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Profile On: Cait O’Pray, Stablehand

Have you always been interested in horses and when did you start out in the industry? What is it exactly that you do?
If you ask my parents they would tell you I have always been interested, that I asked for a pony when I was little and I had a rather large collection of ‘my little pony’ but in my mind it wasn’t until I was about 12 years old that I can remember that I started to get a real interest in them.

I started working in the industry in December 2011, I had previously been working in theatre for 4 years then changed professions.

Right now I’m a stablehand at a racing stable, in basic terms I:

  • muck out boxes
  • rug and unrug
  • feed out and make feeds
  • tack up horses for the track riders
  • wash horses
  • swim horses
  • put horses on the walker and take them off again
  • clean waters
  • and sometimes hold horses for vets and farriers

Stablehands Often Help ‘Behind the Scenes’ of Horse Racing

How much of your day/week is related to horses?
I work about 40 hours a week, working 5 and a half days. I work the morning and afternoon shift most days. Mornings start work at 5:30am, finish roughly 10:30am and the afternoon shift starts at 3:00pm and roughly goes until 5:00pm.

In this field of work, is it possible for someone to be a full time professional, earning a livable income?
Yes, I live solely on my own income and have enough to pay bills/rent etc and have money left to spend as I wish. This isn’t an industry to make huge amounts of money though, it’s for those passionate about horses and you have to be money smart.

What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
In its most basic, talk to the owner. A lot of stables are looking for an extra pair of hands to help out, if you talk to the owner they’ll most likely give you a chance.

Having sound knowledge of safe horse handling is an advantage though as you require less ‘on the job’ training.

Any advice for those interested in pursuing this line of work?
Be dedicated and be passionate, it’s physical work and long hours and there is no ‘clock off time’ when dealing with animals. Some days I start at 5:30am and don’t finish until 12:45pm then start again at 3pm and finish at 6pm.

Also put aside what you ‘know’, there are many ways to do the same job and you might just learn something if you keep your mind open and let people teach you.

Is there anything else with horses you’d love to learn about or try?
I’d love to get experience with many different breeds as each seem to have their own way of doing things.

I’m also quite interested in ‘Working Equitation’ right now and would love to learn about how it’s done. Having a go at western riding is also on my ‘horsey bucket list’

Favourite horse memory?
My favourite memory is from a trail ride, the lead rider’s horse wouldn’t go first on the beach gallop so I did. Galloping down the beach in the lead on a ex-racing horse, it was amazing!

Future goals?
I want to have my own horse property and possibly breed some of my favourite breed, the gypsy cob! I also want to tick everything off my ‘horsey bucket list’.

Best thing about your sport/profession?
The horses of course!

There is nothing more rewarding then gaining a horse’s full trust and having them cope and listen to you through stressful or scary situations because they trust you and nothing makes a bad day become better like a soft nicker and a gentle nuzzle.

“I live in a house but my home is in the stable.”

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