2017 TTC BHA Graduate Development Programme Placement – Georgia Misson

26th September 2017

The Thoroughbred Club and the BHA team up annually to offer one BHA graduate the opportunity to further their knowledge of the breeding industryby taking up two linked placements, at Tweenhills Farm & Stud in Gloucestershire and Newsells Park Stud in Hertfordshire, covering the period, before, during and after Tattersalls October yearling. Georgia Misson was the successful candidate to take up the placements this year, having graduated from the University of Nottingham with a degree in Nutrition and Food Science, and gained experience at a pre-training yard and as a nominations assistant prior to enrolling on the Grad Scheme.

Both placements provided Georgia with a chance to gain a better understanding of the breeding industry; the placement at Tweenhills Farm and Stud was spent assisting the Stud Manager and learning how a busy stud farm operates in the run-up to the sales season, and the second part of the placement at Newsells Park Stud involved working with their sales team at the Tattersalls October Yearling Sales.  Once the sales had finished, Georgia returned to the Stud and assisted with foal preparation at the stud, ready for the December sales.

Graduates of the scheme have used this as a springboard to gain extra industry recognised qualifications and further experience, and after his time at Tweenhills and Newsells Park, last year’s graduate James Johnson gained a place on the 2017 National Stud Diploma in Stud Management and Practice course, which he graduated from with Distinction.

Georgia documented her time on the placement with a blog to give an insight into her daily routine whilst at Tweenhills and Newsells Park:

Week 1

This week I arrived to start my two-and-a-half-week placement at Tweenhills Stud. Initially I was quite nervous about being completely out of my depth as I have never worked on a stud before and had no experience of dealing with yearlings in a professional environment. There was absolutely no need to worry, everyone was very friendly and patient and my ‘get stuck in’ attitude seemed to be the right one as by the second day I was happily leading out colts. Working here has certainly lifted my confidence in my own ability to handle a horse and made me much more aware about what’s safest for you and the horse.

By the end of week one I’ve finally learnt all the yearling’s names. On the stud horses are called by their dam’s names so you can have three horses with the same name- the mare, the yearling and the foal. It’s also been interesting to observe similar traits in horses with the same sire.

The routine at Tweenhills is fairly similar day to day. In the morning- feeding, putting horses on the walker (colts first, fillies second) and mucking out. Once that’s all done at about 10 a.m. we have a tea break while the fillies finish up on the walker. A box of broken biscuits a-day keeps the team on track as does the occasional pub lunch.

Until lunchtime and in the afternoon extra jobs get done. Often these jobs aren’t glamorous but need to be done. One afternoon involved cleaning out the horse walker and hay barn followed by going out to the fields to put larger head collars on the foals and cleaning the water troughs. Some foals aren’t that pleased to be caught and it’s a case of grab and don’t let go because if you do you won’t get them back. At Tweenhills there is a £5 fine incurred for letting go of a horse. So far, I’ve managed to avoid this punishment and hope to continue this through to the end of the placement.

Feeding time at Tweenhills

There is no rest for the wicked at Tweenhills, so far, this week I’ve been averaging a solid 17,000-18,000 steps each day. This has also been my first experience of having to work every other weekend.  This is probably the most difficult part of the job, knowing that on a Monday morning there will be 12 days of work before you have a day off.

I’m looking forward to what this next week holds now that I have found my stride. With a shorter placement that is usual it’s important I make the most of the chance whilst I am here.

Week 2

This week at Tweenhills we have had two yearling parades of the sales horses- one for the management team and one for a consignor. In these parades yearlings are lead up one by one and looked over in great detail. This gives the opportunity to decide on the final tweaks to be made in order to get the yearlings to the sales in peak condition. Never before had I appreciated how difficult it is to get a horse to the sales full stop, let alone in the best possible condition. From birth horses seem to be wholeheartedly committed to damaging themselves in any way possible. Even the smallest bump or splint can make the difference between a horse selling for a six-figure price or not at all.  With Book 1 just two weeks away this is the critical point and a tense time at the farm.  I am looking forward to following the horses that I have meet here at the sales and to see how they sell as there are some cracking types here.

A mare in stocks being scanned for pregnancy 

As well as preparation for the sales we are also approaching the 1st October. This means that every mare on the farm who is thought to be in foal needs to be scanned so that the stallion fees can be paid.  There are over 50 mares all over the farm that need to be brought in to be checked. While the process takes minutes it’s the volume of mares we have to scan which means it’s a lengthy job.

Even though my placement at Tweenhills has been relatively short, I feel that I have gained a relatively comprehensive overview of the rhythms of life working on a stud. I would like to thank Tweenhills for the opportunities and experiences of the last two weeks. I have learnt an immense amount and look forward to implementing this in the future.