Josh Steer on helping to preserve rare breeds, working with Big Star and why there is never a dull day in his “weird” job
I’ve always wanted to work with horses. I wanted to be a cowboy, then a vet. A yard I was at when I was 12 or 13 did a bit of breeding and I found that interesting even at that age – but never thought I’d end up doing this job.
I meet amazing horses, amazing people and I have my own stallion here at Stallion AI Services, who’s an absolute superstar; I ride him at lunchtimes and collect from him, too. I’ve never had a bad day here, it’s always good fun.
I used to back and start young horses, but I got more and more into breeding. I started my own small stud six years ago, and wanted to do even more, especially preserving rare breeds. I came to Stallion AI Services for a week, and never left.
My business partner bought me out of the stud, I moved down here with my girlfriend and horses, and that was that.
On an average day there’s normal yard stuff to do; feeding horses, turning out and bringing in. We start doing collections at about 8am, because if it’s chilled semen they have to go out before the Post Office closes. We can do up to 27 collections a day; we have an amazing team.
Then there are more yard jobs – exercising, poo-picking, putting horses on the walker or the solarium, making sure they’re all happy.
The best bits of the job are the fantastic team and being able to work with all these incredible stallions that you’ve seen at the Olympics. I don’t get to ride Big Star – a lot of the stallions have their own grooms – but I do lunge him, and spend a lot of time with him.
A real highlight is being able to preserve the rare breeds. It’s so important someone’s collecting the semen, freezing it, storing it and helping save the rare breeds or they’d just disappear, and that would be such a shame after all they’ve done for us.
There aren’t many downsides. Normal yard work is what it is, and there is a lot of pressure because we want to make sure the horses get the best they possibly can, and are looked after as well as we can, but otherwise it’s all good. Sometimes, someone gets semen in their face, and that’s definitely not a highlight.
If people ask what I do, I tell them I’m a professional ******, and they think it’s really funny. Then I tell them about the rare breeds and that’s really interesting for most people, but most of the time, they just laugh. Horsey people get it, but non-horsey people find it funny or weird.
I have a few good memories. When Big Star arrived is a massive one; it was exciting to meet a horse who’s won two Olympic medals. Sometimes The Queen’s stallions visit too; there are so many highlights. Everyone works together here and has a great time; for me, it’s perfect.
The staff have a laugh here all the time, there are always jokes going round. But I think the funniest thing I’ve seen was during an open-ended collection. We have an artificial vagina, with no end, so as the stallion ejaculates, you collect the raw semen. We were collecting from a Suffolk horse, and my friend, who’d just started, didn’t realise. He was standing right in front and the funnel was too low to catch everything. You can imagine what happened. We were crying with laughter and had to send him home – but you almost don’t know whether to have a shower or squeeze it out and try to sell it.
Ref Horse & Hound; 17 September 2020