I was recently asked to go to Newmarket in order provide some lifestyle blog images for a browband company attending the yard of one of their oldest and best customers. I jumped at the chance as I’ve been a racing fan all my life.
Much of my equine love, and certainly racing knowledge, came from my Grandfather. He was a hay and straw merchant in the 1970’s and 80’s. I regularly went to Newmarket with him (half term heaven) and have amazing memories of peering over the dashboard as we drove down little driveways between ordinary houses in ordinary streets and discovered a whole new world behind them. A world of stable lasses, jockeys and beautiful beautiful thoroughbreds.
The request to head back after many years absence came from Laura who runs Handwoven Browbands, a lovely lady I’d met through a small business group on Facebook. She gave me the brief, asked if I was interested and I basically bit her hand off… it might even have been her arm. Poor Laura!
Laura’s customer was Joey Ellis of Georgia House Racing. They are based just a few miles outside of the hubbub of Newmarket itself, within a rural area widely known over the years as home to some of large breeding studs. Joey has been using Laura’s paracord browbands for a while now. For her they are perfect as they are durable, easy to clean and come in such a variety of colours she can match them to her owners silks easily.
As we arrived at Georgia House we were followed in by Joey and her team in their horse box, they were arriving back from the gallops in town with their 2nd lot of the day. The upside to being outside of the town is more space for the racehorses to be just horses. As they have around 15 acres it means turn-out is part of the normal routine at Georgia House. The downside is the need to box up for each lot and head the few minutes into town to reach the gallops. In time this will change as there are plans for gallops nearby.
Life at Georgia House is very much within the family fold. Husband Johnny (ex jockey from Belgium) and mum Angela (ex international show jumper) both providing the physical and emotional support in so many ways. This enables Joey to really concentrate on the training aspect. Her main concern is giving her string the best chance by providing a really solid and calm environment to work and live in. I can honestly say that in all the racing yards I’ve been in over the years there was an entirely different feel to this one.
I had free rein to wander and shoot as they managed 2nd lot returning from the gallops and prepared 3rd lot to head back with. For me, to have genuine access to areas of Newmarket Heath the public aren’t able to reach was magic. Listening to Johnny tell Laura and I tales of his time back in Belgium and then more latterly in Newmarket as part of Sir Henry Cecil’s team was such a thrill that at times I found it difficult to remember to pick up the camera. The moment Johnny told us he used to be one of Frankel’s regular riders during his 2yr old days I nearly fell over. I had to touch Johnny’s arm and ask for his autograph.
I was semi serious…!
Sadly the public impression of how racing operates is often not great and generally based on a mixture of bad press and gossip. The reality is that whilst there are a high number of horses in training, not all horses in training are dealt with as a commodity at all! Each of Joey’s racehorses were content and relaxed, no head bobbing or vices in this yard. She genuinely loves her horses, whatever level or capability they have, and it’s not just what I call ‘Journalism love’ when the papers arrive for an interview. She recently posted pictures of her beloved Albert, one of last years foals (she breeds a handful) posing for his 1st birthday…
For Joey its about putting the horse first and proving to the world that flat horse racing isn’t for the elite. Getting the word out that everyone can get involved, the butcher, the teacher, the plumber – whoever.
With owning a share in one of her racehorses starting at just £25 a week you can see just how affordable it is.
My time with Joey was fabulous. It was a total delight to spend time with her and listen to someone so passionate about her racehorses.
With huge thanks to Laura for letting me relive some childhood moments and to Joey for giving us access to heaven…
Have a fabulous week!