When it comes to horse racing, there are people involved in the outcome of events that you may know about or may not depending on your level of interest in the sport. Everyone will know about the jockeys, for example, given the fact that they are in such a high profile position, but only those with a bit more of an interest in the sport are likely to know much about the trainers.
Even then it is possible that you’ll have heard of the role of ‘trainer’ but not have much of a sense of what it is that they actually do. We have taken a closer look at the careers of individual trainers in more detail elsewhere on this site, but here we’ll look at trainers in a wider sense.
- Aidan O’Brien
- David Evans
- Dick Hern
- Fred Winter
- George Baker
- Gordon Elliott
- Henry de Bromhead
- Jeremy Scott
- Keith Dalgleish
- Kim Bailey
- Lucinda Russell
- Nicky Henderson
- Paul Nicholls
- Ryan Price
- Saeed Bin Suroor
- Willie Mullins
What Does a Trainer Do?
Horse trainers are the people that teach horses different disciplines and help them develop and improve. Some will be experts in the world of jump racing, whilst others are more inclined to specialise in flat racing. There are numerous responsibilities that fall under the auspices of a trainer, including looking after the animals’ physical and mental needs. They work to get horses ready for races, as well as deciding which race a horse should enter, discussing the pros and cons with the horse’s owner based on how they have performed in training. There are different methods to teach horses, with each trainer having their own way of doing things.
Trainers will develop and implement training plans, which will be different for each horse that they work with. Similarly, the diet of each horse will be personalised to get the best out of them, whilst trainers will also look to get a horse used to the likes of the noise and sites of racecourses. When race day comes around, the trainer is responsible for overseeing the final preparations of the horse, with many trainers often taking several horses along on a race day. They will also work with the jockey to give them advice on the right tactics to use in any given race, having also assessed the conditions of the track and how the horse is likely to respond.
Different Types of Trainer
One of the things that is important to note is that there are different disciplines in the world of horse racing. The National Hunt has one set of rules, whilst a different set is used for flat racing. Some trainers will specialise in point-to-point events, with others being keen on all-weather racing. In order to train horses, trainers need to get a licence from the British Horseracing Authority. Which licence they will need will depend entirely on the discipline that they wish to train horses for, with licences on offer for jump racing, flat racing or a combined licence for both of the racing types for those that don’t want to limit themselves too much.
It isn’t all that common for a trainer to be a specialist in both flat and jump racing. Instead, trainers will often specialise in one form of racing over the other, but occasionally train horses in the other discipline. It is possible, for example, but a trainer to be a National Hunt specialise and regularly win races at meetings such as the Cheltenham Festival, but to have trained winners in flat racing events at meetings like Royal Ascot. Similarly, a trainer could specialise in flat racing and be a regular at Glorious Goodwood, say, but also train jump racing winners thanks to the fact that the seasons are at different times of year.
More About Licences
Whether you’re wanting to train a horse for entry into steeplechases, hurdle races or on the flat, you will need to obtain a licence in order to do so legally. Each licence only lasts for a year and must be renewed on an annual basis, with anyone looking to hold a licence needing to meet certain criteria. You must, for example, have at least five years experience of working in a training yard or in stables, with at least two of those five years being in a position of responsibility like Assistant Trainer. You will need to have three wins to your name as a permit holder and have achieved NVQ level 3 in Racehorse Care and Management.
As part of the licence, a trainer must pass a background check and their yard will need to be inspected by a British Horseracing Authority Stable Inspector. As a result of this, licences are only granted for a specific yard, with any desire to work at a different yard needing approval. Trainers applying for a licence for the first time will have to prove that they are able to recognise disease and other health risks in horses. They will need to show that they understand the Rules of Racing and any racecourse requirements, as well as that they understand the different requirements for flat racing compared to jump racing.
As with pretty much any other career, there are different trade bodies that are available for trainers to join. Jockeys, as an example, can join the Professional Jockeys Association. In the case of trainers, the main trade body is the National Trainers Federation, whose objective is to protect the interest of trainers and to represent them where possible. The NTF will liaise and negotiate with other industry bodies from time to time, as well as organisations and agencies on a national level. Its members will be given up-to-date information on anything that might affect their business, plus be offered in-house advice if needed.
There are rules and regulations in place for NTF members, which they will have to sign up to when they join the organisation. Membership committees and working groups are formed and take on roles throughout the horse racing industry, with newsletter and guidelines published on a regular basis for members to read and be kept abreast of what is happening. It is a body that is there to represent licence holders who have gained their licence from the British Horseracing Authority, with other countries likely to have their own trade bodies that do a similar thing to what the NTF try to do for their members.