Who Is That?
Who are the people that have a hand in caring for and training racehorses? There are actually quite a few! Many people are involved with any one horse, in the morning during training hours and in the afternoon at the races. If you’re not familiar with the sport, it can be confusing to understand which person is performing which actions and why each of the jobs is important. Here is a list of the most common people you will see caring for racehorses:
In the Paddock:
Groom– the person leading the horse on the horse’s left side. The horse is likely in this person’s care in the morning as well.
Jockey– the person riding the horse in a race, wearing an owner’s colorful silks.
Valet– an assistant to a jockey. This person is responsible for helping the trainer place the saddle prior to the race, as well as managing the jockey’s equipment and silks for the day.
Trainer– accompanies horses to the paddock or meets them in the paddock. Trainers give instructions to the jockeys, leg up the jockeys, and aid the valet in placing the saddle on the horse.
Paddock Judge– oversees the process and timeliness of horses in the paddock prior to a race. This person is responsible for ensuring that each piece of equipment a horse is wearing has been approved by the stewards. They also make the “rider’s up” call at the appropriate time
Horse Identifier– responsible for ensuring each horse is who the connections say the horse is. Every racing thoroughbred has a tattoo on the inside of his upper lip that must match the tattoo number on the list. In addition to the tattoo, the horse’s coat color and other markings must match.
Pony Horse and Rider– the horse and rider that accompanies the racehorses to the starting gate. The theory is that an experienced and quiet horse will help keep the racehorses relaxed during the post parade; they also help control fractious and upset horses that could otherwise spook and bolt prior to a race.
In the Morning:
Exercise Rider– the rider of a horse in the morning. Most exercise riders ride the same set of horses each day; they are responsible for taking instructions from the trainer and working each horse in the way they are told.
Groom– the person responsible for a number of horses. This person cleans the stalls, brushes the horses, tacks up, wraps legs, and often accompanies their horses to the paddock on raceday.
Hotwalker– the person responsible for catching the horses coming back from the racetrack. Hotwalkers will walk the horses out until they are cool as well as hold the horses for baths for the grooms.
Trainer– the person ultimately responsible for the horses in their care. Trainers make daily plans for each horse regarding how and when they will train in the morning. Trainers are also responsible for keeping contact with owners, as well as overseeing treatment and maintenance for injured and ill, horses.
Blacksmith– also called a farrier, this person is responsible for shoeing and trimming the horse’s feet according to the horse’s structure and health
Vet– this person is usually hired by the trainer (but sometimes owner as well). They tend to the health of the horses. Most vets will go around to each of their barns to check in with the trainer each morning or to check on the status of horses that are actively being treated.
Pony Horse and Rider– Similar to race day, a pony horse and rider accompanies young or nervous horses to the track to train. Sometimes a pony rider might take out a thoroughbred to train without an exercise rider on him.