Posted on 19th April 2022
Whoever knew, in little over two years, it was possible to go from sitting behind a desk in a classroom to sitting behind some of the most famous ears to have ever graced a racecourse?
Kea Taylor, a former student at Outwood Academy Adwick, used to dream about a career in the British horseracing industry. Now she has turned her dream into reality.
Kea (18), is a seasoned racing groom, employed by Jonjo O’Neill, one of the most famous racehorse trainers in the UK and Ireland. She calls Jackdaws Castle, in the heart of the Cotswolds, home and wakes every morning to be greeted by over 100 blue-blooded National Hunt racehorses all vying for her attention. But how did it all start?
Kea’s journey began only a short distance from where she grew up, at the National Horseracing College, Doncaster in the summer of 2019. Attending the 12-week, residential Foundation Course ensured Kea had the equine knowledge and practical, hands-on experience to secure gainful employment in the horseracing industry.
Kea had limited equine experience prior to applying for the Foundation Course. However, horseracing had not factored on her career radar until a chance conversation at a careers event with a representative from the National Horseracing College. Taking up the story, Kea tells us how this one encounter changed her entire life, “Since that initial conversation, I have not looked back. I knew right away the Foundation Course was right for me. I wanted to work with horses but wasn’t sure how to get started”
Kea completed an online application and then had a short wait to be invited to attend an interview. Upon completing Year 11 at Outwood Academy Adwick Kea commenced the Foundation Course.
A hugely practical course, and one which saw Kea ride racehorses six days each week, she was soon well on her way to acquiring the skills and competencies a racehorse trainer requires in a member of their racing staff team.
Upon successful completion of the 12-week course, Kea was secured employment with Mr Jonjo O’Neill. Such was the impact she made, that she was soon riding a variety of horses on the gallops whilst also learning the art of caring for racehorses.
Keen to further develop her knowledge and skills, Kea enrolled onto the Level 2 Apprenticeship in Racehorse Care which is completed almost entirely at her place of work with the National Horseracing College Roving Tutor team visiting her every 6 – 8 weeks to support her learning. Being able to work full-time and undertake an Apprenticeship was especially important to Kea, ‘’the fact that I was able to complete my apprenticeship at my place of work was amazing. This allowed me to focus on my career, and if I needed guidance I could check-in with my Roving Tutor at my convenience and they would come and see me at work on a very regular basis.”
In January 2022 Kea returned to the National Horseracing College for her End Point Assessment, the final stage to the Level 2 Apprenticeship and an impartial assessment of the skills, knowledge and behaviours which Kea has acquired over the last 24 months. Kea was awarded the highest accolade, a Distinction. Upon conclusion of the day, Kea confirmed that it is her desire to progress onto the Level 3 Apprenticeship in Racehorse Care and Management.
So, what does turning your hobby into a career entail? “My days working for Mr O’Neill are amazing. Yes, the hours are long and you work in all weather conditions and of course you have your ups and downs, but I have turned my hobby into a career, and I love it. I love horses. My responsibilities range from carrying out all stable duties to the highest standard, to exercising the racehorses on the gallops and taking responsibility for ‘my’ horses at the races. I work as part of a team to make sure the days run smoothly; our priority of course is the care and the training of the horses. I attend race meetings across the UK which is great fun, especially when you lead in a winner. My career aspiration is to work my way up into a senior management role. Lots of people assume that everyone who works in racing aspires to be a jockey but that is not the case, there are so many career opportunities in the industry. Progressing onto the Level 3 Apprenticeship will teach me the skills and competencies I will require to take more responsibility in my job role.
“If I was talking to someone who wanted to work with horses, I would encourage them to explore horseracing. I would open their eyes to the huge number of career opportunities, the structure of the training and the regulations which the sport follows. You honestly don’t realise how big the industry is. You don’t even need to ride a horse to work in racing. We have a team who swim horses every day. We also have a team who operate the spa and solariums. Some yards have treadmills and water walkers. There are so many different ways to get horses fit you don’t need to ride.
“My experience at the National Horseracing College set me on the right path. The instructors taught me everything I needed to know. I am now working as a racing groom, doing what I absolutely love, receiving a competitive salary and living in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. I truly am living my dream’’