Over the stable door: Yard crisis leaves us working completely flat out

Jo Foster sorting out the tack at her stables at Menston near Leeds .
Jo Foster sorting out the tack at her stables at Menston near Leeds .
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My recent yard inspection went well. I had worked hard to ensure everything was perfect and the girls did a wonderful job in having the place spotless.

My business is a pleasure when everything is running like clockwork; horses feeling fresh and well, capable and contented staff, farriers turning up, owners paying their bills, not a flat tractor battery or a broken noseband in sight. Those are the days I even get time to wash encrusted gallop sand off my face before doing the school run, but complacency rarely gets chance to set in before a spanner is thrown in the works.

The first hiccup occurred the day before my inspection was due when my groom suffered a fall from her horse and broke a collarbone. It shocked her being the first break she has suffered - if she’s planning to continue racing it will doubtless be the first of many. She will likely be recuperating for a month while it mends which means she misses most of the point to point season. It is a blow with her being part way through the season, just when she was starting to get to grips with race riding.

With my main groom off work we would normally just pull together and cover her workload without much of an issue. The next hiccup emerged just days later when two other regular staff members had to inadvertently go away for urgent family reasons. Suddenly the care of 21 horses, 10 sheep and one pony was left down to yours truly. With a child on school holidays and another business to maintain I’ve had to step in to serious overdrive mode, and double my painkillers.

It has meant dragging poor Tris from his slumber at first light to help muck out and ride before he dashes to the office for 8am. Even my son seems to be feeling the pressure and has taken to making his own bed and getting dressed without any form of parental pestering.

After two weeks of precious little sleep my boyfriend and I have started drawing straws to see who stays up and does the horses’ late night feed, draw the long straw and you get to bed an hour earlier. It’s a sad state of affairs. I’m relieved to be dating a man who’s only just turned 30, thankfully he has enough energy to cope with my hectic lifestyle.

The added workload has brought with it unexpected positives. Some weeks ago I took on a local part-time girl whom I had fully intended breaking-in to the job gently. Suddenly she was thrown in at the deep end with twice the normal workload. She rose to the challenge and has proved a real trooper. Last week she went racing for the first time ever. She cleaned, plaited and led up three horses without so much as turning a hair and I was impressed.

The horses must like seeing my face 14 hours a day - which is now looking considerably more lined than it was a few weeks ago - and have bounced right back to form. At Wetherby recently all three runners hit the winner’s enclosure. I feel victory is just around the corner. However, I was extremely disappointed to note not one single turnout prize on offer in any races on the day. The stable staff work tirelessly behind the scenes and if racecourses, particularly grade one tracks, cannot recognise their dedication by offering even a meagre cash prize it is a poor show.

Today Askham Bryan College hosts the Badsworth and Bramham Moor Point meeting. With plenty of entries it looks set to be a competitive day’s racing. The college do a professional job and the course looks in great shape. With the trusty Burnell family to organise the day, aided by Adele and her fabulous catering team who generously gift the delicious lunches, I’m sure it will prove a huge success.