Evan Williams has enjoyed plenty of success since he took out a full training licence at his stables in the Vale Of Glamorgan, Wales, nearly 20 years ago.
In the space of two weeks last season he won the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle with Silver Streak and saddled Secret Reprieve to land the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
The Welshman is keen to show the racing fans that have signed up to visit his yard how they operate and he reckons racing has a lot to be proud about as he prepares to open his doors for the National Racehorse Week.
Why did you get involved with National Racehorse Week?
I think it’s a very good idea to show the public what we do. We’re all guilty, I certainly am, of not realising quite how interested the general public is in what we do. It’s important on every scale.
From a horse welfare point of view it’s obviously very important but the staff have always got a good story to tell as well. A lot of them are doing a job that they are passionate about and they want to tell the public what a good career it is.
As an industry we’ve got plenty to be proud of in racing. The best way to show the positives is to get people into the yard integrating with the horses and integrating with the staff.
I just want to fly the flag for trainers everywhere, particularly in this part of the world, and say ‘this is what we do, this is how we do it, come and have a good look around, ask questions and we’ll give you the answers’.
What makes a successful training yard?
You need good horses, good owners and good staff. Owners deserve an awful lot of credit – they’re the backbone of everything. You do need very happy horses as, if they’re not happy, they won’t perform on the track.
You need very happy staff as the horses have to be in an environment that they enjoy. There’s no doubt happy staff make happy horses ‐ it rubs off on everything and everyone.
Do any of your horses have interesting quirks or habits? And how do you tailor your training to accommodate the different traits and personalities of your horses?
You can have every different type or personality that you would find in a schoolroom. We’re very similar to teachers. The horses develop at different times, they have different traits and different mannerisms. None of them are the same and none of them act the same.
Horses all come from different backgrounds and different parents so it’s exactly like being a headmaster. It’s nature or nurture. They all respond different to training and you’ve just got to work it out as you go along.
There’s no easy answer, it’s about learning about each horse to get the best out of them.
How do the horses relax at home when they’re having a break between races/training?
Some of them enjoy their time at grass in the paddocks and some of them prefer light exercise. Again, you work the individual out and you see whether they want work in between races or whether they want recuperation. Different things suit different horses.
What does an average day look like for a horse in your yard?
Every day is different with a racehorse. We try to keep things as structured as we can. The horses all get fed at the same time each day and the staff all start at the same time each day. If it wasn’t structured nothing would work.
How many different people in a variety of jobs work at the yard?
We have about 30 members of staff between the full‐time staff and the part‐timers. The most important people from outside the yard are our blacksmith and our vet. They’re the two people who play a major role in the happiness and welfare of the horses.
They will both be here on the day to chat to the visitors and we’ll have a bit of a farrier demonstration. Without a good blacksmith none of it works so it should be interesting for everyone to get a good idea how they have a major influence in the yard.
When your horses retire, what’s the process in making sure they are given a good home?
They go on to do all sorts of things from ‘racehorse to riding horse’ classes to showjumping, hunting and eventing. We always have one or two go to be happy hackers, as we call them.
They’re for people who just want do a bit of leisure riding and things like that. We also keep one of two horses here at the yard who will remain with us all the way through their old age.
There’s many different aspects of rehoming horses and you have to be very straight with people about it. We feel we’ve got a responsibility and it’s something you should deal with.
It’s very important that you do the right thing for the right horse and we do our best to make sure the right horse is rehomed in the right place. It should be a privilege to have a horse in training and it should be a privilege to have a licence to train a horse