Have you always been interested in horses and when did you start out in the racing industry? What is it exactly that you do?
I was you’re typically horse obsessed horse girl and would use any excuse or opportunity to be around them. After I finished High School, I completed the Diploma in Equine Studies (Horse Breeding) at the Goulburn Ovens TAFE and from there, as dux of my year, I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Irish National Stud Scholarship.
Upon my return to Australia, I spent close to two years doing yearlings for Arrowfield Stud. I am a big believer in education, and I decided to go to Uni, where I studied a Bachelor of Agriculture (Animal Production).
I then returned to Arrowfield for a year and then returned home to work for a local trainer to gain some strapping experience as my next challenge was a stint in the UK.
I worked the yearling and mare sales in England and France and was lucky enough to gain an office manager position with Gary Witheford, a Natural Horseman who specialised in starting thoroughbreds and re-educating barrier rogues. This job gave me massive amounts of exposure to European Racing and I worked closely with many industry leaders including Godolphin and John Oxx to name a few.
I have always had an interest in becoming a Steward and whilst I was still in the UK my current position became available and I was successful in my application.
I am a Cadet Stipendiary Steward employed by Racing Services Tasmania, which is a government Department responsible for maintaining the probity and integrity of the thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing in Tasmania. As a Steward I am part of a team who enforce the rules of racing and ensure integrity throughout the three racing codes.
We deal with drug testing of animals and humans both on race day and out of competition and on race day we conduct inquiries into racing related incidents – but this is just a brief description of what we do! Basically a race meeting could not go ahead without the Stewards. In the lead up to a meeting we ensure all horses are eligible to race as well as Jockeys/Drivers.
On race day, we check to make sure that the racing surface is safe to race on. We identify the horses to make sure that the correct animal is being presented and that they are wearing the correct declared gear such as blinkers and pacifiers.
We make ourselves familiar with the racing patterns of the runners. During the race, we watch to make sure that all the jockeys / drivers are riding / driving in a fair manner and that there’s no undue interference. After the race, jockeys are weighed back in to ensure they carried the correct weight and all clear is given. We go back to the Stewards room and give our observations and review the patrol films. If there are any suspected rule breaches we inquire into them and act accordingly.
How much of your day/week is related to horses?
Being a Steward does not actually involve working hands on with horses, in a way it’s more of an administrative role. As a steward I have no set working days although I can usually clock up 40 hours a week which is mostly spent at race meetings with the odd day or two spent in the office.
I work nights and days and no week – or day – is ever the same! We also spend a lot of time on the road inspecting Stables and Kennels and also attending track work and trials.
In this field of is it possible for someone to be a full time professional, earning a livable income?
Very much so. Every state has a panel of full time Stewards – Tasmania is somewhat unique in that Stewards are cross coding. Most other jurisdictions have separate bodies for each code which deal with Stewarding – and we also have part time Stewards to assist on race day.
There is a current shortage of stewards in Australia and around the world, so a career is definitely possible.
What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
The path that most full time Stewards take is similar to mine in that they start as a cadet and progress through the ranks. Becoming a part time Steward is also a good way to get your foot in the door.
Ideally you would have experience within racing and an interest is definitely a must! You must also have good decision making skills and be able to perform under high levels of stress.
Any advice for those interested in pursuing this line of work?
You need to be tough but fair, and don’t expect to have too many friends!! All conflicts of interest need to be declared and you always need to have your mind on the job. Being a steward is not a 9 – 5 job and people need to recognise that if considering it as a career path.
Is there anything else with horses you’d love to learn about or try?
Pedigrees are something that I’ve always had an interest in so I guess when my stewarding days are over I’d like to give breeding the next champion a go!
Favourite horse memory?
I’ve been fortunate enough to look after or be involved in some way in the career of many good racehorses, such as Makybe Diva when she was a yearling, Vintage Crop in his retirement and Sea The Stars when he was being started.
I also got a pretty big kick when my favourite yearling (Miss Bussell) that I prepared came second to Excellerator in the Magic Millions 2yo race – but she should have won!!
Become a fully fledged Steward and eventually work in Thoroughbreds on the mainland . I would love to have a stint in the UK as well.
Best thing about your sport/profession?
The challenge! Apart from working with an animal I love, the horse industry has given me the opportunity to travel and work all over the world, including England, Ireland, France and New Zealand.
“A racehorse is an animal that can take several thousand people for a ride at the same time.”