In Clare Balding’s autobiography My Animals and Other Family she relates the story of her father, a renowned horse trainer, telling an owner after Mrs Thatcher’s 1979 election victory that “it’s going to take a while to get used to a woman running the country”. The horse owner was the queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II.
Balding’s book also acts as an introduction to how training yards used to work. “Some trainers now use a computer program to suggest every horse that is qualified for each race, but Dad didn’t have that luxury – nor would he have used it,” she writes. “He preferred to plan individually for every horse in the yard and write, with his all-colour Biro, the names of the horses he wanted to be entered next to the relevant races.” This is in 1990, when millions of homes and businesses had computers.
A quarter of a century has not seen the sport of kings and queens gallop ahead in adopting IT, at least not in training. A racing secretary at a leading National Hunt training yard who wished to remain anonymous told The Reg that apart from administration and a website, her organisation makes little use of technology beyond the scales used to weigh horses once a week and the blood samples, which are tested elsewhere. It makes declarations and books entries with racing administrator Weatherby’s online and it has its own website, but some trainers don’t even go this far.