s success as say stable staff at the races so you will need to get your job satisfaction from the job itself, not necessarily the accolades!
- You won’t often get to leave the yard for day trips! (see above)
- Not all rehabilitation cases are successful and it can be upsetting when it doesn’t work out and you lose a horse
Advice from Pre-Training Super Grooms…
“For me, the most rewarding thing about working in Pre-Training is seeing how much the horses change in such a short period of time (we mostly work with yearlings). They arrive wild and a bit scared, some are a bit ugly too. When they leave they are confident, beautiful and riding well.
The best thing is if you see one of the horses you broke in a race a year later you can say: “I broke this one” and maybe you even have a little story to tell about it too.
The lows I guess are the same as in every yard, some days are cold, long and miserable. Sometimes horses don’t progress as quickly as you would like, or should I say how quickly their owners would like, and that can be frustrating to see a horse not be given the time it needs.
Top tip. They are not riding school horses! Pre-Trainers are quick and quirky. Don’t take any risks, wear gloves leading them, steel cap boots and helmets. Don’t worry about how fancy you look, you won’t be any good to anyone with rope burns, a broken toe or a kick in the head. Just ask for help and ask questions if you are new to this.
I would not change it for anything else it’s never boring working with young horses.”
By Lisa Axer
“Pre-Training is not just a place for gutsy young riders, it requires a high level of understanding and patience that must be learnt over time! However…it is my favourite part of the industry and it teaches you that every horse is different and improves your horsemanship more than any other discipline.”
By Madeline Franklin
What’s it like to work on a Breaking and Pre-Training Yard?
Dubai Racing Channel’s Laura King visits Godolphin’s Pre-Training yard in Newmarket, where Declan Daly and his team have been responsible for preparing some stars of the turf.
Every year Hamilton Hill, Godolphin’s Pre-Training and schooling yard in the UK, welcomes more than a hundred young horses that have never been ridden. Here we follow the yearlings’ progress as the team gradually introduce them to riders for the very first time.
So if you enjoy watching a horses career progress and develop sometimes to greatness and want to know more about
- Schooling (Flat and Jumps)
Then some time spent in a Pre-Training yard might be enormously satisfying. If you would like assistance and/or advice regarding finding Pre-Training work opportunities or staff in the equine industry please don’t hesitate to contact us.