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

19 February 2013

George Allen, who works part-time at Margaret Mullins’ yard, on his day as a stable lad

In the scale of things, I am relatively new to the racing industry. I gravitated towards horseracing naturally as I grew up with broodmares at home. My interest in the sport accelerated when I took my transition year at RACE (Irish Racing Academy and Centre of Education) in Kildare, where Helen O’Sullivan gave me great career advice. My knowledge and passion for racing was nurtured there – it proved an invaluable outlet which gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about riding and meet like-minded people. While completing my second-level education I felt I couldn’t afford to take my hands off the reins completely so I rode out for trainer John Hanlon at the weekends until I finished my exams.

I got full-time work with Margaret Mullins after my exams and have been riding out at Canterbrook Stud for two years. I am currently studying Equine Science at University College Dublin.

What attracted you to the job?

I have always loved working outdoors; my grandfather and mother bred thoroughbred mares so it was hardly a light-bulb moment to pursue a career in racing. As a child – and even today – I would rather be out in the stables grooming the mares as opposed to sitting inside. I love being up early in the morning and riding out, there is no better feeling. It is great to get home at the weekends and ride out after sitting in lectures all week.

What is a typical day like for you?

I get up at 6am to be in work for 7am. After lectures all week I look forward to the change of scene. It is nice to see the improvement in the horses from week to week. We ride five to six lots a day. The horses will be exercised on the walker before being ridden and are turned out in the paddocks after exercise. They do routine canters on the gallops at home and also work at training grounds, which are excellent to educate young horses. I usually finish at 1pm. When I go home I have my own routine, breaking in a few yearlings. Mags is a great mentor – she instils a strong work ethic, a tenacious training regime and has a great eye for detail. She has produced many jumping stars such as Chomba Womba and Backspin. Also I have been lucky to ride the likes of The Westener Boy and Anonis.

What is your favourite part of the job?

The progress and development from foal to racehorse is what I really enjoy, witnessing the effects of raining and hard work on each horse. I derive great satisfaction from partaking in that journey and watching a young horse’s potential increase. For me, the foal in the field winning a point-to-point or bumper four years on is as satisfying as a big winner.

Which part of your job would you like to change?

I’d like to speed up the process to start training myself, although I’m not there yet financially and still have a lot more to learn. I am very thankful for my position at the moment. I am working, learning and improving every day. I love what I’m doing and not many people can say that.

What is the career progression for someone in your role?

Much like anything in life, if you are not willing to work hard and keep up you will be forgotten. The racing industry offers varying opportunities for someone in my position. I hope to pursue a pupil-assistant trainer position or even pupil stud manager upon completion of my degree. I would like to gain practical experience in the day-to-day running of a business from an administrative perspective. You have to be prepared to work your way up and get noticed through hard work and determination. I would like to have in-depth knowledge on the workings of every aspect of stud management.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of taking a similar position?

Networking is crucial. Get to know as many people as possible. The more connected you are, the more doors and opportunities open for you. Make it your business to attend local races, sales etc. Even if it’s down the pub on a Friday evening, try to talk to as many people in racing as you can – you have to learn to stick your neck out. Knowledge is a powerful currency. Racing is an opinion-based sport. I would advise people to voice their opinions whenever possible and take the risk

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