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08 March 2023

Embracing Equity Feature: Louise Neale, Equine Welfare and Integrity Officer at the BHA

Marking International Women’s Day, Louise Neale, Equine Welfare and Integrity Officer (EWIO) at the BHA talks about her journey in racing and those that have inspired her.

I first started out in the industry working for racehorse trainer, Alan King, after enquiring into an advert in Horse & Hound Magazine. I already had plenty of equestrian experience under my belt, having worked at various riding schools, competition yards and stud farms, and gaining a BSc in Equine Studies at Aberystwyth University. However, nothing could prepare me for my first time up the gallops on a racehorse, it was a shock to the system to say the least!

Louise riding out on the gallops

Eventually, I adjusted to the style of riding and started to really enjoy the job, especially taking horses to the races. I was keen to develop my skills and learn more about the industry, so I managed to get a few shadowing days at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse, to experience a raceday from a management perspective.

Through contacts I made along the way, I was able to take on various short-term roles as and when opportunities arose, to gain a broader understanding of the sport, including: Racing Operations Assistant at Cheltenham Racecourse, where I spent three-months assisting with operations during the run up to The Festival. I also took part in the British Horseracing Development Programme, which along with a two-week intensive learning programme, gave me a three-month work placement with Arena Racing Company, shadowing the Clerk of the Course and working with the ground-staff teams at various tracks around the country.

Each of these amazing opportunities opened my eyes to all the possible career paths available to me in the racing industry, but one role in particular stood out – Equine Welfare and Integrity Officer (EWIO). When the position became available, I applied straight away.

Tell us about your current role

There are many responsibilities for the EWIO team on a raceday and the routine varies depending on the number of runners, the profile of the fixture, which course you’re at etc. But generally, I would either be manning the Stable Yard gate; scanning each horse’s microchip as they arrive, assigning them a stable, logging the accreditation of all Stable Staff accompanying the horses and scanning each horse again on their way to the track to make sure that the right horse is running in the right race. Or, I’d be in the Sampling Unit, collecting post-race urine samples from horses that are selected for testing by the Stewards (it’s more fun than it sounds!)

At work in the racecourse stables

I love working in the Stable Yard, being among these incredible horses and the dedicated Stable Staff that take so much pride in looking after them; it’s great to see.

Alongside my EWIO role, I am also an Assistant Steward. Which is a very different, but equally enjoyable role. The job is split into two parts, so my day-to-day routine might be checking all horses are present and wearing the correct headgear in the parade ring, taking post-race reports from jockeys and liaising with fellow racing officials and participants. I may also be documenting incidences throughout the day using the internal Stewards’ System and updating the Stewards’ Report website.

It’s great to be involved in two very different aspects of Raceday Regulation, and I am very lucky to have the opportunity to do both roles.

Why do you think it is important to celebrate IWD within the racing industry?

I recently attended the Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards, where I had an interesting discussion with a fellow attendee, about how women so often dominate the shortlist of finalists from the diverse pool of nominees for these awards, which is no coincidence. Women are naturally compassionate, nurturing, organised, patient and incredibly resilient which, when it comes to caring for these spectacular animals, is exactly what is needed to keep this industry thriving.

International Women’s Day is a great way to spread awareness and celebrate women and the part they play in our industry. It is my view that retaining women, by facilitating their return to work after maternity leave, for example, and providing a flexible working environment to support our best people is something all employers in the industry need to prioritise.

What advice would you give to younger girls or other women who would like to get into the industry?

The advice I would give someone starting their career in racing is to get as much work experience as possible, I did most of my work experience unpaid, but it paid off in the end!

Most importantly, work for a racehorse trainer, the more hands-on experience you can get, the better understanding you’ll have of the people and horses at the heart of the sport.

I would also recommend getting to know all the fabulous resources available to support you, such as: Women in Racing, Racing Welfare, Racing Together, Racing Home, Careers in Racing, The British Racing School, The Northern Racing College etc.

Under starters orders!

Who is your most inspirational woman within the breeding and racing industry?

I think Hollie Doyle is a fantastic role model for anyone who is passionate about sport; she is proof that no matter who you are, hard work and determination is the key to success.

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