Interview: Gemma Hogg
In her new book Stable Lass, Gemma Hogg shares some hilarious tales about life in a Yorkshire racing yard
I’ve worked in a stables since my teens.
My love for horse riding started when my parents took me to visit a riding school run by a family friend. I had my first ride on a pony called Candy, and I’ve been obsessed with horses ever since.
I left school in Leeds to devote my life to working with racehorses and attended the Northern Racing College.
That was a great experience which taught me loads about racing. I’m a very competitive character, so my passion for horse racing and the adrenaline and excitement that goes with the sport comes quite naturally. I got Employee of the Year at the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards 2016 – it’s the highlight of my career so far.
There’s never a quiet moment when you’re working with animals.
I start at work at 6am and the first job is to feed the horses and muck out – as Assistant Trainer I don’t have to do that everyday, only when I’m needed. Next, I make sure all the horses are doing the right exercises and pair them with riders. Unless I’m riding myself, which occasionally happens, I watch the horses galloping on the moor to make sure they’re all fit and well, and to be on hand in case of any accidents.
Every day is different depending on whether it’s a race day.
If we’re going to a race meeting we usually set off mid-morning. Otherwise we plan which of our 45 horses we’re going to take to which races throughout the year and check up on the animals for injuries. I finish at around 6pm.
The most rewarding thing about my job is when one of our horses wins.
There’s a real sense that you’ve personally picked the right race for them. On the flip side, everyone who works with horses will say the same – the worst thing is when one dies or is seriously injured.
I’d never considered writing a book until recently.
After winning Employee of the Year two years ago, my brother-in-law, who’s a writer, told me that he’d done some research and realised that there weren’t many stories about stable staff out there. I agreed to write down my experiences if he helped me with it, which he did. I’m quite a good storyteller, so the pairing worked well.
My book was described by Racing Post as an ‘equine Bridget Jones.’
That made me chuckle – I hadn’t thought of that comparison myself. I feel honoured that so many people have got behind me and enjoyed it. The response has been totally overwhelming – there’s a good range of readers, from horse-lovers, to those who don’t know anything at all about racing. I’ve received lots of letters and fantastic photos on social media of other riders with their own horses.
Different readers have found different parts funny.
There’s a story in the book about a horse I used to ride called George Best – he had a habit of running from side to side as soon as he clocked a big group of horses on the moor and I’d have to chase after him.
I don’t do anything too strenuous in my spare time because my job is so full on.
I enjoy walking with my Jack Russell, Izzy, to unwind – we’ve got so much beautiful scenery around here so there’s no need to stray too far. I often cook dinner for friends too, and, I must admit, I’m quite partial to a gin and tonic.
I love using my imagination.
I’m an avid reader of Harry Potter and Twilight and (of course) I’m a fan of Dick Francis’s books about horse racing.
My favourite song is Piano Man by Billy Joel.
It’s a family favourite – we’d sing along to it loudly in the car on our regular weekend trip to the local Chinese.
I’m in desperate need of a holiday.
I’ve got a trip to Portugal booked soon which I’m very much looking forward to, but I’ll be back to the grindstone after that, working towards the upcoming jump season – which our horses usually perform very well in.
Stable Lass by Gemma Hogg is available at all good bookshops