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A day in the life of a .... Head Lad

23 March 2012

What's Involved?
You will have sole or shared responsibility for the stable staff team and horses in the yard. You will be in charge of breaking young horses, the feeding regime, dealing with veterinary issues and carrying out medical treatments as directed by the vet. This is a role with considerable responsibility.

What skills do you need?
Leadership and organisational skills are required along with an ability to work well under pressure. You will need to have good communication skills and be able to deal with staff fairly and effectively. This is a role suitable for someone with considerable experience working in a racing yard. To help you gain the skills needed or to reward your knowledge with a formal qualification you can gain your Advanced Apprenticeship/Level 3 Diploma (formerly NVQ3) in Racehorse Care and Management at The British Racing School, in many circumstances this can be free or attend the Head Lads/Lasses Course. Click on the links to find out more.

What are the benefits?
Racing is one of the few equestrian disciplines with a regulated pay structure and clear career path. Salary rates are agreed by the National Association of Stable Staff (formerly SLA) and the National Trainers Federation (NTF). The salary is scaled so the more qualified you become and more experience you get, the better you are paid. A head lad or lass will be paid in line or above the highest pay grade and along with pool money will normally get accommodation on, or near, the yard.


Name: Alex Cairns

Head Lad to: Marco Botti

I left school at 16 and had a bit of work experience at Chuck Spares, a trainer friend of my Dad's. I then attended the 9 week foundation course at the British Racing School and 2 years later in 1991 I returned to the School for an Apprentice course and became apprentice for Adrian Lee, Michael Bell and James Fanshawe.
I rode for about 4 years during which the highlight was a winner at Musselburgh (what a ride!) I then went to work in Germany for Andreas Wöhler where we had a 2000 Guineas winner. I returned to work for James Fanshawe in 1996 as a lad and did a great old horse called Arctic Owl who I took to Ireland, France and the Melbourne Cup. I progressed over the next 10 years and became the head lad at James's 2nd yard.
I joined Peter Chapple - Hyam when he set up training and things went from strength to strength from feeding 18 group winners including 5 group 1's to the thrill of 2007 Derby winner Authorized. This would be the biggest high aside from marrying my wife Lizzy and having our daughter Ella!
I am now head lad for Marco Botti, where we have an exciting string of over 100 horses. When I joined, Excelebration gave me a great first year in the yard with 3 wins in Group company.
To be a head lad you need to be able to listen to the Trainer and staff, don't pretend that you know everything and learn from those around you, your Trainer and vets. You need to be able to get on with people, give opinions and be responsible and reliable.
Seeing Authorized pass the line made 18 years in racing all seem worthwhile.

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