Kate Bradley secured Picture of the Year in the inaugural National Association of Stable Staff (NARS) Education Awards Night last month. She speaks here about her background within the racing industry and how she came to fall in love with photography.
I am 41 years old, and I have a three-year-old daughter. I have worked in racing for 28 years, firstly working weekends and holidays for a local trainer and then at 16 I attended the National Horseracing College, where I completed my NVQ levels 1 and 2 in racehorse care.
I left it late in life to start a family because my career had always come first, working in racing is a lifestyle not a job. It’s a roller-coaster of highs and lows- the highs being the best feeling in the world when a horse you ride or look after and have had faith in wins a race; the lows when a horse is fatally injured. I’ve had my fair share of both throughout my career. I have been lucky enough to work for some top trainers and ride and look after some great horses who have taken me all over the world.
Balancing family life
After having my daughter, my perspective of things changed. I have to work for my own mental wellbeing, but I felt incredibly apprehensive to go back riding out four lots a day and working the hours I was before I had a young child. I know I’m not alone in feeling like this. A lot of girls in my situation feel the same, starting in racing straight from school many girls don’t have any other skills to find alternative employment, nor do they have the money to not to have to work full time. I did go back to riding out, but I soon realised I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore; it was constantly in the back of my mind what if I fall off and hurt myself who would look after my daughter. I was very lucky to find a fantastic job with Harry Eustace. I work part-time with hours that fit round my daughter’s nursery. I was doing yard work but actually missed riding, so now I ride one lot a day on a lovely horse who looks after me. It’s a lovely place to work and I am very happy there.
Power of photography
I have always been interested in photography and take photos that Harry uses for his social media and newsletters. I’ve only ever used my ‘phone as I didn’t have any knowledge how to use a camera properly. When I saw the (NARS) course advertised, I rang Kevin straight away and asked if I could be part of it. I feel really lucky I was accepted.
The course was fantastic from start to finish. The equipment we were given was top of the range and Phil our teacher was amazing, he is so knowledgeable and made us all feel at ease. I think we all had days when we thought all our photos were rubbish, but Phil kept us motivated and assured us they weren’t! I didn’t think I had any chance of winning but at the awards evening when I stood back and looked at my work, I felt really proud and thought maybe I did have a chance after all… I was still shocked when I won though, all the girls on the course took some amazing photos. My partner bought me a really good camera so I’ve been taking photos every chance I can get.
My sister very sadly committed suicide two days before Christmas, which was a massive shock to my whole family. She had two dogs that I have now inherited. My sister did a lot of voluntary work for the RSPCA and everyone knew how much she loved her dogs. With my new skills and camera, I was able to take some lovely photos of the dogs and have them printed out. We displayed them at her funeral so everyone could see her dogs are happy and being cared for, something I wouldn’t have been able to do before the course.
Opportunities for all
NARS is doing a fantastic job of making sure everyone in racing has the chance to better themselves and learn a new skill. I feel the racing industry is finally starting to realise people who devote their lives to the sport need more opportunities to have a life outside racing, if for any reason they can’t do their job anymore or just want to learn something new. I would definitely recommend everyone to have a look at what NARS has to offer, either as an online course or a practical one like I did. You can find NARS courses here.