Thoughts on my apprenticeship; an article written by Jo O'Neill for Haddon Training

Written by Jo O’Neill

My name is Jo and I work full time for racehorse trainer Jonjo O’Neill. I look after the horses trained from the fields – the quirky ones who often have niggly issues and love living in the field. I do all the usual duties of mucking out, feeding, rugging up just in a setting that’s muddier than up at the main yard. I am accompanied by my little Jack Russell called Daisy, who loves all the opportunities to run around! I also own my own an ex-racehorse, whom I looked after in a previous job and is largely retired now.

I have been a racing groom for much of my working life and had already studied for my NVQ Level 3 a few years ago. After which, I found there was a lack of direction and no further studying opportunities. Through Racing Welfare, I completed two online mental health courses, contributing to me becoming a qualified mental health first aider in October.

I had previous knowledge of Haddon Training because I had known colleagues in the past using them to study for their NVQs and apprenticeships, but I did not utilise their services until last year; and that occurred by chance! I was working away one sunny morning and got chatting to Trainer Coach, Dave Stratton, about my website overthestabledoor, which includes my monthly blog and lots of interviews with people within racing.  I explained my desire to further my education and Dave explained a new mentoring apprenticeship that had introduced. I jumped at the chance to start it.  Work have been very positive about me undertaking this. They have backed my learning and have given me plenty of opportunities to work alongside my mentees in the yard and also at the races.

So far, the course is going well. The learning is completed online, as well as on the job. I have a couple of younger colleagues who are my mentees and every time I mentor them, this gets logged. Dave has been very supportive and always answers the messages I send him with any queries and questions. I am finding Haddon Training great to study with because they fit assessments and learning sessions around yard duties, namely at lunchtimes. They are very understanding if I have to rearrange due to going racing and always rearrange promptly to the next available date. I have found this flexibility reassuring as it creates a positive learning environment.

I’ve enjoyed the mentoring course’s content and find it applicable to my everyday environment in a racing yard. I find that there are also some topics that crossover with my mental health courses, which is reassuring and makes it even easier to apply to real life situations.  At work, we employ a lot of younger members of staff, and I think it is very important to complete this mentoring qualification to help my new colleagues. I want them to get as much out of racing that I have done. In a big yard for some people it’s easy to feel lost and transparent and by becoming a qualified mentor, I feel I am helping and guiding them.  With a lot of colleagues, I have opportunities to put what I learn into practice.

I have found training with Haddon Training a really positive experience and I am looking forward to the remainder of my course. It is a way of improving my own skills personally, but also improving the lives of the staff in the yard.



If you would like to find out more about our Learning Mentor qualification or our racing apprenticeships in England and Wales, just contact our team today! Alternatively, you can speak with our Lead Racing Expert Sam Davies-Thomas by calling him on 01672 518455 or emailing him at