With Racing Staff Week in full flow Laura Parker, Travelling Head Girl for Phillip Hobbs, discusses her path into the racing industry, preparing for her charity ride on Friday and the importance of this initiative.
Hi, I work as one of two Travelling Head Grooms working for Warren Greatrex in Lambourn and I was pleased to be asked to write this blog for Racing Staff Week.
I’m going to start by telling you a little bit about myself… enough people in racing know me by now so, unfortunately, I can’t stray far from the truth and create some celebrity lifestyle past or supermodel-like image… although feel free to believe both of those things!
First steps into racing
I left St Mary’s University with a 2:1 degree in Sports Science six years’ ago aged 21 and returned home to Somerset in the summer with the intention of beginning my teacher training the following term. Back at home I live on a farm two fields away from Philip Hobbs’ Yard, where my younger sister Natalie was already working. Johnson White, the Assistant Trainer, lives across the road and I think was very surprised when one day I showed up at his door asking for a job. I had decided to work in the yard as an intended ‘gap year’ before taking on what I might have said was a ‘proper job’ as a teacher. Six year later and I’ve not looked back: I am still working in racing with no intention of leaving.
I spent five years at the Hobbs yard, in which time I rode in Point-to-Point races on our family horses, and looked after and rode some top class horses, including Village Vic and Chance du Roy (who I now proudly own). I also passed my HGV lorry exam. Most importantly, it was at this time that I realised there was nothing I was going to enjoy more than riding out racehorses each day and going to Cheltenham, Aintree & Punchestown.
Gearing up for the Racing Staff Week charity race at Newton Abbott
‘Great Lover’ … no, I’m not about to start a Fifty Shades of Grey-style blog; this is in fact the name of my chosen mount for the Stable Staff charity race at Newton Abbott racecourse. I have always dreamt of getting the chance to race around a proper track and Newton Abbot is one of my favourites, so this will be an even more special opportunity.
I have very kindly been given this horse to ride by permission of his owners Mr & Mrs Ferguson to whom I’m very grateful. I’m really hoping that we both can repay their faith by giving it our best shot. It’s fair to say that Great Lover isn’t the most enthusiastic about racing and is more a great lover of his food. However, his work at home is good and more importantly his temperament makes him a lovely ride for me to enjoy the experience regardless of how we finish.
On the day of the race all of the riders are being given a guided course walk with a jockey coach, so hopefully everything should be relatively straight forward.
The minimum weight we are all allowed to carry is 11st, so that means there’s no need for me to use a smaller than usual saddle or any tack out of the ordinary. My sister’s racing collection will be raided to give me everything I need.
I already run most days and am currently riding out about three horses a morning so shouldn’t be too unfit – I do know, though, from experience that riding in a race is a completely different type of fitness. I’ll just have to hope I’ve done enough…….and remember to breathe!!
During the last few weeks I have also been using an equiciser (mechanical horse) to try and help me stay as tidy and efficient as possible in the saddle: whether this has worked or not we’ll see on Friday.
The importance of Racing Staff Week
Racing Welfare has done a great job with organising Racing Staff Week again and the introduction of prizes, money and end of week parties in Lambourn and Cheltenham is such a boost for racing staff in yards and across racecourses.
All racing staff put in the hard work and I know how passionate stable staff are about their jobs; it is great that we receive this recognition and that the activities during Racing Staff Week are growing each year.
Racing needs more staff, so the more recognition and support we can get the more attractive and sustainable our industry can hopefully become.
Wish me luck at Newton Abbot!
Anyone wishing to help sponsor me for this race please visit my Just Giving page: Just Giving