The small village of Middleham in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire has long been associated with the training of top flight racehorses. For over 200 years horses here have been exercised and prepared for competition and even before that the monks in the nearby Jervaulx Abbey were known for breeding horses.
In 1733 Isaac Cape became the first recorded jockey in Middleham before going on to become the first specialist race horse trainer and thus starting a long tradition of training in the area that today sees around 15 stables established there. As early as 1739 racing was done on the High Moor area and meetings were held regularly during the 18th century. The last race to be held on the moor was in June 1873. They were stopped following disputes between the trainers and local gait owners – a gait owner is the name given to the landowners who held grazing rights on the moor – after that the High Moor area was only used for training purposes.
But from here racing had already become integral to the way of life and the history of trainers establishing themselves in Middleham had begun and today it continues to produce winners at all of the top race meetings round the country.
With the start of the flat racing season coming next week I spent some time yesterday shooting pictures on the High Moor as some of the horses were exercised at first light. Horses from stables such as those of James Bethell and Philip Kirby Racing were just two of the stables I discovered were out on the gallops in the snowy conditions and it makes an impressive sight seeing a thoroughbred racehorse galloping at full pelt with the snow topped Dales forming a beautiful and dramatic backdrop.
I then spent some time at one of the premier racing stables in the country and which is based in Middleham – the Mark Johnston Racing stable – taking a brief look behind the scenes at what goes on day to day at a top-level racing stable and the precise almost military efficiency and attention to detail that goes on at every level of care for the horses. Everything from creating their own brand of food that comes pre-mixed so that anyone can feed the horses rather than having to have someone who knows exactly how to mix the right amount of ingredients – thereby making it a more efficient process. Two flat scoops, four times a day…so simple even this photographer could do it!
To the two in-house vets, three if you include the owner Mark who is a qualified vet himself, to ensure that any problems can be identified and dealt with quickly. To the other facilities available for the horses like the three separate grass gallops and the all weather gallop to ensure training can take place whatever the weather and in whichever form they choose. An equine swimming pool, automatic exercisers and a host of other details that collectively go towards the care and welfare of the horses which will ultimately help with bringing success at the races.
Anyway here’s a few pictures from the day that I’ve edited up in black and white. I filed the colour stuff in for potential newspaper usage through London News Pictures
So far the Mail on Line have used five and the Sunday Telegraph ran one as did the Express.
Here’s some of my stuff from the day…