Gail Alderson, head lad at Mark Johnston’s flat racing yard, talks about her job

“I’ve always had an interest in horses. I learned to ride on a Shetland pony when I was 11 years old, at the local livery yard where I was working.

At the age of 14, I started to work for Mark at weekends and during school holidays. After my GCSEs I started to do A’ levels, but the call of the outdoor life was too great and I left to work fulltime for Mark.

It was generally basic yard work but I did get to ride out. I was given Fruits Of Love to look after and travelled all over the world with him to places such as Hong Kong, Japan, Dubai, and the USA. I also used to ride him out if his usual rider was unavailable.

I was promoted to head lad in March 2001 at the age of 22. It was a hard decision as I had to give Fruits Of Love up, but I needed to move on and knew that he would be retiring soon.

Now I oversee the care, management and exercise of 36 horses. I deal with vets and liaise with the racing secretary, who asks my opinion on whether the horses are fit enough to race or have any problems.

To come into racing you have to love the horses and if you do love them it’s a fantastic career. You have hands-on experience, opportunities to travel and you meet so many different people. There is nothing like seeing a horse you love win.”

JOIN NAGS

NAGS membership is available to all bona fidegrooms and students and the benefits of being a member include:

  • Horse & Hound subscription at £1 per copy
  • £3 discount voucher on a sack of Blue Chip Dynamic
  • 10% discount off Splash Equestrian equipment and clothing
  • 10% discount off Waggers comfy pets and people products
  • No P&P charges from Equestrian Vision mail order

    For more information email NAGS nags@ipcmedia.com or (tel: 020 7261 5264).