If you love horses and dream of becoming the next Paul Nicholls or Nicky Henderson, it’s important to know there is a long road ahead of you. As a trainer of thoroughbred racehorses, you are responsible for their fitness, welfare, care and overall training.
You must learn to prepare horses for specific races while creating training regimes tailor-made for each horse in order to build up their speed, stamina, technique and strength. You must also be a people person because you have to deal with staff, clients, owners, suppliers and a host of other individuals.
Nonetheless, if horses are your passion, a career as a trainer could prove to be extremely rewarding in its own way. Read on to learn the path you must take in order to become a horse racing trainer in the UK.
Find a Yard
Your first step is to try and find a suitable location for your new stable or yard. In most cases, you will be looking to lease the property in the beginning as few newcomers can afford an outright purchase. Then you have to see how affordable the property is which means creating a business plan.
It’s also important to remember it will be several years before you even get the opportunity to set up your own yard for the purposes of entering UK horse racing events.
Go To School
All prospective trainers must attend courses at either the British Racing School (BRS) or the Northern Racing College (NRC). Regardless of the school you choose, the courses are as follows:
Module 1 – Racehorse Management
This includes health and safety and issues. In order to achieve this module, you must do the following in order:
- Level 3 Diploma in Work Based Racehorse Care & Management: 1st 4 Sport is the organisation that awards this qualification. You must contact the BRS or NRC and register yourself for qualification. You will receive Log In details for OneFile which you must work on from home.
- Attendance At a 1 Week Course At Newmarket: Notification of your Level 3 Diploma qualification must have been received before attending this course. It provides you with important information including Feeding & Nutrition, Diagnosis of Lameness, Handicapping, Training & Fitness, the Role & Responsibility of the NRF, Horse Health and much more.
- Attend a 1 Day Seminar At Weatherbys: You must travel to Wellingborough for this seminar.
You could gain exemption from Module 1 if you have trained 5 winners and 50 runners under the Rules of a recognised Turf authority.
Module 2 – Business Planning
This involves learning how to compile business plans which is extremely important. Unless you are independently wealthy, you will need a loan. It is also crucial for you to write out a realistic plan of how your life is going to be like for at least the next 3 years. A lot of aspiring trainers don’t understand just how much capital they will need to commit but your lecturers won’t be shy about telling you!
This course provides information such as:
- Obtaining Finance.
- Business Planning.
- Business Law
- Principles of Accounting
- Media Skills
Module 3 – Staff Management
- Recruiting, Hiring & Managing Your Team
- Employment Law & NTF Guide
- The Health & Safety Obligations of UK employers
NVQ Level 3 Diploma In Work-Based Horse Care & Management
You must complete this course if you wish to obtain a Trainer’s license; you can read more about it at this link.
Applying For A License
In order to train a racehorse in the UK, you need a license from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). You can apply for a license for jump races, flat races or a combined license for both. Licenses must be renewed annually.
This link to the BHA website will take you to the license application page. You’ll find that there are a few options:
- License Renewal: Licensed trainers should use the renewal form if their license is set to run out in the first 7 weeks of the year.
- New Applicants: This form is for those looking to train racehorses under Rules.
- Permit To Train: A Permit Trainer is only allowed to train horses in National Hunt flat races, Steeplechases and Hurdle races; the horses must be the sole property of himself, his spouse, siblings, children or parents. Basically, a Permit Trainer needs to be an amateur where training horses is seen as a pastime and not a way to make money.
Therefore, in order to hold a Trainer’s license, you must meet the following criteria:
- A minimum of 5 years experience in training yards or stables and a minimum of 2 years experience in a senior position. An example of this would be Assistant Trainer.
- NVQ Level 3 qualification in Racehorse Care & Management.
- A minimum of 3 wins as a permit holder with a spread of horses.
- A minimum of 10 point-to-point wins and at least 2 years experience in managing a point-to-point yard.
- Full attendance of the three courses held at either the British Racing School or Northern Racing College. Obviously, you must pass the courses which are all one week long.
- Attend a full day seminar at Weatherbys.
- Comply with the requisite health and safety requirements in the UK.
- Have employer’s liability and public liability insurance.
- You must be deemed ‘fit and proper’ to hold a license; previous criminal convictions may count against you. This includes a consideration of honesty and integrity (incidentally, bookmakers will not be given a license for reasons I’m sure you can understand).
- Prove that your employees are paid at least the Racing Industry Minimum Rate of Pay and are also employed under ‘reasonable’ working standards.
- Prove you have suitable premises and facilities in order to train a yard of horses.
- First time trainers must prove they can recognise health issues and diseases in horses. You must also prove you have sufficient knowledge in areas such as racecourse requirements, feeding, horse anatomy and the Rules of Racing. This will involve attending an interview.
- A BHA Stable Inspector will visit your yard and facilities; requirements vary for Flat and Jump trainers.
- You must pass background checks.
- You will need to submit a complex business plan, details of your yard lease, professional references, a projected P&L account and a reference which proves you have at least £40,000 either in capital or as an overdraft.
- In an ideal world, you will have a minimum of 3 horses in training.
- It’s important to note your license only allows training from a specific yard. If you want to train horses in a different yard, you need approval.
A Typical Day
Congratulations! You have become a licensed UK horse racing trainer; now the real work begins! Your daily routine will include the following:
- Get up early (around 6am) to feed and check the horses before deciding on each horse’s exercise regime for the day.
- Overseeing the fitness work of each horse on the gallops.
- Assessing each horse’s ability for potential races.
- Managing staff; this includes hiring and firing while also adhering to employment legislation.
- Administration work including invoicing, accounting, wages, VAT & PAYE. You can hire a secretary to do all this for you if you can afford it.
- Planning race entries, procedures for before and after races and the selection of the right jockeys to horses.
- Completion of race documentation including passports, stable passes, licenses, race entries and declarations.
- Travelling all over the country with your horses to take part in the races.
- Liaising with the owners and connections of the horses.
- Selecting new bloodstock while advising investors and owners.
- Overseeing the marketing strategy for your business.
Being a horse racing trainer involves early starts, long days and a lot of hard work. Before you even get to that stage you must pass several courses and gain years of experience working with a yard. During this time you should always look, listen and learn. Even the best trainers never stop learning because it’s impossible to know everything about horses.
As you gain more experience you will find out if you are the type of trainer that delegates or if you prefer to get your hands dirty. Above all else, you must have a real passion for horses because you will be living and breathing the sport from this moment onward.