Hurdling at Warwick Racecourse

15th October 2013

Lacing the hurdles at Warwick

One of the great things about working at a course that is a part of The Jockey Club, is the opportunity to communicate and share ideas with the people who are fulfilling exactly the same role as me at the other 14 courses in the group.

I had two opportunities to do exactly that last week. Monday afternoon was spent with all the other Clerks in the group at our quarterly Clerks’ meeting. This is a chance for us all to catch up on news and issues that might be affecting us and how we do our jobs. The conversation ranges from tractors to grass seed and Novice Chases to Gold Cups.

The courses in our Group are so diverse and yet so similar that the sharing of information, ideas and knowledge puts us all in a great position to do our jobs to the best of our ability at all times.

The second chance I had to learn from others was on a trip to Exeter Racecourse on Thursday. The whole team from Warwick went for a visit after the conclusion of our Flat Season. We had a great day and Exeter have come up with some brilliant initiatives for their new season. Particularly noteworthy was the new stable on the lawn behind the stands which will be home to a retired racehorse at every fixture for the public to meet.

I think it is so important to shout from the rooftops what wonderful horses thoroughbreds are. They can turn their hooves to so many different equestrian jobs besides racing and it is great that Exeter Racecourse are championing their cause.

Meanwhile, at Warwick, the preparations for the new jump season go on. The temperatures have dropped, the leaves are turning and it is feeling distinctly autumnal so the jump season proper is definitely getting closer.

The turf is looking well and is picking up nicely after a bit of rain this week. There is hopefully more rain to come over the weekend too. Despite the lower temperatures, the grass is still growing so the mower remains busy, with the whole course being cut every 2 to 3 days. We have lengthened the cut to 4 inches (we cut it at 3 to 3 ½ in during the summer) so that the turf will be more resistant when the winter frosts arrive.

The biggest job for the team at Warwick this week has been lacing the hurdles. Traditional hurdles are made from a timber frame (usually ash wood) which is about 3’6’’ high and has five rails which are 8 inches apart. This frame then has birch laced between the top and bottom bars. Finally, padding is put on the top and side bars with orange plastic covers over the top. The idea of the construction is that there should be no opportunity for a horse’s legs to come into direct contact with the wood. Bearing in mind the team have 65 individual hurdles to prepare before the season starts, you can see why it is a big job!

Finally, I should give a mention to the Groundstaff Team at Huntingdon who were named runner-up in the Jump Category of the ‘Racecourse Groundstaff Awards’ this week. It is a well-deserved achievement for them against some very stiff competition. Groundstaff on all courses work incredibly hard to keep the show on the road come rain or shine and it is a real bonus when it is recognised by the wider industry.

Sulekha Varma is Clerk of the Course at Warwick Racecourse and Huntingdon Racecourse