Track Talk Tuesday – Want to be a Stablehand?

They say the best part of the day is the morning. If you have a love for horses and want to see some spectacular sunrises then maybe you should consider a job in the racing industry.

This week’s Track Talk Tuesday we are going to give you a basic overview of a stablehand’s job.Working as a stablehand your day consists of a split shift. The majority of Metropolitan stables start work between 3.30 – 4am and finish the morning shift at around 9am. Afternoon shifts are generally 2 hours from around 2 – 4pm. These times may vary from stable to stable.

So what are some of the duties involved in being a stablehand…

Most horses are worked (ridden) out on the track in the morning. Before the horses go out onto the track they are generally put on a walker (horse Walker) if one is available to warm up their muscles. Much the same as any athlete before they train or compete. Whilst the horses are being ridden on the track a stablehand’s job is to muck out (pick up manure and wet areas) boxes. More shaving (bedding) is then added if needed. Waters are checked and filled where necessary. The horse’s box is basically cleaned and tidied ready for when they came back to the stable.

Stablehand mucking out box

When the horse returns from their work the stablehand will unsaddle the horse and then hose it down. This is required to clean the horse of any sweat and dirt. Just like us having a shower it also helps clean the horse and eliminates any health issues such as skin problems.

Horse walker at Warwick Farm

Depending on if available or if the trainer requires, some horses will swim in a pool provided. Whether the horse has swum or not they are then put back onto the walker to cool down and dry.

The last job that is usually done in the morning is to dress (groom/brush) the horses. Horses feet are picked out, manes/tails brushed, horses brushed all over, general cleaning and TLC to the horse. This is a great bonding session between the stablehand and the horse. A great rapport is usually made.

Besides the above duties, there are many more things that go on in the stable some of which you may be asked to perform. These may include making feeds, feeding horses, rugging horses, general cleaning, helping with vet procedure  or packing race day bags.

Once the morning shift is finished the horses are able to rest and sleep for a few hours before the afternoon shift starts.

The afternoon shift usually entails taking the horses out of their boxes and putting them on the walker and/or swimming and/or hand walking. Whilst this is happening their boxes are once again are cleaned and waters topped up.

Now we know every stable is different and things are done a bit differently but this is just an overview as to what goes on in the life of a stablehand. It is an insight to the industry for anybody wanting to get involved and also an insight to horse owners who may not be aware of what goes on in the stable.

Now if you want to get involved in the industry you must be prepared for the early morning starts, the split shifts, a lot of walking, working in any weather (rain, hail or shine), working weekends and public holidays as horses need to be looked after 365 days of the year.

It can be a very rewarding job and you never know you could be leading in the next winner at a race track around Australia.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Spratt

Words by Robyn Fowler