As you may have noticed from the list on our careers page, there are a wide variety of jobs and roles within the racing industry, but how do you go about getting that job that you have your heart set on? Well, as with many things in life there is more than one way to get to where you want to go. Check out the case studies below, written by people who are currently working in the industry, as they outline the varied pathways that they have taken to get to their current roles.
My name is Fiona Dowling and I am head girl at Jamie Osbourne Racing, Lambourn, UK. I have been involved in the industry for the past ten years and I am delighted to have built my career on my passion for racing.
I am from Listowel, Co. Kerry and got my grounding for horses growing up riding in local hunts and show jumping. I wanted to pursue my love for horses and make it my profession. Upon completion of my leaving certificate I enrolled in St Patricks College Naas for a period of two years where I attained my Fetac level 5 in Equine and Business Studies. When I was studying a good friend of mine, Liam Healy (famous racing photographer) had heard that Gordon Elliott was looking for weekend staff. I worked for Gordon for four years intermittently between study and travel. One of my proudest moments in racing has been leading up Silver Birch in the 2007 Aintree Grand National.
In January 2007, I was accepted on the prestigious Irish National Stud course where on completion I was awarded the John Durkan Scholarship which placed me with Brian Meehan in the UK as pupil assistant for eight months. The National Stud course opened a lot of doors for me as it is held in very high regard around the world. It was through the course I made many contacts that later led me to travel and work with high level horse trainers and stud farms around the globe such as Janet Elliott (Hall of fame Steeplechase trainer in America) and Darley Australia in Flemington.
After working for a few years for Gordon Elliott I decided I wanted to travel and expand my global knowledge of the horseracing industry. I spent six months in New Zealand preparing 2-y-o horses to race and sell. I also worked at the major yearling sales in Karaka. I then moved over to Australia where I spent over three years, firstly in Melbourne and then moving down to south Australia where I was made assistant trainer to Jon O’Connor at Morphettville racetrack. I very much enjoyed my time in Australia. I made great contacts and it was a fantastic experience.
Since moving a little closer to home I have been employed as head girl for Jamie Osborne the last two years. I am in charge of a 46 horse yard. It is a fast-paced, sometimes stressful, but rewarding job. My duties include management of staff, liaising with owners, vets and other professionals, responsibly of health and safety for both horses and employees and some administration. We also have an equine treadmill in the yard and I am responsible for working a number of horses on it daily and carrying out statistical data analysis using heart rate and lactate levels from each animal during days of fast work.
Working in a racing yard is hard work but loads of fun. If you really love horses then this job is perfect for you. Watching horses you ride and look after win races gives you an enormous sense of pride and there are great opportunities to travel with the job.
What I would advise to anybody who wanted to work in the industry is gain qualifications in equine studies, gaining my Fetac level 5 in Equine and Business gave me the confidence to put myself forward for the Irish National Stud course and travel beyond. These certificates were a big factor in securing me sponsorship in Australia and you never know when they may come in handy.
I have a degree in journalism from DIT, I gained a lot of relevant experience for my role through my previous work with a local newspaper and in the Government press office. I also worked in the betting industry for seven years which undoubtedly gave me an edge when it came to knowledge of Irish racing
I would advise anyone interested in the role of press officer to try and gain practical writing and editing experience. It is vital that you know as much as possible about the industry. As with most positions in HRI, it helps if you enjoy what you do, so an interest in horseracing is definitely an asset.
I have been a stall handler since the year 2000, so it’s safe to say I like my job. I come from a racing background having ridden as an amateur jockey and driven horse transportation so when I became a stall handler I had plenty of experience with loading and handling horses.
The key to this job is horse sense, knowing the animal you are dealing with and being aware of what’s going on around you. I have 12 full timers and 18 causals on my team and we must attend every Flat meeting in Ireland. The job requires a lot of travel and long hours, but it is very enjoyable as you have good banter with the Jockeys and Trainers plus get to be up close and personal to the best and most valuable of racehorses.
I would highly recommend this job to someone who has a keen interest in horse racing, who is in good shape and who doesn’t mind travelling.
My name is Niall Byrne and I’m a point-to-point stewards secretary. I’ve been involved in the racing industry since 1975. I attended the RACE at the age of 14. Upon completion I was awarded apprentice of the year. As part of the course syllabus I was sent to Mr Dermot Weld on work placement where I signed on for three years and attained a few rides.
When I finished my apprenticeship Mr Weld encouraged me to go to England for experience, so I set off and began working for Charlie Williams. I remained with Charlie for two years and rode 5 winners. Upon my return to Ireland I began working for Mr Jim Bolger. I spent 5 years riding for Mr Bolger and rode around 20 winners for him both on the flat and over jumps. It was through Mr Bolger that I met Hugh McCaffery who was an accountant by trade but held a permit to train racehorses. I was his racing manager and assistant trainer for three years and under my care we trained Erins Invader to win the prestigious Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot.
I spent the next five years working for top Japanese owners Mr Kondo and Mr Suzuka in Hokkaido Japan which I couldn’t recommend enough, the experience and knowledge I obtained there was second to none. I decided to move home for good in 1994 and was contacted by a very good friend of mine, the late Derek O’Sullivan (former Director of RACE) and was offered a job as an instructor in RACE. which I still do today. In 2001 the Turf Club were looking to hire part time steward secretaries so I applied and got the role. I now spend either Saturday or Sunday attending point-to-points around the country.
My day at a point-to-point meeting consists of arriving two hours before the first race and ensuring all declared runners are present and that their microchips are checked, briefing official personnel before commencement of the races i.e. ambulance crew and fence attendants, walking the track to ensure fences are in the correct place and flags are in position, typing up the end of day report and submitting it to the Turf Club and assisting the acting stewards with enquiries. Training for this role involves shadowing an experienced steward for a minimum of six meetings. Through this you gain valuable knowledge on the rules of racing and the daily running of a point-to-point fixture. For anyone who may be interested in pursuing this role I would recommend that they have a strong knowledge of the racing industry, be competent with the handling of racehorses, be willing to travel, and have some administration skills.
My Name is Robert Dunne and I’m the health and safety officer for HRI. I entered the industry at the age of 13 when I started riding out for Eddie Butler. When I was 16 I decided I wanted to have a race ride but didn’t wish to leave school so I signed on to Eddie and obtained one ride which was a great experience.
When I finished school I attended The University of Limerick where I started my honours degree in marketing, later finishing it at the Dublin Business School. After that I attained my Higher Diploma in Health and Safety. My first job out of college was working for the German-Irish chamber of commerce where I spent four years working as a project manager. In 2012 I joined the HRI team as the health and safety officer.
My main priority in HRI is to keep, and maintain in easily retrievable form, full records of all safety training, inspections, accidents and any remedial action taken as supplied by the racing operations manager, the team leaders and others within the departments. This consists of providing advice to the racing operations manager on health and safety issues, compliance requirements, and audit on course health and safety processes. I also provide ongoing training and consultation to safety representatives on their roles and responsibilities. I participate (with the racing operations manager and relevant training providers) in the delivery of effective health and safety induction of newly recruited employees.
For someone who was interested in becoming a health and safety officer within the industry a higher diploma in health & safety is a must. Having knowledge of the horse racing industry is a huge asset as it makes you more aware of possible hazards in stable yards, racecourses etc. You must have excellent interpersonal skills and organisational skills as you will be dealing regularly with industry stakeholders and providing training to team leaders.
My name is Sophie O’ Hare and I am the Digital Marketing Executive for Horse Racing Ireland. Horses have always been a huge part of my life, my family owns a stud farm just outside of Naas and we breed sport horses for eventing. I’ve always had a creative streak so when I finished secondary school I enrolled in the National College of Art and Design where I obtained my degree in industrial design. My part-time job when I was attending college was working for Tote Ireland as a counter clerk. When I finished college a job came up in the Tote head office to cover maternity leave for the marketing manager. When my contract expired I continued to work for Tote as their Technology and Marketing Executive.
About a year later Horse Racing Ireland advertised for a Digital Marketing Executive, I applied for the job because I enjoy working with social media and wanted to be more involved with the industry rather than the betting side of things. I am currently finishing my degree in marketing in the Smurfit Business School as I didn’t take the usual route to gain a job in marketing.
My job is mainly office based and my main responsibilities include the day-to-day management of our overall digital presence (goracing.ie, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), digital media for events, planning and coordinating social media and campaigns for award ceremonies, trade events, and festivals. I also research, maintain and report on market analysis/competitors.
To do this role you must have degree in marketing, having a good understanding and be proficient in photoshop, have strong web development skills, and have knowledge of the racing industry.
My Name is Tony Mcmanmon and I am a self-employed course builder based in Ballyteague Co. KIldare. I started off in the industry as an apprentice to Peter McCreery at the age of 14. I was a heavy apprentice to say the least and only managed to have eight rides on the flat. I spent three years in McCreery’s riding out, mucking out and was in charge of the upkeep of the schooling fences and hurdles. The upkeep of the fences included sourcing birch, packing and repairing, and eventually constructing new ones.
After I served my time with Peter I spent two years in England working for national hunt trainer Peter Milner and I was lucky enough to lead up in the 1970 Grand National. When I returned home my brother Stanley was working for Punchestown Racecourse and Billie Mclearnen was looking to recruit ground staff for the festival, Stan recommend me as he knew I had some experience. On the last day of the festival I was approached by a man called Tommy Brennan, a renowned course designer, and he asked me to help with the pony club horse trails which were due to start the next day. From there I worked closely with Tommy for the next 40 odd years. He would design the course and I would build it. In the early eighties, a good friend of mine Pat Timmons, who is the head groundsman at Naas Racecourse, approached me and asked me to supply birch and construct hurdles and fences for Naas. From there I began to supply to Punchestown, Fairyhouse and Navan to name a few.The thing I love most about my job is being outdoors. I’ve never been one to sit behind a desk and I love that I can work with my hands and be outside. My job differs, I could be working on a two star cross county course for a week and then the next week could be a top NH meeting. I do admit it can be hard physical work with days in the bog bundling birch but it has its perks. I was very lucky to be chosen to build the 2008 Olympic cross country course alongside Tommy Brennan and got to spend eight weeks in China. The job does require long days, a lot of travelling and some overnight stays as you could be based anywhere in the country but it’s worth it when you see a grade one chaser jump something you have made or when a top event rider commends you on your work.To do this job you must be physically strong and be good with your hands. My advice is to do woodwork or carpentry in school as you need to have a bit of flair and technique when working with wood, then find a course builder or designer willing to take you on and teach you as there is a lot more to it than just putting up a jump. Having knowledge of riding horses is a huge asset as it helps you understand strides and presentation. The best piece of advice I was giving was to make any jump inviting so that the horse wants to jump it.
My name is Willie Gibbons and I am the track manager at Leopardstown Racecourse. I’ve been based at Leopardstown my whole life, my dad, John Gibbons, was the track manager before me and I used to spend my weekends and holidays helping my dad with maintenance, and working as a hurdle man on racedays. I am a qualified electrician by trade and began working full time in Leopardstown Racecourse as the electrician in July 1986. Two years later my dad retired and I took on his role as track manager.
The main priority of a track manager is to ensure that the racetrack is safe and ensure the best ground is used from one meeting to the next. To do this we work in conjunction with the manager of the racecourse and the clerk of the course to decide if rails must be moved and if the track needs watering or covering. Working with six full-time staff it also our responsibility to allocate stables on race day, ensure that the stables have bedding and are safe, the moving of stalls, building and maintaining the hurdles and fences, following the horses around the course during the race to provide screens if the horse is injured, and alert jockeys, using flags, if a fence has to be bypassed.
To do this job or be a part of the track team you must be able to apply yourself well. There is no room for shortcuts as your dealing with the safety of both horse and rider. Also you have to like working outside, having knowledge of working with wood or metal and driving machinery would also be a big advantage.
I get great gratification at the end of a day’s racing when I see all horse and riders get around safely, that’s how you know you have done a good job.
Continuing Professional Development