Patrick and his wife Julie run Appletree Stud in Banbury and are the key cogs in the Pony Racing Authority Youth Training Scheme. Here Patrick discusses how this came about, the success of the programme and how beneficial the recent Explore Racing Day at Newmarket was for all involved.
My wife, Julie, and I run Appletree Stud, a Riding School near Banbury. In 2014 Clarissa Daly, Chief Executive of The Pony Racing Authority (PRA) approached us to see if we could give children and their families from a non-racing background a positive pony/ horseracing experience. This was to involve 12 sessions which, hopefully, culminated in an actual ride in a pony race on one of our ponies.
A pony racing pilot scheme
We ran a pilot scheme that year and The PRA Youth Training Scheme (YTS) was born. All of the children on the first scheme got the opportunity to race, and of the five that took part, one is working for trainer Ben Case.
Another rode in several Point-to-Points and for the past two years has been a valued member of Sir Mark Prescott’s team. The second scheme followed, and of the four children who took part, two ride out for Flat Trainers and hope to be jockeys on leaving school and one is in full-time employment with Alex Hales.
We are due to start our ninth scheme at Appletree Stud soon, and there are children from all of the previous schemes that are hoping for careers in the racing industry. The majority of the children who have been to us have very little or no knowledge of horse racing when we meet them. The YTS is continuing to evolve. We helped to start a scheme in Teddington, London and the children from their first scheme (three from Teddington Riding School and two from Brixton) all got to race. There are now several YTS schemes around the UK and we are heading to Worcester to help set up another one in the next few weeks.
More opportunities to get into racing
The next step from the YTS is the PRA Graduates Scheme. This is part-funded by the PRA and is open to children who have completed the PRA YTS. The aim of this follow-on opportunity is to keep the children involved and interested and, among other things, they get to ride in another pony race in the year, which they really love.
Careers in Racing’s Explore Racing Day was invaluable for us. It introduced children to The British Racing School, where many of them want to go when they leave school, but it also allowed the parents and carers to learn more about the racing industry.
For many, the extent of their knowledge is having a bet on The Grand National and maybe some recognition of The Derby. The parents and carers want to learn, and the day gave them, as much as the children, a fantastic insight. We take the children on a visit to the races and also to a racing yard when they do the YTS, so it is fantastic for them to be able to go racing again, and learn some more about the industry in such a relaxed environment.
Going forward, the more of these days that can be put on the better; it will be a massive help in encouraging more children to look at the sport and what it can offer them – now and in the future.