The Groundsman

May 2013

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IOG BEST PRACTICE 17 the Groundsman May 2013 The fences are rebuilt every year Shaun's story That sentiment is perfectly understandable from a man who, it seems, was destined for a life in horseracing groundsmanship. Living on a stud farm in Surrey, Shaun's father used his connections to obtain casual work for Shaun at Epsom Racecourse, a 'taster' before he entered the profession by working full time at Epsom for nine years or more before moving to Sandown Park for 18 months, to gain experience of a National Hunt course. The role of head groundsman at Huntingdon Racecourse came up five years ago and, then aged 25, Shaun moved to the Cambridgeshire course to head up a team of three other full-time and one part-time groundsman at the 210-acre site that hosts 17 jump meetings and one Arab race meeting during nine months of the year. Shaun and team are also involved with the racecourse's myriad of corporate and community indoor and outdoor events – At the reins "I always wanted to be in charge and in control of what goes on, hence the move to here," he continues. And while he admits it was initially a learning curve in terms of handling budgets and managing men plus the appropriate administration of health and safety and staff training regimes, for example, Shaun says "it can be done with the right level of support and coaching". This included a management development programme with a personal consultant, plus a course by people performance consultant Frank Newberry. These were complemented, in terms of groundsmanship skills, by the IOG Intermediate and Advanced training courses which Shaun found "very, very useful". He continues: "I must say I've also been very privileged to work with some of the top head groundsmen in the horse racing industry and I have gained a lot of knowledge from them. Also, The Jockey Club's seminars for groundsmen are also useful for knowledge gaining and sharing – as is the Racecourse Association's seminar for head groundsmen." " Our obvious priority is the track and we've made a number of changes " Changing tack The result is a case of continual improvement at the racecourse. "Our obvious priority is the track and we've made a number of changes over the years to improve standards. For example, based on annual agronomy reports and soil analyses, as well as trials with a number of different brands, we've changed the fertiliser regime and we think we've found the ideal combination, thanks to the help of Sherriff and Headland Amenity. We will carry on with the soil analyses and adjust if required. "Also, four years ago we replaced the traditional fescue-rye sward with a ryeonly mix to obtain improved wear tolerance – using DLF's MM Winter Sports and ProMaster 79 seeds. In addition, White Moss Eco's Newbury Winter mix is applied as a divot mix. "In terms of annual maintenance, between the end of May to August [when there are no race meetings] all fences are removed/rebuilt and the track is 'scalped' then harrowed three/four times before receiving a feed of Headland's MultiGreen. The turf is then kept low at 35 mm until about four weeks before the first race when it receives an iron feed (which is carried out in conjunction with weed spraying), to ensure the grass looks immaculate. Cutting height is then raised to four/five inches." t including the Scouts Jamboree, which is held there every four years, when 2,400 children and 800 adults camp on the site for two weeks. The groundscare team's remit also includes looking after the racecourse's lawn areas, flower beds and surrounding shrubs/trees, as well as its stables and saddling boxes plus the adjacent rugby pitches "which are basically just regularly slit and mowed", Shaun adds. Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions

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