A Set off before setting off

There are 17 of us and we have come from all over China. We are now settling into our new lives in Newmarket, Britain; Kildare, Ireland; the Hunter Valley, Australia; Kentucky, America and Hokkaido, Japan – these rural locations will be our home for the next nine months and are we will learn the day-to-day care of thoroughbred horses and professional business skills. Before arriving we had a two week induction in Zeng’ai Shishun Horse Race Training Centre in Shanghai.

Our mornings usually start with lectures. Step by step, we were introduced to the breeding, racing, and business model of the thoroughbred industry. The time spent watching videos provides us with substantial information of Darley and Godolphin, the global thoroughbred industry. We were also lucky to have Joe Osborne (Darley director), James Hall (Darley director) and Sun Junling (Darley’s consultant in China) as guest speakers to talk about leadership skills, horse racing in China and horse anatomy. Through these lectures, we’ve gained a better understanding of the passion and excitement, professionalism and expertise that are key to this industry.

The induction enlightened us on horsemanship. Every afternoon we go to the stable and start with grooming, hoof picking, leading a horse and then put them in the paddock. These tasks are actually harder than they seem to master. Horses are gentle animals, but we have to be aware of them as they can bite and kick, which is why we should never ever stand behind a horse.

We learnt to muck out a horse’s stable, which was hard work and more physically challenging than we first thought. Whilst it is not working directly with the horse it is a very important job. To put this into context, Joe Osborne quoted a cleaner working at NASA who said "I'm helping to put a man on the moon". To us, these fundamental works we have been doing now are all stepping-stones that "help to put a thoroughbred industry on its way to being a legendary sport".

During the two-day team building session, the whole team’s strengths and intellectual thinking were constantly stimulated through the wide range of physical group activities such as tyre rolling, balance walking, mountain bike racing, and stretcher building. One particular vivid example was the fitness ball climbing race. 18 people were divided into two groups of nine, with four people holding fitness balls and moving to create the climbing path while five others tried to make the whole way as fast as they can. At first, everyone was focusing on winning; at an accidental fall of a team member, however, it suddenly dawned on us that in the end, who was winning actually did not matter, because safety always comes first. Thanks to the unique and memorable event, we were able to gain more understanding of one another, which will surely help us survive the coming internship as impeccable teams.

We cannot help but feel how lucky we are to be part of this amazing programme and to meet each other. We come from a variety of academic backgrounds with different experiences, yet we were able to make the most of this diversity and together we make a wonderful team. It is incredible how much we learned from each other and our instructors in a mere two weeks. We are now physically and mentally prepared for the next nine months and we are convinced more than ever that we will benefit tremendously from this invaluable experience.

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