The as­sis­tant trainer: Brian Pow­ell

Friday - - In The Uae -

An English­man with a flash of grey hair, Brian works along­side Godol­phin’s trainer Saeed Bin Surour. The two are re­spon­si­ble for the horses’ train­ing sched­ules and the man­age­ment of Al Quoz Sta­bles. Hav­ing worked in Godol­phin’s UK sta­bles for many years, Brian is now based full-time in Dubai.

Have you al­ways worked with horses? I’ve been rid­ing horses since I was five years old as I lived in the coun­try­side and we were sur­rounded by sta­bles. No­body else in my fam­ily has ever been in­volved in horse rac­ing, so they don’t un­der­stand where this pas­sion comes from, but I have never imag­ined do­ing any­thing else. In fact, my fa­ther wanted me to take up a ‘proper’ job when I fin­ished school so I joined the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, but nine months later my fa­ther re­alised that it wasn’t for me, and al­lowed me to work with horses. Ini­tially, I wanted to be a jockey, but that’s not where my skills were best placed, so I fo­cused on get­ting into the man­age­ment as­pect of it.

When did you start at Godol­phin? Back in 1995, I was work­ing with some of the most well-known names in the horse rac­ing in­dus­try. One of them, John Gos­den, whom I was as­sis­tant trainer for, told me of an open­ing for head lad at Godol­phin. At the time, Godol­phin was only a cou­ple of years old, but John was sure that Godol­phin was go­ing to go places as it had Shaikh Mo­ham­mad as its founder and driv­ing force. I took up the of­fer and the rest, as they say, is his­tory.

Since you’ve worked so closely with thor­ough­breds, tell us more about them. The thor­ough­bred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse rac­ing. All mod­ern thor­ough­breds can trace their pedi­grees to three stal­lions orig­i­nally im­ported into Eng­land in the 17th and 18th cen­turies – one of which gives Godol­phin its name. They are known for their agility and speed, but it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the horse’s na­ture.

Horses are just like peo­ple: Some are easy to un­der­stand, some need praise all the time, some have to be mol­ly­cod­dled. After years of ex­pe­ri­ence, one is able to dis­tin­guish their char­ac­ter­is­tics and know how to get the best out of them. Just like any other pet, horses like to be ap­pre­ci­ated. Their care and wel­fare is our first pri­or­ity.

How many horses do you have here in Al Quoz Sta­bles and across the world? Presently, we have about 30 horses that have been brought here from Saeed’s yard, Godol­phin Sta­bles in New­mar­ket, UK, to race in the Dubai World Cup Car­ni­val. In the past, we used to fly in all the horses from the UK to Dubai, so they could spend the win­ter here and en­joy the mod­er­ate cli­mate. Over­all, we have 3,000 horses. Max­imis­ing the po­ten­tial of ev­ery horse is a team ef­fort.

What does your typ­i­cal day look like? We start at 5am, ev­ery day. First thing in the morn­ing, we check the horses to see how they have man­aged through the night. If we have any con­cerns, then we dis­cuss them with Saeed. Then when the horses come out of their boxes at 6.30am, for their ear­ly­morn­ing walk, Saeed and I take a closer look at each one of them again. Each horse has its own ex­er­cise sched­ule, which changes ev­ery day and is also de­ter­mined by their own race cal­en­dar – that re­ally de­ter­mines what our fo­cus is, and what the pri­or­i­ties are each day. Once the Car­ni­val is over, some of the horses will re­main here in Dubai and are given a rest from the rigours of train­ing, and the oth­ers are flown back to the UK to take part in the rac­ing sea­son there.

How old is a horse when it comes to you? We nor­mally start work­ing with a horse when it is a year old. That’s when we are able to re­ally start to un­der­stand its strengths and ca­pa­bil­i­ties. After we break them in and see them train, Shaikh Mo­ham­mad and Saeed de­cide the best way for­ward for each horse.

At what age do horses start rac­ing? Horses that are go­ing into flat rac­ing will usu­ally start when they are two years old and they tend to peak when they are three or four, after which the best ones are of­ten re­tired to a stud farm for breed­ing. Other horses race un­til they are nine or 10. Just like For­mula One or any other ma­jor sport,

Train­ing horses re­quires PA­TIENCE and IN­TU­ITION. Some get dis­tracted eas­ily, some are more cu­ri­ous than oth­ers – each is UNIQUE

horse rac­ing too has a well-de­fined cir­cuit. So horses travel across the world to take part at events. There is an event cal­en­dar for ev­ery age – it starts at two and goes on from there, depend­ing on the kind of horse and what’s best for them.

Is it dif­fi­cult to train a horse? This is my pas­sion, so I feel very lucky to be given this op­por­tu­nity by Shaikh Mo­ham­mad and Saeed. Train­ing horses re­quires pa­tience, ex­pe­ri­ence and in­tu­ition. They are colour-blind and judge things by shapes. Some tend to get dis­tracted eas­ily, some are more cu­ri­ous than oth­ers – each one is unique. They are also very smart and if a horse is not treated in the right way, it will not for­get it, so to get the best out of them it’s all about work­ing with them to max­imise their po­ten­tial.

What are the big­gest chal­lenges when you travel with horses? Get­ting them to eat and drink, es­pe­cially on a long flight. In the past they would some­times get anx­ious dur­ing take-offs and land­ings as they didn’t un­der­stand what was go­ing on, but on the whole, they travel re­ally well. More so now be­cause they start trav­el­ling when they are ba­bies. They then need a cou­ple of days to re­cover from it all and get to their usual selves. Ev­ery ef­fort is taken to en­sure they are OK and the planes they travel on are like fly­ing lux­ury ho­tels.

One fa­mous trainer once said, ‘I see a bit of my­self in ev­ery horse I work with’. Is that true for you as well? No, I wouldn’t say that. I feel horses are like chil­dren, ev­ery one of them re­quires a unique way of be­ing nur­tured to max­imise their po­ten­tial. That un­der­stand­ing comes with years of ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge.

How do you main­tain a work-life bal­ance? You have to be ded­i­cated to what you do. All those who are in this pro­fes­sion are in it be­cause they love it and it’s their pas­sion. It’s a 24x7 com­mit­ment. Our lives re­volve around horses and their needs come first. It can be tough on the fam­i­lies, but it’s about man­ag­ing that bal­ance.

The sta­bles in Al Quoz are one of two Godol­phin bases in Dubai; oth­ers are in New­mar­ket in the UK, Ire­land, US and Aus­tralia

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