I’ve decided to break my visit to Dan Skelton Racing down into two blog posts. After my morning there I became overwhelmed with how much I wanted to share with everyone who reads my pieces. Whilst sitting down to write it all out, it became apparent that I was writing two very different articles. One about the horses and one about the people. As is my usual ethos, the horses come first, so let’s start there.
As any National Hunt race fan is aware, Dan has a lot of horses under the care of him and his team, so I as ever, had no idea who I was going to ride out for them. All I knew was that they would have four legs, a tail and were highly likely to be bay.
Lucinda, Communications Manager for the yard, greeted me and quickly showed me through the warren of stables to find my first ride of the day and introduce me to some of the team.
I was honoured for my first lot to ride the simply beautiful and absolutely gleaming, Cobra de Mai who is by the Stallion Great Pretender who has had some really exciting progeny including Benie Des Dieux and Dortmund Park.
Cobra has had 10 wins under rules and for me, he felt on fine form, even giving me a few little ‘snake head’ moments and living up to his name to keep me on my toes. All being well and weather permitting he will be running tomorrow (02/10/20) at Fontwell and I hope he can get back to his winning ways for the team and hope my luck of riding winners continues!
A couple of things really stood out to me on the first lot, one being the sheer level of work that these horses do, it’s really no wonder Dan has so many great stayers because these horses really put the miles in at home. The uphill gallop is a real test of their strength and power after already covering a good distance in their warm up beforehand.
On speaking to Dan, he said that he likes to have his horses fit and looks for them to be coming up the gallop well, but isn’t looking for speed. He’d rather them not feel like they were racing at home, so that they go to racing fresh, having enjoyed their work and keen to perform.
The second thing that really stood out to me was how many huge names there are on this yard. After walking Cobra de Mai off down the lanes and washing him off in the enviable heated wash boxes, I noticed you really cannot miss the sheer volume of talent in this yard. With the winner’s plaques and rugs hanging on walls and doors, it is inescapable that this is home to some of the best horses in the business and hopefully for the team, some big future stars.
My second lot is one of the horses that will hopefully be a future star for the yard. I mentioned on Twitter the other day that I was yet to ride a filly or a mare for the blog, well someone must have heard because my next mount was Global Harmony. A 5year old mare who ran at Perth last week, in her first start over hurdles, finishing a promising third.
Global is by the stallion Flemensfirth who again has had some exciting progeny over a long career as a stallion, including The Last Samuri and Imperial Commander who sadly died as a 16year old.
It was interesting to feel the difference between my two lots today, Global Harmony certainly felt a more petite and slightly more opinionated ride who wanted to get on with the job at hand and was really taking me round the circular, deep sand gallop.
For this lot I was yet again in the presence of some huge equine names, what an honour to ride out alongside Hatcher, Allmankind, Ch’tibello and Blaklion.
It was interesting to ride these gallops one after the other and feel the difference in how it makes the horses use their bodies. Over at this gallop is where they have the schooling fences and a warm up arena that includes show jumps.
It’s at this part of the facility that ex-event rider Chris King does his work with the jumping horses. It’s really interesting that the Skeltons have an Eventer doing some jump schooling with the horses, working on their technique over a fence. As in eventing you learn so many different ways of jumping; teaching the horse to bascule over a show jump from a lovely bouncy canter, to brush through certain fences, or to come from tricky angles at a gallop on the cross country course. For me as a horse owner, this is a huge selling point of the yard and I hope other trainers and owners can see what an asset that is.
The stables and spa.
After my second lot, the lovely Lucinda showed me around the yard to their equine spa facilities, that include a full body laser scanner and treatment unit; The Equusir Best-Box, that flags up any areas of the horse’s body that may be sore from their work. The facility also includes a cold-water spa containing Epsom salts, the idea behind this is to help the horse’s tendons and ligaments recover from hard work and to bring out any infection from cuts and wounds.
The ladies that run these facilities at the yard were really insightful and we got to talking about their experiences using holistic therapies such as these, as well as treatment using magnetic rugs for the horses and how they believe it’s helped the equine athletes in their care.
Again, it’s this investment into the care of the horses that really stands out to me, with a whole barn of stables having solariums above them to keep the horses warm and help the muscles heal, as well as having the heated wash boxes. It’s these seemingly small details that are all working towards finding those marginal improvements, to help the horses get their nose over the line ahead of the competition and to keep them fit, healthy and happy in the process.
On reflection of my visit, the whole experience was not what I expected, not that I really knew what to expect from the outside. But it has left me filled with anticipation and excitement for the yard, the team and the horses for the season ahead. The people here truly put their heart and soul into their work and the care of their horses, it really shows at home and fingers crossed it will translate into success on the track for them.
A huge thank you to the team for having me and making the whole experience so special. I wish you all the luck for the future.
Part two can be found here!
As ever, thank you to everyone who reads the blog, it means the world to me and I’m so excited to share future content with you all.
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