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Grooming Mr P for the National

Mr Pointment and groom Natalie Griffiths
Griffiths looks after Mr Pointment for Paul Nicholls

Some jobs are mundane, some are glamorous and some, such as stable lad, have the reputation for just sheer hard work.

Natalie Griffiths, 24, is in her first season at champion trainer Paul Nicholls's Somerset yard and is the lass in charge of Grand National hopeful Mr Pointment.

Here, she talks BBC Sport through a typical day in her life at the country's top jumps stable as Gold Cup-winning trainer Nicholls targets a first National victory.


0605: Alarm goes. Out of bed by about 20 past - I'm definitely a snoozer. A quick wash of the face, see to the dog and then straight into the car. There's no time for tea.

0640: Get to the yard - I only live a couple of minutes away. Grab my wheelbarrow and tools and go straight to "Mr P" to say hello.

He comes across as grumpy but he's not, he's a big softy. There's always a little nose wiggle when I walk into the yard. He knows who I am. He's a lovely horse with no quirks.

First job is mucking out - removing the mess and wet hay. I'll rearrange his bed, make sure he's got fresh hay and a good covering of shavings to roll around on and check he's warm enough. Also top up his water bucket before switching off the light. Let him snooze for about another half an hour.

Mr Pointment and groom Natalie Griffiths
Mr Pointment is generally a 16-1 chance for the Grand National

Then it's on to Ocean du Moulin, a nice little horse I look after, followed by Maradema and finally Nanga Parbat.

Everyone's in at about the same time so I'll know if I'm getting behind. If there are any spares, say if people are racing, I might look after their horses too.

0730: Meet up in the lads' room to grab a coffee and have a catch-up. The riding-out board comes out about 0745. This tells you what lots you are on - ie which horses you are riding and when.

0800: Get a leg-up for first lot and find out from Paul whether I'm in the yard, in the lanes or out on the gallops. Either way, we're out for just over an hour. All the horses are warmed up and cooled off well so they don't get muscle problems.

0910: Breakfast - a bagel and a cup of coffee. Then usually up to Highbridge [Nicholls's satellite yard] where the younger horses are.

0945: Get tacked up and pull out. The babies are quite exciting to ride and a bit more lively. There's a lot more people falling off which is great fun. And it tends to be the boys because they can't ride!

1100: Back to the main yard to ride out with the third lot. I never ride Mr P, though. He's quite a big horse and he's carrying a big weight for the National so he needs to be carrying more than 8st 4lb ie me. Dominic Williams rides him and he gets on with him quite well.

1215: Ready for lunch. Go home, walk the dog and have a nap.

We have no social life in this job

Natalie Griffiths

1500: Back to the yard and straight to Mr P. Groom him to take the sweat marks off and make sure his tail is nice and smooth. The gallops stick to their heels so I clean them up, then rug him up well to keep him warm.

Spend 20 minutes with each horse, mucking them out, putting in fresh bedding and scrubbing their water buckets.

1700: Meet outside the feed room. Mr P loves his grub and always gets fed first out of my horses otherwise he screams and shouts at me. He gets a couple of scoops of "supers" [race nuts, or pellets, comprised of wheat, barley, soya, oats, molasses, vitamins, minerals and salts] and he likes his chaff - basically cut up grass.

During the off-season, "supers" are replaced by a different composition of race nut known as "lay-off".

606: DEBATE
Guru_Poodle

Head lad Clifford Baker will also have given him one bowl of race nuts about 6am and another at lunchtime. He drinks about 12 gallons of water a day.

Then I'll make sure he's nice and warm and turn of his light.

1730: Finish tucking in my other horses and make sure they are all happy and warm. Then it's off home to see the dog.

2100: Lights out. At the beginning and end of the season everyone is raring to go but in the middle we're just knackered and in bed as early as possible. We have no social life.

For Aintree, we'll go up the day before. He'll have already been fed when I get to him early in the morning and I'll take him for a walk and give him a pick of grass.

I'll groom him and then sit outside his box very nervous. For the National we'll pull out about an hour before the race. He's a big horse so if he wanted to be a pain he could but there's no nastiness about him so leading him out is hassle-free.

He loved it around Aintree last time he was there [when winning the Becher Chase in November] and we're quite excited about him. Hopefully, he'll be leaving as a winner but I'll just be glad if he jumps around and comes home.

Natalie was talking to BBC Sport's Rob Hodgetts




see also
Grand National on the BBC
14 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
Quiz the racing team
29 Mar 07 |  Horse Racing


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