Haddon Training’s Lead Developer (Racing)

At Haddon Training, we believe that all our staff should not only be qualified in their area of expertise but also have real grass-roots experience in their chosen field.  Amateur jockey and qualified saddler Sam Davies-Thomas is the epitome of this.

We catch-up with Sam to discuss his background in the industry, why he choose to initially become an apprenticeship Trainer-Coach and what motivates him as our Lead Developer of Racing.

How did you start in the industry?

I have been involved in the equine industry all my life. I followed my mum around the showing circuit from a young age from the Royal International Horse Show to Horse of the Year Show. From a young age, I knew I wanted to be a jockey; I started out at Jonjo O’Neill Racing at Jackdaws Castle learning the trade and became hooked.  The racing family is huge and a dream to be a part of – since then I have never looked back.

Can you tell us about your personal experience of apprenticeships?

I moved on from Jonjo O’Neill Racing, to begin riding in point to points and I learnt a great deal with Caroline Bailey in Northamptonshire. I began my career as a point to point jockey there, alongside completing my Level 2 Apprenticeship in Racehorse Care, which allowed me to develop my knowledge whilst race riding. I learnt the basics in racehorse management and care which gave me a solid foundation for the future. Whilst riding and still based with Caroline, I then completed my Level 3 Apprenticeship in Racehorse Care; this gave me deeper knowledge and support for my progression to a Head Lad in the future.

What did you do after completing your Racehorse Care apprenticeships?

After I completed these, I enrolled in Haddon Training’s Saddlery Apprenticeship, which is run in partnership with Master Saddler, Mark Romain MBE.  I was based at Harley Equestrian and able to spend some study time at the Saddlery Training Centre in Salisbury with Mark. My love for work-based training continued throughout this apprenticeship because it allowed me to learn from experienced saddlers and develop my skills, all whilst continuing my race riding.

How did you progress once you had completed your Saddlery apprenticeship?

Once qualified as a saddler, the addiction to the racing life would not budge. So when the opportunity arose to become Head Lad at one of the leading up and coming National Hunt yards in the country I could not say no! I started at Dan Skelton’s as Head Lad in 2016 and I know this would not have been possible without all my work-based training through apprenticeships earlier in my career.  Still race riding I managed to ride over 120 winners and leading hunter chase rider in 2017.

What made you decide to focus on teaching, and the development of this, for other jockeys?

Whilst completing my Saddlery apprenticeship, I got to know some of the Haddon Training team and I thought the company values were great; it’s got a long history of training and the learner is always at the centre of everything they do.  I have seen the struggle within racing for training and retaining staff and I realised that by working in training I could help develop the next generation.  With Haddon Training, I am able to pass on my first-hand knowledge and experience to apprentices, which is going to help build the future of the sport.  My love for racing and the industry as a whole is what motivates me; I am so glad I can help others develop in the sport.

If you would like to find out more about our racing apprenticeships follow the links below or simply contact our friendly team to discuss

Racing in England
Racing in Wales