Taking the day job home

Celebrating the racing staff who find time to re-train racehorses

On the day of the annual Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards in London, Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) is marking the occasion by celebrating the work of the stud and stable staff who take on and look after former racehorses.

Given their dedication and commitment, not to mention the emotional attachment racing’s workforce develops with horses in their care, it is perhaps not surprising that many also look after and re-train former racehorses after hours. Here we highlight the cases and commitment of Steph Potter, who works in Lambourn for trainer Charlie Hills, and Camilla Orttewell, who is based in Somerset and works for Paul Nicholls.

Steph Potter is Racing Secretary to Group 1 winning Flat trainer Charlie Hills and combines her day job with looking after three former racehorses, most notably the 11-year-old Follow The Facts who is her main competition horse. She also has in her care Beyond The Pale who is a now retired 20-year-old and she has recently taken on Alphabet Bay, an 8-year-old who is currently on holiday after finishing his racing career with a leg injury.

Steph says of former racehorses: “I would have a barn full if time and money allowed! They are the most rewarding horses to ride and train. They will give you their all and become your lifelong friend in the process and what’s even better we get to give them a second chance.

“As you can imagine with three horses and a full-time job my days start early and finish late. I’m up and out the house just after 5.30am. I feed, muck out and turn out the horses and start work at 8am. In the evenings I am usually home by about 8.30pm having ridden after work and put the boys to bed.

“I was gifted Ned (Follow The Facts) in 2012 from Nicky Henderson’s stable, a week after his last race. He settled into life outside of racing very well and he has gone from strength to strength in the last six years. He has done a bit of eventing and loves to go cross-country but he does find the show jumping fillers terrifying, we used to joke that he needed to go to Spec Savers!

“Last year I concentrated more on our dressage which he is excelling at and we have achieved more than I ever dreamed we could. He now regularly competes at British Dressage (BD) Elementary level and will be competing at Medium level this year. Our goal is to go Advanced Medium if the jockey can remember all the moves!

“Last year we were lucky enough to compete at the RoR Championships at Aintree, as well as the BD Area Festivals and Finals. We finished the season at the BD Thoroughbred Championships in November where we finished 10th in the Elementary class. Ned also went to Cheltenham in December as the Painted Horse for The Horse Comes First themed day and starred on ITV Racing.”

Camilla Orttewell has been working for ten-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls for three seasons and is now a work-rider who also does jobs in the office. Her former racehorse is the talented chaser Rocky Creek who was given to Camilla by his owners, the Johnson and Stewart families.

“I have had Rocky for nearly a year now and I feel we have achieved quite a lot already, although we have not yet done any competing he is working nicely on the flat and has taken to his new life like a duck to water.

“When he was in-training I had not ridden or looked after Rocky and the first time I sat on him was when we took a bunch of the horses out hunting. I was actually meant to be riding a different horse but that didn’t go to plan, however, I knew Rocky would be okay as he had already been out a few times.

“When Paul asked me if I would like to rehome Rocky I was quite surprised as I was not expecting it. Obviously, I had to say yes because he is such a gent of a horse, and I am so lucky to have him. He has fitted in so well with my three younger sisters’ ponies and has become a part of the family.

“The main job he will be doing is hunting with the Blackmore & Sparkford Vale, which he absolutely loves and it is like he has been doing it forever, but I plan to do a bit of everything with him and hopefully I will get him in the show ring this summer and do some RoR classes.

“As I mainly work-ride for Paul now, it frees up more time for me to be retraining Rocky. I get up to feed him in the morning, go and ride three horses at Paul’s then I get home to ride Rocky, whether it be a schooling session or riding and leading one of my sisters’ ponies on a hack.

“We do have our highs and lows but there have been a lot more highs than lows so far. The only thing that frustrates me about him is when he tries to pretend that he can’t work in an outline and I know that he can. That and when he tries to bite me!”