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01 October 2020

For former Barbadian jockey Paul Brewster, a recent trip to Windsor racecourse was a day of real nostalgia. Attending as part of a delegation from the University Campus of Football Business (UCFB), Paul was with Events and Management students who were being introduced to the world of racing and its many career opportunities through an Explore Racing Day, organised by Careers in Racing. They couldn’t have been in better hands.

Mother’s support was key to realising my dream

I first came in to contact with horses at the age of 11 through a school friend who went to riding lessons every Thursday at Egerton Riding School – one of the top riding schools in Barbados. As a result of carpooling to and from school, I would watch him ride and it was at this point that my interest in horses began. I remember telling my mother that I wanted to be jockey following my first visit to the races at the Garrison Savanah, and to her credit she wholeheartedly supported my enthusiasm to reach this goal.

In no time I became a member of the Egerton Riding Stable under the tutelage of Mrs Elizabeth Deane and her son, Richard, which was an experience that helped to shape me as a person and for which I will always be grateful.

By the age of 16, I had competed in jumping and dressage shows, fitted alongside countless hours working at the stables over the school holidays. It was now time to take another step along my journey, which saw me taking out an apprentice licence with The Barbados Turf Club.

The life of a jockey was a wonderful experience for me and taught me a lot about the ups and downs that come your way. Initially, it was quite hard to get on a good horse that had the potential to win a race, however with patience and determination, that first winner finally came, on a horse called Green Swizzle for the Egerton Stables. Only a fortnight earlier the race stewards had taken the decision to demote me and Green Swizzle from first to third, for a minor infringement: a roller coaster of emotions as you can imagine!

A full career but only my first one

By the time of my retirement at the age of 24, mainly due to weight problems, I had about 75 winners to my name. Career highlights for me would be winning the Banks Guineas on Don Juan and Perfect Bird; Breeders Championship on Night Life; top handicaps on Bentom, Piou, Karre, Paddy Bird, Uncle Lee and Conquering Hubert. I was also fortunate to represent my country on two occasions when competing within a jockeys’ series – the first was the Red Stripe Jockey Championship in Jamaica. Fellow jockey Slade Callaghan and I finished third, and then back in Barbados I was part of a winning team alongside Barbadian greats, Venice Richards, Patrick Husbands, Anderson Ward. Our team was able to overcome the strong USA and UK teams to win the series.

As you can imagine, having to walk away from being a jockey, the one thing at the time that gave my life meaning was difficult. However, I was able to leave on a high – my last two rides were a winner and a second place.

My parents had always said that this day would come, in my case, sooner rather than later. As such, one of the conditions for being allowed to ride, was to stay in school with the aim of achieving GCSEs’ equivalents. Holding these qualifications gave me the foundation that was needed to transition away from race-riding and into the business world. At the conclusion of my riding career, I was approached by a friend who happened to be racehorse owner at the time, with an opportunity to co-manage a small tack shop located at the Garrison Savannah. I accepted the chance as it kept me within the industry. Concurrently, I also held the role of assistant starter for the Barbados Turf Club, a role which I saw as an opportunity to give back to the sport that had done so much for me.

To England with a plan to study business

To further my understanding of the business world, I decided to enrol in a mid–management course with the University of the West Indies. After completing this two-year programme, it seemed logical to continue studying, but to do it at a higher level and focused on a specific discipline. I gave it a lot of thought and after talking to family and friends, I decided to come to England to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance at London Metropolitan University. With that course completed, next on my list was a qualification from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and then a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Wales. I am related to a lot of academics, so it made sense to enter the family business!

Combining my love of sport with working with young people

My involvement in Higher Education has been as a lecturer and administrator for the last eight years. This career move has been very rewarding and satisfying. Working at UCFB has allowed me to leverage my past sporting experiences within the classroom, in particular on days out like the recent event at Windsor, kindly organised for us by the British Horseracing Authority.

This day out was a wonderful opportunity for our Events and Management students as they were able to witness a behind-the-scenes perspective of the various activities making up a day at the races.

Racing has never left me and I hope to return

Early retirement from the saddle gave me the impetus to retrain in the education field but future involvement within the horse industry has always appealed to me. I like the idea of coming full circle in my life and career. In what area of the industry, it is difficult to say, as I find it all quite interesting. As I have just become a dad, I guess my immediate priority would be to teach my daughter how to ride someday and thus pass on the tradition to her.

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