Blog 9 – Laura Parker

February:

I’ve been asked to relate this blog to the current weather conditions the racing world is battling; and appropriately as I’m writing this the ‘ Beast from the East ‘ has just hit West Somerset and we’re surrounded by settling snow for the first time all season.

Working outside is amazing in the summer & thoughts of an office job never cross my mind whilst I’m riding out in the sun or spending the day  at the races in sunglasses and shorts, however the deepest  winter months  throw up a slightly different mindset.

Whilst the majority of the nation watch the weekly Sunday night Country-file weather forecast and make preparations to turn the central heating up a notch or two, the prospect of severe snow and frost throws up a few more challenges for those of us working in Racing.

A 6am alarm call to minus temperatures and a frozen car is enough to put anyone in a bad mood first thing on a Monday morning let alone the work ahead to be done to keep  things going  in the yard itself . But nobody joins racing for the ‘ easy life  ‘ and so  although most of us grumble we all still turn up and embrace the weather that faces us each day – come rain , sun,  or in this case snow.

Here in the South West we’ve been relatively lucky with the weather all season compared to our more northernly counterparts  and so the arrival  of some snow actually excited most of us, and  like the children we are at heart the usual jollity and predictable ‘ wow it’s snowing ‘ commentary soon surfaced.

Here at Phillip Hobbs’s we’re very lucky to have an all-weather polytrack Gallop so whilst the wood chip surface is frozen and out of action  we are still able to canter the horses every day without any extra hassle , similarly we have schooling fences that can be pushed out onto this gallop too whilst the usual grass schooling field is unsuitable. So far this season we’ve been very fortunate  in that we’ve managed to get the horses out every  day , something helped greatly by the close proximity of the gallops to the yard meaning  we don’t encounter more than about 200m of potentially icy roads and rubber ; both of which can be salted or have matting laid down to prevent us all slipping and sliding ( well most of us ) . The ones who suffer on icy days are ‘Johnson’ our assistant and ‘Seany’ our travelling head-lad as they have about 30 of us to ‘ leg up’  whist the mountain block is out of use .. safe to say the range of athleticism in the yard is evident on mornings like this !!

The general routine on a ‘bad weather day ‘ doesn’t alter that much from the norm , the main difference being that the yard is policed for anyone thinking about spilling water and the horses spend as minimal time as possible unrugged and so we brush them straight  after having been ridden rather than during evening stables so that other than during exercise they are only without rugs for about 5 minutes during the course of the day . The cold temperatures were highlighted more so this morning as even after their quicker pieces of work very few of the string had even turned a hair let alone broken sweat .

Just like us humans some horses obviously remain warmer than others whereas some have taken extra rugs to keep them nice and cosy ; similarly some of the other  (spoilt) horses in the yard have been spotted wearing a  few sneaky extra layers: not that any of us would have favourites (Village Vic, Sternrubin, Barnhill) to name a few all have larger rug collections than usual of late .

Without meaning to ‘ blow our own trumpets ‘ it has to be admitted that working in the cold, wet and windy conditions isn’t at all easy and stable-staff across the U.K do a great job in keeping the show on the road  . The bad weather means that the majority of racing is abandoned so despite this the continued staff  effort is a reflection of everyone’s love and commitment to both the horses and sport ; something that acknowledgement for is gradually improving and hopefully continues to do so.

On this note I’d like to finish by giving a ‘shout out’ to one girl in particular showing her devotion to a horse she looked after in our yard; his name now tattooed across her backside means he’s unlikely to escape her (or the rest of ours) memory  anytime soon!