Ever since the Thoroughbred Breeders Association’s formation a century ago, one of its main strategic objectives has been built around supporting breeders in their care of both horses and employees, particularly in advancing the development of those employed in the British breeding industry.
This objective has never been more important than it is today, when the welfare of horses and people is firmly at the forefront of public perception.
In response the association’s employment and education activity, including the courses, advice and guidance we provide, are seen as essential to our support of the breeding industry, and they form a major part of our focus.
Unlike racing stables, stud farms do not need employees who can ride out. Working on a stud involves much less travelling and fewer anti-social hours, and often provides accommodation in pleasant rural surroundings.
These benefits allow the industry to appeal to a wider range of potential employees among those who love working with horses and can see the advantages of working on studs. This is the rationale behind the TBA’s Entry To Stud Employment course (E2SE) to help those people wishing to change career and enable them to learn about and be trained in stud work.
The course is open to anyone aged 18 years or over, and no horse-handling experience is required. The 2018 intake included a teacher, a business analyst, a policeman and a waste management worker, as well as those with a peripheral association with horses and racing or breeding.
It is exciting that all these trainees have been found work placements, and we hope they will complete the course and become valued employees or participants in the breeding industry of the future.
We plan to expand the course to 20 trainees this year, and although the programme does not start until October, several applications have already been made.
E2SE is only part of the TBA’s training focus. With a view to raising awareness of the wide variety of jobs available in the breeding industry, The Thoroughbred Club Careers Course was held last November and attracted more than 80 delegates. Judging from the feedback, delegates thoroughly appreciated this unique course, which provided the chance to speak directly with prospective employers.
Each year we hold a seminar focusing on topical business, industry and management subjects. This year’s event, which takes place on Wednesday, July 17 has been timed to be held immediately after the TBA’s Annual General Meeting. Last but not least, the annual three-day Stud Farming Course in December gives breeders and stud staff the opportunity to refresh and expand their knowledge on stud management topics.
We value suggestions from TBA members about course topics, particularly for our day courses and lectures. Working with the National Stud, this year’s funding from the Racing Foundation will enable us to deliver two regional courses in Yorkshire and Shropshire in July, focussing on growth and development in the young horse with topics including nutrition and grassland management.
The racing industry is planning to spend a significant sum this year on recruitment and training, and it is vitally important that the support the TBA receives from the Levy Board and Racing Foundation, as well as from our own resources, is used wisely.
These are important areas, but retention is also vital, and every employer must work with their staff to make sure there is a clear understanding of the work and hours involved and be flexible where possible in this modern age of employee expectations.
Working with thoroughbred horses is exciting and challenging but also hugely satisfying. These horses are bred to race and win, and that generally rewards those who look after them. The bond between man and horse goes back thousands of years, and while the thoroughbred may be a relatively new breed, we look to raise an animal that is responsive to human kindness.
Good temperament and will to win should be important in our breeding decisions, and they can also ensure that the sport is able to attract employees from outside the narrow equine sector and with less traditional backgrounds to enjoy a richly rewarding career in the sport.