The racing secretary: Emer Fallon
Emer’s job requires her to wear many hats, including a pretty one for the big race day. From liaising with the bases in other parts of the world, trainers, staff and the yard to booking jockeys, dealing with industry governing bodies to the logistics of moving horses, to hospitality and events, the Irish horse lover has juggled many tasks in her seven years at the stable.
Have you always worked with horses? I grew up in Ireland and started riding when I was five. My father and grandfather have always been passionate about horses so I feel it is something that I’ve inherited. I always wanted to work with horses, whether it was the administrative aspect of it or anything that was more hands-on, I always knew horses were going to be my career. I’m glad I have the hands-on experience as it gave me the edge when I decided to move to an office-based role as I can understand the nature of the business and its challenges. I have a BSc in Equine Science from the University of Limerick in Ireland.
Do you think you are living your dream life? As a young girl and a racing addict, I remember watching Saeed and Shaikh Mohammad on the television being interviewed at big race meetings such as Royal Ascot. Now, I cannot believe that I am working for the same organisation, so in a way, yes, I think I am living my dream life. And the fact I have been able to make a career out of my passion makes me very happy. The glamour aspect is actually a very small part of the job.
Are there any other dreams you’d like to fulfil? One thing I know for sure is that horses will always remain my passion, if not my career. It is such a fast-paced environment so the adrenaline and the excitement that comes with it is quite addictive. And the fact that the team we have is so skilled and enthusiastic about what they do makes the job even more satisfying. So I know I would miss it if I decided to change career path.
Does it bother you that the jockey and the trainer get all the spotlight after a win? While it is true that jockeys are the ones who, along with the trainer and the owner, take the podium and are more recognisable by the fans and the media, one also needs to have a lot of respect for what a jockey does.
They are highly skilled athletes who take a risk every time they go out to ride in a race, not to mention all the responsibility that is placed on them after we have done all the hard work at home. So no, I have to say that doesn’t bother me at all, I only have admiration for them.
What do you think of the work pressure, does it change gears when the racing season starts? The racing season in the UAE is quite short – from October to March. Because of the summer temperatures it is not possible to train horses here all year round. But it still requires a lot of planning and there are only a few months of the year when it is relatively quiet work-wise. We seem to be only wrapping up from one season before we are winding up for the next one!
Are there few women in the field? It is a perception in horseracing, mainly because we see a lot of male jockeys and trainers at the forefront but it’s far more balanced behind the scenes – across all the roles. Also, there are lots of different disciplines in equine sports – flat racing is only one of them. For instance in the UAE, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussain, wife of Shaikh Mohammad and Chairman of the Board at the Dubai International Humanitarian City, has a clear passion for equine sports and was a very successful showjumper herself. She is an active speaker at global conferences since she was a two-term president of International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI). She is an inspiration to other women who are beginning to look at an equestrian career option.
It’s a misconception that there are few women in the sport – Emer notes Princess Haya’s role in inspiring others to join the field