The result of years of preparation in the Thoroughbred industry is to have a talented horse land in the hands of a trainer at one of the numerous tracks around the state. These training operations range from one employee with a handful of horses to multi-country operations that span the globe. Regardless of the size or prestige of the operation, all trainers struggle to keep their employee roster full.
The formation and running of this collaborative is unconventional yet indicative of the structure of the industry. Thoroughbred trainers are transient in nature as they travel the nation with their string of horses following the racing calendar. Considering this, these employers are never in the same geographical location at the same time and therefore it is extremely difficult to meet with any consistency. Therefore, this collaborative has been convened through personal conversations with each entity, compiling ideas, and thoughts, and then sharing virtually with the group through the project manager. Through these discussions it was found that one of the most critical aspects involved an extremely high turnover rate amongst multiple positions, including grooms, hot walkers, and exercise riders.
The concept of planned turnover was introduced to the group early in the collaboration and an idea was born around a one-year, gap year type program. Backside positions on the racetrack are often not known to those outside the racing world, and the opportunity to secure them is not always clear either. There is a profound need to educate the public regarding the day-to-day responsibilities of these positions, but also the benefits and unique aspects of the career. The collaborative has decided to center recruitment for the program on 18-25-year olds and push the benefits of the jobs. They specifically want to highlight the opportunity to travel, working in an area of racing not accessible to the public, and the potential to work in many aspects of a racing operation simultaneously. With having a set timeframe of one year for the program, individuals are more likely to enter the program as an exploratory opportunity into the industry.
Currently, with the delay of the racing season and slow-down of the Thoroughbred industry in general during COVID-19, the collaborative is working on understanding the logistics that would be required of employers of this program and the ability to accommodate one or more participants.