I AM almost embarrassed to admit how often I win raffle prizes.
Countless boxes of chocolates, bottles of cheap wine and shower gel are tactfully re-gifted as my numbers come up time and time again.
Friends win trips to New York; the Happy Moonraker wins a hair-do.
The best prize by far has been when I won a voucher giving me a morning for four people on the gallops with Seamus Mullins, the racehorse trainer, followed by breakfast in his office.
As well as jumping up and down with delight when my number was called, I spent the next three weeks gripped by excitement at the prospect of redeeming my prize.
I carefully chose the three friends most likely to appreciate the opportunity of coming with me.
On the appointed morning we arrived at Seamus’s Wilsford stables and were greeted with a warm welcome and mugs of real coffee.
We were encouraged to wander wherever we wanted; we asked countless questions of grooms, jockeys and any other luckless people who got in our way.
We were suitably horrified to learn about the dietary regime and lifestyle of a tall, lanky young jockey with a constant weight problem.
I think we met all 49 horses in training, and like humans, some were more sociable than others.
It was then time to pile into the 4WD and head up to the gallops where the four of us watched as Seamus discussed training and tactics with riders and with his assistant, Charlie Brown.
A young mare had fallen on her last outing at the races so we stood by in silence as her confidence gradually increased every time she took a fence.
All the horses looked fit, alert and interested in what they were doing.
There was no sign of sentimentality though, just a great concern for their health and well-being.
Seamus explained that, unlike most other trainers he knows, he sees all the horses twice a day in the stables as well as on the gallops, and ensures that he gives the final feed at midnight.
Returning to the yard after the schooling session we were treated to a superb breakfast, courtesy of the versatile Andrew and Charlie, and the chance for more discussion.
Seamus admitted that he doesn’t normally have more than tea and toast in the mornings so it was a treat for him too.
He then hurriedly left for the races at Newbury, as the four of us mulled over our fascinating morning in the company of a dedicated team of professionals, both human and equine.
It was all so much more memorable than yet another scented candle.
- Seamus Mullins and his staff hold the annual open day at Wilsford Stables on Sunday 1st November between 10.30am and 12.30pm in aid of Racing Welfare and Salisbury District Hospital’s Stars Appeal.