How to get involved
How to get involved as... An Owner
Owners of point-to-pointers are the backbone of the sport and without them it would not exist. If you think ownership may be for you but you’re unsure how to get involved, this guide should help point you in the right direction…
1. Check your finances
Unfortunately owning a point-to-pointer is not cheap and you should only go into it if you are confident you have enough exposable income. A standard point-to-pointer can cost anywhere between £600 to £3000, but a lot of people will pay a lot more in the hope or expectation of obtaining a very good horse. After that initial outlay there are training fees to include, which depending on the trainer these can vary from £150 to £250 a week. On top of that there are additional costs including: farrier & vet bills, hunter certificate fees, entry fees and fuel costs. It all adds up.
2. Decide to start a syndicate, join a club or go it alone.
If you don’t feel you can afford to be a sole owner then it is possible to set up a syndicate consisting of friends and/or family, this way you can split the costs between you as well as having others to share the experience with.
If you are unable to start a syndicate then there are one or two racing clubs that are available to join for a much reduced weekly fee or a fixed sum. Racing clubs provide all the perks of being an owner while removing a large chunk of the risk as you won’t be the one paying vet bills should the horse get injured.
3. Approach a trainer
Once you have decided to get involved the next step is to approach a trainer. The majority of trainers train one or two horses for themselves or friends, but there are a few larger yards that cater to many owners. The biggest yards in the South East are Rose Grissell, Nick Pearce and David Phelan, while smaller yards such as Hannah Jones are always keen to expand. Trainers all charge variable fees and the larger yards are understandably more expensive as they have staff to pay. Once you have chosen and approached the trainer, they will be able to help you go about sourcing a suitable horse that is within your budget. Once the horse is purchased the trainer will take control of its training, leaving you to reap the rewards of seeing your colours carried by your horse.
How to get involved as... A Trainer
If you are interested in training your own point-to-pointer then don’t feel daunted by the task, the majority of point-to-point keepers train just one or two horses that they fit around their day jobs.
1. Establish a budget
Before you decide to invest in a thoroughbred you should work out how much you can afford to spend on a horse and how much you can afford a week. By either attending bloodstock sales or buying privately, point-to-pointers of a standard level can cost anywhere between £600-£3000. The costs of keeping a pointer are similar to keeping any horse, although the feed bill may be a little higher if you choose to feed a quality branded racehorse feed.
2. Look at your schedule
One of the most important things about training a racehorse is that they should be exercised regularly. This means making sure they get out for a canter at least five days a week. For a lot of people this means very early mornings, mucking out and riding before leaving for work. You must be confident you are able to commit the appropriate time and energy to your horse.
3. Finding a horse
Once you are confident you can afford to spend time, effort and money on a horse then you can start to search for one. Ideally it would be beneficial to have a contact who knows what they are looking for, but if you don’t have anyone then make sure you do your research. Try to avoid buying a horse that hasn’t run for a long time and ideally find one that is well experienced. You can use the RacingPost website to look at horses form, taking note of their age, when they last ran and what distance they ran over. Remember the majority of point-to-points are run over three miles.
4. Go Hunting
Once you have bought your horse you can think about taking it hunting. For a horse to run in a point-to-point it must be hunted fairly and have a Hunter Certificate signed by a master of the Hunt. Hunting is extremely beneficial to pointers; those that are the best hunters are usually the safest jumpers in a race. Hunter Certificates are available to download from the Weatherbys website pointtopoint.co.uk. Once you have your Hunt Cert signed then your horse is eligible to run in point-to-points!
5. Find a rider
Once you have your horse on track to run in a point-to-point it is a good idea to find a point-to-point rider to ride it. Ideally it is best to find an experienced jockey who will be able to give you a guidance as to how fit your horse is, if its jumping is up to scratch as well as give you no end of helpful advice. Alternatively, you can give a young inexperienced rider a chance of a ride; the advantage being that they will perhaps be more available to come and ride your horse, but the obvious disadvantage that they are inexperienced.
6. School your horse
It is recommended that a horse jumps several times over schooling fences before its first run, even if it is already very experienced. A lot of trainers have their own schooling fences and most allow other people to use them. The best way to find somewhere is to ask your jockey or, other point-to-point trainers who hunt with the same hunt as you.
7. Enter a race
Now you have your horse, hunt cert and rider, you can enter at a point-to-point! The best way to go about this is to purchase the point-to-point planner, a book that has details on all the point-to-point meetings in the country, with race conditions and information on how to enter.
On the day of the race make sure to arrive with plenty of time and don’t forget to declare at the declarations tent. When the time comes, get the saddle from your jockey, saddle up and head to the parade ring. Once your jockey is mounted and on their way to the start then your job is done and you can enjoy seeing all of your months of effort pay off.
The Perks of being a Trainer:
Training a point-to-pointer is a hugely rewarding experience when it all comes together. After months of cold, early mornings and riding out in the rain and wind, to see your horse run well gives a feeling of immense pride, and that sensation goes off the scale if your horse wins.
The point-to-point community is a very friendly one and you will always be welcomed with open arms. Never be afraid to approach other trainers for a chat or advice, everyone in point-to-pointing is a horse lover and only too happy to help.
The Pitfalls of being a Trainer:
The one thing all trainers dread is finding a hot, swollen leg on one of their horses in the morning. It is an inevitable fact that where there is exercise – there is injury, and unfortunately horses are prone to ‘doing a leg’. As long as you take good care of your horse, by exercising on safe level surfaces and checking their legs everyday, then you will greatly reduce the risk of injury.
The absolute worst case scenario is a fatal injury. Racing is a fast-paced sport and as such it is not without its risks. However, such injuries are very rare and people just wouldn’t train horses if they were regular occurences.