Winner of the Rory MacDonald Community Award at the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards, Andrea O’Keeffe balances life running a racing yard with husband Jedd alongside helping young people to access education and career opportunities within the sport.
Two careers – both educating youngsters
My dad took me racing for the first time when I was 10 years old and ever since then (a long time ago!), I have loved the racing industry.
I began working in racing while still at school at weekends and in the holidays. My parents were very anxious as to how I could make a career in the industry, so I kept on studying and got my A-Levels and a Degree in Primary Education, but spent every minute I could working at the yard of trainer George Moore in Middleham.
I met my husband, Jedd when I was 19 and in my second year of university. Jedd was a pupil assistant and then assistant trainer for Micky Hammond. We both had a fierce ambition to train racehorses but didn’t have any backing or support to start up, so we set up a livery business starting with four out-of-training horses and combined this with our full-time jobs. A steady income and the financial security of a salary coming in each month was essential to be able to pay the rent for the yard, so we continued to expand and grow the business alongside our full-time jobs. This meant lots of very early starts and late finishes, and no weekends or holidays!
I continued to study at the same time and got further Post Graduate Qualifications in Special Educational Needs, Educational Leadership and Management. My last job in education was as a primary education consultant across North Yorkshire.
We expanded the livery business and moved premises to rent a 28-box yard that we filled, but the day you start training then that’s when the livery horses have to go, and we went from 28 horses in stables to just three in training.
Growing our business and our people
I left my second job to concentrate on the yard 16 years ago and Jedd and I have worked together full-time since. We worked hard and have very slowly and steadily expanded our business over the last 30 years. We now have access to 53 licensed boxes and have 45 horses in full training.
I love riding racehorses, racing, and working with the inspirational people within the industry. I love learning and supporting others developing a career within the sport. There are so many parallels between working with and teaching young horses or a team of staff on apprenticeships, and with children or adults in education – it is all about the potential of the individual and maximising the opportunities for this to be achieved. I am passionate about equality of opportunity and want to support everyone to be the best version of themselves that they can be in the job. I don’t like barriers and feel strongly that everyone who is passionate about horses and wants to learn about, work within or engage with the sport in any way should be encouraged.
This weekend, we baked cakes for visitors to this weekend’s hugely successful Middleham Open Day, selling them in order to raise funds for Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Having lived and worked in the Middleham area all my life I am dedicated to the North and want to see the racing industry continue to thrive locally.