Ellie Cross, 17, talks about how attending a charity talk at her secondary school last winter was the first exciting step in her career in racing.
I always liked horses but it wasn’t until my grandad, who is a big racing fan, started taking me to Beverley racecourse when I was 13 that I realised that I really enjoyed it. It was a totally new sport that I hadn’t really experienced before.
I attended Goole Academy Secondary School and the youth charity Flying Futures were giving a talk about the Take The Reins initiative, which aims to provide young people with career opportunities in the racing industry. Although I had no background in the sport like some of the others in my school, I decided to go along with two friends to listen what they had to say.
We were keen to go on an organised trip to Richard Fahey’s Musely Bank yard in April and this was my first time visiting a stable. I was amazed to see all the training and preparation that takes place. On the same trip we also attended Jack Berry House. They gave us a tour and I met someone there from the Northern Racing College who told us about the courses that were available. I took the application form home, showed my Mum and decided that I would go for it. I signed up and posted off the form.
Take The Reins was able to arrange for me to have three days’ work experience at Richard Fahey’s yard, which gave me a good head start in learning what goes on when working at a trainer’s yard.
I started my placement at the Northern Racing College in July and finished in October, successfully completing the 12-week Diploma course in Horsecare and Riding. It was a great course, which I enjoyed. We learnt a lot of riding skills and racing techniques; how to brush and groom horses and how to travel horses. I really liked learning about how to travel horses for the races, platting them, use of travel boots and tail badges.
The next step for me was to get a placement and I was so pleased that the college arranged for me to join Jedd O’Keeffe’s yard in Middleham, and I have been here ever since. I currently live in a house share with three other stable staff, which was arranged through the yard and is a big help.
My current working day is not exactly like my school years. I start with an alarm call at 5:30am and my lift picks me up at 6am. We’re mucking out until 7am, which is when the first lot pulls out. Back on the ground, we then have various yard duties and walkers to complete until 12:30pm. We then get the chance to go home and at 4pm start the evening stables, which finishes at 6pm. A long but rewarding day.
Even on cold mornings when it’s snowing and I begin to question what am I doing, I know that it’s all worth it. I can’t see myself typing behind a desk and I’d much rather be outside doing something that I love. I’ve just received my racing pass so I’m really excited about attending some races in the coming months.
My main advice to anybody looking to start in the racing industry is to work hard, listen to the instructors because they know what they are talking about and never lose focus on what you want in life.
My future plans are to stay in racing for the long term. I hope to be head lass or travelling head lass taking winning horses to the races.