The older horses swung through on the woodchip and the 3 year olds put in hard yards around the sand. I dropped Katie Kilminster up to Bourton Vale to have a bone scan, she is still lame, the injury looks copy book of what kept her off the racecourse last winter. We need to no what has happened. Time, I hope we heal her and she can be allowed to strengthen up before returning to training at some point. She is still a baby and has shown us enough to know she is worth the time.
The BHA and NTF are carrying out a confidential survey about staffing issues within the industry. Today, I received a call to participate.
I’m not sure where they have been or who decided on the questions, they are wasting their time gathering data when they already know the answers to the questions.
The questions went along the line of:
How many staff do you employ? Answer - 11 including myself. No mention of how many horses we had?
How many staff have left over the last 12 months? Answer - 1
Do you find it difficult recruiting skilled staff? Answer – Yes when needed.
Do you have problems with staff productivity? Answer – No I sack them if they are not productive with their time.
Do you have problems finding staff to manage the yard? Answer No
Are they deluded, been on a different planet or just plain stupid? Thankfully, I have a brilliant team with a ratio of 1 man to 3.5 horses. Not many yards in the country could say that, although, I’m sure there are other yards well off for staff too. If one of the lad’s circumstances change I will be with everyone else scratching around for another work rider and they simply aren’t there. The ones that jump form yard to yard do so for a reason. I took the opportunity to explain 12 weeks in the British Racing School did not aid the shortage of work riders and potentially actually diminish the chance of increasing staff within the industry. The pupils simply aren’t at the level required and soon become despondent before heading off to find another industry to work in. In my experience, the lads I have had from the BRS wouldn’t ride Sholto’s push bike let alone a nice 3-year-old up a gallop, they would struggle on Panda’s bike and that has a stabilizer on it. A trainer can not shout from the roof tops he has major staff problems for fear of having horses removed. Do they really appreciate how bad the staff situation is? This is serious and those in charge need to pull their fingers out bloody quick. Otherwise, the consequences will be dramatic. I am not a qualified to speak about pony racing but what I have seen looking in is an awful lot of tweed. The Twiston Davis lads would have been jockeys without pony racing and it appears that many competing in that sphere are from (for want of a better expression) privileged backgrounds. The majority of these kids pony racing will not come to work in the industry but may ride as amateurs for fun and have a career in the city. Of course, we will have the likes of Twiston Davis and Bowen but they would be there anyway.
I suggest they stop their surveys as they know the answers and do something more proactive. In the short term, talks have, apparently, been happening for over 3 years with The NTF and The Home Office as we need lads from overseas. Work riding needs to be granted professional status as the likes of dentists and accountants are in the eyes of The Home Office. One thing, I was suggesting to the operator before getting cut off (no doubt he hung up and certainly didn’t ring me back) was subsidizing horses owned by trainers for young lads to race ride on. I have a horse at my expense which I will allow one of the young lads to ride when he’s ready to run. Not only is this lad getting higher wages than the BHA suggest he is having a horse trained, feed, shod etc etc FOC on top of his wage. I don’t resent it one bit, he’s a great lad and one day I hope he proves to be good enough to get heaps of rides. I am merely sighting an incentive many trainers are having to offer at their cost, to retain good young staff. This is the type of thing the BHA and NTF need to get behind. The BHA keep employing directors of this that and the other on 6 figure salaries instead of sorting it out from the bottom. Rant over!