Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards finalist, Joanna Lacisz is a proud member of Sir Michael Stoute’s team. Read how she honed her riding skills at Warsaw racecourse and is working to improve the sport’s reputation at home in Poland.
I came to England from Poland four years ago and have been at Sir Michael Stoute’s yard ever since. I haven’t always worked with racehorses as I used to ride endurance horses and break in young horses for private owners – more dressage riding than race-riding.
I have bachelor’s degree in animal science, specialising in horse breeding and training. In one stable where I rode endurance horses, they had racehorses as well. We helped them by riding one or two quick lots before starting our training, and that’s how I fell in love with racing.
My best decision
I got a job at Warsaw racecourse where I learned how to ride racehorses. Before coming to the UK, I had already around five years’ experience with racehorses. At Sir Michael Stoute’s yard, I started as a rider/ groom and I was very lucky to get to look after Expert Eye in my first year here. I couldn’t ever imagine that moving here would be my best decision. I’m still riding horses and assisting head lads in their everyday jobs with horses. Recently, I started traveling to the races as well and I’m doing a Level 3 Diploma in Horsecare.
A rewarding role in an elegant sport
The best part of my job is when a horse you’ve ridden every day since they came to the yard goes to the races for the first time. And it’s even better if they win! That is when you see the results of your hard work. I’m a lucky person to have a hobby as a job, so I enjoy every aspect – maybe except waking up ridiculously early! If you ride a horse that you look after day-to-day it creates fantastic bond between the two of you.
British racing is very elegant. People wear nice clothes and treat racing as an excuse to go out. We lead out horses well dressed, and it gives this special almost royal status to the sport. Crowds are extraordinary here. It’s a different level of experience when they all start shouting and cheering the horses and jockeys in the final furlong.
Top jockeys and top horses are superstars here, everybody knows them. For me, there is no better place than the UK for horseracing and no better place to work than Newmarket, where you can be right in the middle of the action. Additionally, the way that the horses are trained here is different to many other countries. Abroad they mostly train on the same track that they race on, and the stables are right next to the track. Here you ride one horse for around an hour, go out onto the street, the heath, canter up the hill. I have found the horses are more relaxed here than in Poland.
The impact of Covid-19
My work hasn’t been impacted that much by Covid-19. We all still come to work to ride and look after the horses. The only change on the yard is to maintain social distancing and keep sanitizing your hands and surroundings.
More difficult is going to the races, as we need to go through all procedures to enter the racecourse, keep masks on all the time etc. Racing with no public is a bit upsetting, as the most magic moment is when your horse is winning and you can hear all of the crowd. It is mostly my home life that was affected by Covid-19. As I’m from Poland, owing to quarantine and lockdowns I wasn’t able to go home and see all my family. I was lucky that my parents could visit me during the summer, however. I also miss the games of badminton we usually have with friends every week in summertime. We used to chat and laugh more than play but it was a great way to meet and socialise.
Showcasing the sport on YouTube
I was introduced by a friend to a lady that works for Polish National TV. She has her programme about horse racing and has just started her private YouTube channel about racing. As racing in Poland has a bad press and there are lots of myths about it, she wanted to show a different side of this industry and attract people to racing. She was looking for someone who can be a permanent guest on her channel and who can show how it all looks to the wider world.
We spoke on the ‘phone and it turned out that we have very similar point of view and it’ll be great to work together. I’ve made two videos so far but as it was well received, we were asked to do it in English as well, so we decided to put English subtitles to every future video. My job is to translate and make subtitles!
We recently released videos about Yucatan (IRE) who just came to Poland to be a stallion. Next videos from the UK that I’m planning will be about how we train horses in Newmarket (want to show the gallops, horse walks, some shots from our yard, go pro, drone etc.). I’m just waiting for a bit brighter weather and for the trainers to send all their horses down the Heath, as it’s the most magical thing to see a crowd of racehorses. If I’m be able to, I’d like to show Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby from behind the scenes.
Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards
I am extremely happy to be a finalist for this year’s Rider/ Groom Award. I cannot really believe it. I was happy enough to be nominated as it is the greatest appreciation you can get for what you do every day. But getting to the final! Unbelievable!