Octavia de Ferranti

It is hard to explain just how much one can learn in 6 months at Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott Racing. From track rider to office assistant, I feel I have seen the stable from every angle and am blown away by the sheer scale of the operation.
I started as a track rider and groom where I was able to observe the various advantages of training horses on a track as opposed to gallops.

My take home points from this experience would be how far young horses can be pushed to reach their maximum fitness and the degree of flexibility you can have when the horses individually arrive at the central tower for their daily instructions. Coming from an English yard in which the majority of horses were bred to cover the classic distances of over a mile, I had no idea how much these young sprinters are able to withstand. They gallop twice as often and, as a result, are twice as fit. Fit horses are able to consistently make the running and win the hard way.

As each horse arrives at the tower, they are given their own set of instructions for the amount of warming up and down they may need, the number of laps they will work, their pace and their work partner. This means fewer, more specialised riders can ride more horses and they receive exactly the work they require. Furthermore, the availability of a quiet beach just 15 minutes away from the track means stiff, sore or sour horses get the chance to refresh themselves and relax in the sea every morning. This seems like an advantage compared to the European way of sending out 3 or 4 strings where the horses basically have to do a similar level of exercise.

''Riding out for Luca Cumani in Newmarket, England''
''Riding out for Luca Cumani in Newmarket, England''

Additionally, working around a circular track upsides other horses, rather than one behind each other, allows the horses to relax and work at a speed they are happy with rather than the riders having to fight with them. This results in fewer cuts and scrapes, no clipping heels and happy, relaxed horses.

In my opinion, this relaxed attitude working upsides other horses is enhanced by the way the horses are stabled. Gai and Adrian’s stable is split into 6 different yards, each of which specialise in a certain type of horse whether it be a big, difficult colt, a highly strung filly, or requiring of extra work. The horses are often moving yards and boxes, giving them each the chance to stretch their legs in a large sand yard and socialise with neighbouring horses or relax in a deep straw box and keep their legs clean and dry. In every box or yard the horses can smell each other or touch over the barriers which I think maintains their herd mentality on the track.

''A trip to the beach with Ecuador''
''A trip to the beach with Ecuador''

About 5 months in, I unfortunately broke my foot. However, Gai and Adrian helped me give this problem a silver lining, as I moved into the office. This enabled me to observe the other side of this massive training operation. The number and size of the syndicates in Australia require a large, professional team to manage and keep every individual up to date on their horse’s progress. The sales team have to sell each horse up to 20 times in order to fully syndicate it and then ensure they all get the most out of their ownership. This includes hosting them at Sunday Stables when all owners are invited to come and see their horses at the yard and organising race days for friends and family.

However, Gai realises that training horses does not just happen on the track. Gai is a strong believer in the importance of appearance and knows that her staff need to look the part too. To that end, I was sent for a haircut with Gai’s own stylist, a facial and a shopping trip. It has made a huge difference to the way I feel and increased my confidence no end. As a result, I find it much easier to greet and discuss matters with clients and colleagues alike and also feel more valued in the team.

''After a makeover!''
''After a makeover!''

Six months in this stable have become almost a rite of passage for all those trying to make it in the racing world. It offers almost the exact opposite of what you will find in England, in terms of training style, racing style and owner management. I certainly got a lot more than I bargained for and have had the time of my life. I could not recommend a stint with Gai and Adrian more, they provide every opportunity you are willing to take and enhance any future employment prospects.
 


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