Racing Welfare’s Simone Sear chose to spotlight the well-being needs of trainers as part of her successful MBA course – as academic research but also as a guide to future services the charity might offer to these wide-ranging and pivotal businesses and individuals.
Identifying the front line stresses of training
As Director of Welfare, I was aware that trainers rarely use Racing Welfare’s support services for themselves, preferring to get in touch with us to help a member of their staff. To make our services accessible to all we needed to understand more about the role of a trainer and the specific issues they face.
While studying on the University of Liverpool’s Thoroughbred Horseracing Industry MBA, I found only one published study worldwide relating to trainers’ wellbeing. So I proposed to identify the occupational stressors affecting trainers in GB to enable us to learn more and assess the need for a bespoke support service.
Pressures coming in from all sides
I conducted anonymous interviews with trainers identifying a range of repetitive themes from the analysed data. Inevitably, business and finance worries were to the fore, along with the demands of the fixture list but the most dominant stressors were those felt to be out of a trainer’s control.
Ranking highly was the issue of maintaining the health and well-being of horses, in addition to stressors associated with their own and their horses’ performance. I concluded that participants were operating in a ‘time famine’ with all supplementing a nonviable training business with other income streams. All respondents had experienced regular, abusive messages relating to their own or their horses’ performances.
Trainers identified a range of physical and mental health symptoms as a result of stressors, including: recurrent viral illnesses; self-neglect; stomach ulcers; headaches; chest infections and low immunity. Mental health symptoms related to emotional toll and sleep deprivation, and feelings of isolation. Low self-esteem; depression; anxiety and feeling mentally drained were prevalent. Not all participants were stressed all of the time, but most had experienced, or known other trainers who had experienced the stressors mentioned at some point.
Start of a conversation to match need with help
Despite the availability of Racing Welfare’s services, trainers believed there is no support for them and so a bespoke well-being service is a primary recommendation.
A mentor scheme and accessible educational opportunities were also cited by trainers as measures that would help. This research is the beginning of a conversation and discussions are in progress with the National Trainers Federation about how we take the findings forward.
The Horseracing Industry MBA has helped enormously in developing my knowledge, skills, experience and networks, as well as challenging me to think more critically. I am extremely grateful to The Racing Foundation who granted my scholarship to study on such an innovative programme.