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16 September 2021

What happens if people can’t visit a yard for National Racehorse Week? Jo Foster tells us about her unusual approach to celebrating the racehorse

Jo Foster realised that having a yard opening to honour National Racehorse Week would mean that a lot of the same friendly faces would come. While this is fantastic, there was a lot of people who wouldn’t be able to get to the yard who Jo and the team wanted to share their knowledge and interest with – so they decided to go out and see them instead. Their trips, which started on Sunday have included visiting care homes, residential homes, a local primary and grammar school. 

Sigurd, a three-mile chaser who won three races last season has taken to this new role well, enjoying the appreciation from his new fans.  Sigurd has been accompanied by his companion, Teddy a Shetland pony who has been a real hit with young children.

Jo said: “Sigurd was very gentle. The more vulnerable the person, the gentler he tends to be. We find that with a lot of the horses. They are so sensitive they can read when there are people around them that maybe can’t move so fast but are well meaning.

“All members of staff have wanted to get involved, including a work experience student. The response has been amazing with people in tears. Sigurd now has a new group of followers who want to know when he runs and to watch. Just because these people are not going to be buying shares in racehorses or going to the races, we shouldn’t ignore them. Since taking Sigurd out this week, the whole yard feels more connected and the team have found it a rewarding experience. We hope that his visits have enriched a few people’s lives, even if just for an hour.”

The initiative is going to carry on after National Racehorse Week, with a group of Year 9 students from Ilkley Grammar School who are interested in horses and livestock already booked in to come to the yard. For the last four years the yard has been involved in 14–16-year-old apprenticeships. They offer opportunities to young people who are struggling at school with an interest in animals, with excellent results for both the yard and the young people involved.  

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