A new apprenticeship scheme has been introduced for young racing staff, which offers training in all aspects of racehorse management and care, on a day-release basis.

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) Coventry and Warwickshire is funding the Apprenticeship in Racehorse Management and Care, which is run through the Equine Centre of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) at Warwickshire College in Moreton Morrell. It is believed to be the first course of its kind, giving racing apprentices aged 19 to 25 the chance to study at college one-day-a-week for up to two years.

Before the course was launched, most apprentices over the age of 18 undertook a three-month stint at racing schools in either Doncaster or Newmarket, where the focus is on learning how to ride racehorses.

The new modern apprenticeship scheme trains the apprentice in all aspects of racehorse care and yard management, including riding. It has the backing of trainer Kim Bailey, trainer of Grand National winner Mr Frisk, Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Master Oats and Champion Hurdle winner Alderbrook, who has taken on the course’s first apprentice Sam Davies-Kerr.

Bailey says: “This course is far more flexible [than traditional racing school courses] and means we don’t have to lose a worker for 12 weeks. We can manage to cover a day a week in the yard while Sam goes to college. It is also far more advanced with a more rounded and balanced approach to the apprentice’s education — it’s not just about riding racehorses like the traditional apprenticeships.

“All 18 members of my staff have to be able to do every aspect of work here at the yard. Although it’s early days, I think this is going to be just what we need. Racing has changed. It now has an awful lot more to offer young people, with better pay structures and well-defined career paths.”

The 21-year-old apprentice has been working with Bailey at Grange Farm for four months. Davies-Kerr says: “I am enjoying being taught how to do everything properly and being at college one day each week. We are shown everything from plaiting the horse to leading it to the racetrack. I am very keen to get my qualification.”

Other subjects covered during the course include riding, stable management, road safety awareness, all aspects of running a yard including feeding horses and the correct use of tack as well as English, IT and maths skills.

Viviennne Stiles, the Equine CoVE’s work-based learning manager, says: “This type of training offers far more in-depth knowledge and enables young people to share experiences and knowledge and build up relationships over a lengthy period of time.

“Employers will really benefit from having staff who are confident and competent in a wide range of skills. We know it will appeal to the employers at the 80 racing yards we have in this area and to the scores of young people in Coventry and Warwickshire who would like a career with horses.”