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26 January 2021

A 24-hour day is clearly not enough for the former jockey, now racehorse rehomer and full-time firefighter, Kylie Manser-Baines. In the first part of her blog, Kylie charts her career from amateur to professional rider and her love of retraining former racehorses

I started out as an Amateur rider in 2004 and won the De Beers Diamond Race on Mine Behind, a 33/1 shot, just a year later. Another 12 months on and I took out my professional licence and gave it my all as an apprentice for the next five years; I even tried hurdling – just the once, in 2009.

Packing a lot in

I had 49 winners (22 in the UK from 364 rides). In 2008, I was pleased to win the Pontefract Apprentice Championship and won a working holiday in America with top trainer Carl Nafzger. I rode in many different countries, including Malaysia, America, Jersey, France and Austria. I was Female Champion jockey in Jersey for successive years, 2009 & 2010.

Once I retired in 2011, I started retraining and rehoming ex racehorses that have come out of racing either due to injury, age or inability. I became aware of the need to find suitable homes for horses during my racing career, often wondering what happened to some of the horses I’d ridden in races. Those 100-1 shots that had never beaten a horse home and were never seen again on the racetrack must be going somewhere.

One thing led to another

I started retraining almost by accident after buying a horse at Ascot Sales that didn’t sell and then refused to load for its vendors.  I enjoyed retraining and rehoming this horse and so when an ex-employer of mine mentioned in casual conversation that a nice horse that I had ridden in races was being retired, I chose to take this horse on. Things went well and the horse went eventing and then was rehomed.

My background was in non-racing riding disciplines, both competitive and non-competitive and I had qualified BHS Stages 1 and 2. I realised that by retraining racehorses I could keep in contact with the racing world indirectly put something back into the sport I love. It is very hard when you retire from being a jockey to continue to work in racing doing something that would always feel second best to riding in races.

Need for this work

 Soon after selling my second horse, the ex-employer contacted me again offering me another horse and mentioned that there was another trainer also looking to rehome a racehorse. It became clear to me that most racehorses coming out of training had no future without some basic retraining and many were being sold very cheaply to unsuitable homes. Fortunately, the welfare of retiring racehorses has improved significantly since this time and there are now many good re-trainers and a healthy market for these horses, thanks to the work of the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) charity.

Since the early days, I have developed my business and have grown from retraining and rehoming around 15 horses in my first year to around 60 a year now. When I first started, I rented two stables and a small field from a friend.  I soon realised that I needed more stables and more turnout.

The turnout is a vital part of my retraining programme and every horse is turned out to grass as soon as I get them home.  My friend’s set-up was not big enough for my ever-increasing stock of horses and so I rented a large field elsewhere. I used to turn the horses out in the large field and then move one or two to the stable yard to be retrained. This was hard work as I spent most of my time transporting the horses from A to B and back again. I also wanted to retrain them more professionally and wanted easy access to a riding arena.

I now have a purpose-built arena, level turnout which is easily accessible from the yard, and up to 12 stables available at any one time. I have a horse treadmill, solarium and a stand-alone wash box with hot water. The horses look better and feel better for the individual attention and blossom allowing me to see and judge their true characters. This is key for a successful rehoming as I match each individual horse to each customer.  Investing in better facilities to retrain has enabled me to expand my business.

Through my network of contacts with Trainers, Pre-Trainers, Owners, Breeders, jockeys and stable staff, I am offered horses on a regular basis throughout the year via many different sources. This was important to me as I needed a regular supply of horses to ensure a steady income stream in order to pay my overheads. In 2015 Di Arbuthnot (RoR Chief Executive) contacted me as many trainers had mentioned my services to her, and I am now one of the recommended retrainers listed on the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) website.

I deal with many different types of people (and horses) and find that although experience always helps I am still learning! I thoroughly enjoy retraining the horses particularly the interpersonal element of it, which I find very interesting.  It can be very hard work and sometimes heartbreaking but I am a tenacious, resourceful and hardworking person and ever the optimist – I always think things happen for a reason. I am lucky to have a business that I enjoy so much and although it is true that horses are great levellers, I would not be without them.

Next time… my life in the London Fire Brigade

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