The senior barn manager: Riccardo Corona
This Italian’s job makes him the epicentre of all that happens in a barn. From overseeing the various aspects of horse care, including exercise schedules, vet visits, and the diet of the horses, to managing the barn staff and logistics. Riccardo, who has been in the company for 14 years, ensures it all happens smoothly.
Tell us more about horses. Horses, like kids, find new environments a bit intimidating. So the big lights, crowds and the noise at a horse racing arena like Meydan’s can be quite daunting for a horse and could make them anxious before the big race. So we take them to the arena a few times beforehand and ensure that they are fully comfortable and happy in the surroundings and are not distracted or concerned by what is happening around them.
Have you come across a horse that is particularly difficult? As every horse is different, the challenge they offer is unique too. What can make a difference is the age at which the horse has come to us. Those that are born in our stables are like an open book, no surprises, but if a horse comes to us when he is much older, then it can be difficult to change its habits and make him follow instructions. There are no bad horses, just bad habits.
Have horses been a vital part of your life? I was born and raised in a stud farm south of Rome. Both my parents worked on the farm. While my father was a stud groom, my mother was responsible for all the newborns. So working with horses was kind of a natural progression.
That’s like many others here, who have been around horses most of their lives. To us horses are a passion, if we were not working with them, we would be riding them as a hobby. The long hours, the intensive work schedules – irrespective of rain, snow or sunshine – can be quite demanding, but I guess it is like that for any athlete. When you’ve grown up in the environment, it is easier to accept its challenges and demands.
So passion scores over academics for you? It is a job that one learns with experience, not through a textbook. A book can teach you about the anatomy of a horse, but when you come face to face with an animal, then it is your experience that counts.
This sounds extremely busy. Where does the family fit into this equation? I am lucky. My wife is a veterinarian so she understands what my job entails and the long hours this kind of job comes with. My kids love horses too. They ride ponies and follow horse racing, so they too are caught by the passion and excitement of it all.
To us horses are a PASSION. If we were not working with them, we would be RIDING them as a HOBBY
Have you had a situation that you feel has been very challenging? Not really. I feel like a little kid who loves football and gets a chance to play with his favourite team. It is dream come true for
me, a man who comes from a small farm. What an unbelievable journey.
How do horses travel long distance? The way horses are moved around the world has changed dramatically over the years. Godolphin was one of the pioneers as our horses started travelling extensively from the early 1990s. They are loaded in their horsebox, go to the airport, and are then transferred into a much larger crate, not that different from their natural environment. They are provided with all the care they need, lots of food and water. They are accompanied throughout the flight by flying grooms. Now the horses are so used to travelling from an early age they really don’t get anxious. They do get slightly tired but after a couple of days’ rest, they are fine. They let you know when they are OK again.
Your favourite memory? Prince Bishop winning the World Cup in 2015. He is special for many reasons. When he won the race, he was eight years old, which in the racing world makes him quite old. He was not the kind who would lead from the very beginning as he would take time to warm up, but then he would always finish strong. He was a testimony to all of Shaikh Mohammad and Saeed’s hard work, faith and patience.
Racehorses follow special diets, and wear protective bandages at night to prevent them from injuring themselves