The impact of COVID-19 on staff working practices in UK Horseracing

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation at Conference


Introduction: As a result of COVID-19, the UK horseracing industry was required to cease all racing activity in March 2020. The pandemic has resulted in significant changes to working practices for staff within training yards, and those working in office-based roles, such as racecourse administration however little is known about the impact of lockdown on staff.

Research Aims: This study aimed to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on staff working practices across UK horseracing during the initial lockdown phases.

Methods: A total of 287 participants, across 10 sectors of horseracing industry (i.e. training yards, stud, racecourse), completed an online survey about working conditions, consisting of 18 closed, and three open questions, during the initial phase of lockdown. Chi Squared tests for independence were used to identify associations between employment status, racing sector, working conditions and job security. Binary logistic regression was undertaken to determine predictors for working during the pandemic within the horseracing industry.

Results: 53.7% (n=154) of staff were still working during lockdown. Administrative staff were six times more likely to be working than racing grooms (p=.018, CI: 1.372 – 30.218). Flat grooms were twelve times more likely to be working (p=.000, CI: 3.437- 46.228), and breeding staff sixteen times more likely to be working, compared to jump grooms (p=.002, CI: 2.890-99.367). 93.2% (n= 136) of staff reported changes to their workplace (biosecurity and social distancing), and 87.8% (n= 115) perceived these as effective. The most common changes were increased distancing measures, additional handwashing facilities and restrictions of onsite staff numbers. There was a significant association between sector and perception of changes made,  (52, n = 131) = 92.996, p<0.001, with flat grooms more likely to report changes as less effective.

Of those staff not working, 42.6% were furloughed by their employer (n=72/130). A significant association was identified between sector, and being paid during lockdown,  (36, n = 120) = 106.586, p = .000, with staff working on jump and mixed training yards more likely to be unpaid during the pandemic. 67.2% (n=193) of all horseracing staff reported a positive perception of their job security in three months’ time. Trainers and grooms were significantly less likely to report a positive perception of future job security,  (52, n = 287) = 75.653, p = .018, and those in part-time, self-employed or casual roles were significantly concerned about job security,  (12, n = 287) = 44.266, p<0.001. Regression analysis determined perception of job security was a significant predictor for the likelihood of working during lockdown (p<0.001).

Discussion and conclusions: Stud grooms and administrative staff were more likely to be working during lockdown, due to the foaling season or working from home. Flat grooms perceived changes at work to be less effective than other sectors, possibly due to continued high demands at work with more horses in exercise than jump or mixed yards. The industry needs to consider those workers who were unpaid during lockdown, with further considerations made to aid perceptions of job security for all staff.
Period15 Jul 2020
Event titleUK Equine Student Conference : Virtual event 2020
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • COVID-19
  • pandemic
  • equestrian
  • horseracing
  • employment