I’m not a huge yearling fan but I believe that has something to do with my lack of experience in educating young horses and it just doesn’t appeal to be working with something that is 500 kilograms in weight that doesn’t necessarily know how to lead, hasn’t been introduced to being groomed, having a rug on, being boxed for an extended period of time and eventually being introduced to an anti-rearing bit.
In Australia the first major amount of handling a foal gets is at weaning time – they may be handled for a week or two being introduced to the halter, being walked, rubbed all over and feet picked up. After this short stint inside they are put back out in paddocks for six months or more before being brought in and prepped for a yearling sale. I do love what I’ve seen in Ireland – the young animals being handled all year round but I think this partly pertains to the weather as they are put out each morning and brought back into boxes each evening. Just doesn’t happen in Australia and why not – we have good weather over the breeding season and paddocks to keep the young animals in.
I have managed to ‘avoid’ yearling preps the past few years going over to Ireland instead to do their breeding season and get back in time for ours and then moving on to instructing and back for the breeding season. I have however covered half a dozen sales or so and worked during four preps of about eight weeks in duration.
There seems to be reasonable money in taking in client’s horses, keeping them at your facility and rugging, mucking out boxes, feeding, grooming and exercising the animals and then having staff parade them at sales and take them through the ring.
I spent a couple of weeks up in the Hunter Valley on a large stud and the yearling manager there at the time told me of how she had a half dozen of her own that she got up early in the morning and tended to before putting out for the day, came to work and did the usual routine, dropped home at lunch time to check on the horses and carry out any odds and ends, come back for work and finish up for the day and then go home to return the other set of horses to their boxes, feed and groom and be done for the day. Long day!
But, the payment she received for the clients horses covered the cost of preparing her own horse for the same sale so she could look forward to any money made at the sale (minus the stallion fee) being profit. Chances are she got the mare in foal at a cheaper rate or even for free as studs do provide nominations to their stallions for their staff after they’ve been working at the stud for awhile.
Chatting with others who’ve been in the industry longer than me, it’s been suggested that preparing eight horses is suffice for one staff member to be kept busy all day. I think I’d rather have six and have a little more time up my sleeve but if you had the facilities, perhaps five or four could be clients horses and the other one/two your own. It seems a good way to bring in some extra money and build up a reputation as someone who turns out yearlings to a high standard.
If you were to consider this line of work and were lucky enough to own or be able to rent facilities/a yard; you’d want to consider a few things first:
– Get yourself a couple of seasons worth of experience first, getting a feel for the routine of another farm or farms and how they carry out things. One season could see you doing four or five preparations in total getting you used to the routine from when the yearlings first come into boxes to when they’re paraded for clients and put through the ring at a sale.
– Consider where you’re going to get bedding from for your stables (shavings are very popular in Australia but straw is also used).
– Find a good quality feed supplier and make note of what and how much these growing animals are fed each day.
– Chances are you won’t have an automatic horse walker like larger farms do. If not, you’ll need a safe enclosed area to hand walk the yearlings and/or a lunging arena. Preferably one with a cover for rainy days or a protected sand roll the young horses can be put into to kick up their heels while you do their box.
– Be happy to spend most of your day divided between doing boxes, exercising yearlings and grooming them to get their coats as healthy as possible for a sale.
– Be capable of turning out a horse to a high standard and aware of how an animal should be walked and stood up for a potential client.
– Find a good transport company that will take your horses to the sales for you; especially if they are to be traveling long distances interstate.
If you have a passion for working with young racehorses and seeing them well educated before they head off to be put under saddle and believe you can manage the above, then perhaps it’s worth looking into the possibility of managing yearlings.
“A Horseman should know neither fear, nor anger.” – James Rarey