WHEN Edwin Tuer retired from farming, he decided he needed a hobby.
With his 60th birthday approaching, he could have chosen something sedate – gardening perhaps, or maybe a bit of DIY. Instead, he opted for racehorse training. So much for winding down and taking it easy.
“At least it gets me out of the house,” joked Tuer, now 71 and in charge of a 15-strong string at his stables in Birkby, near Northallerton. “There’s nothing worse than sitting around doing nothing and I was always determined I wouldn’t do that.
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“I’d been ready to pass the farm over to my son (Grant) for a while, and when the foot and mouth struck (in 2001), that was probably the signal that the time was right.
“I rode ponies as a kid, and we had a couple of point-to-pointers in the late 1980s because Grant used to like to ride. I applied for a permit in 1996, and that gradually progressed into a full licence.
“But things didn’t really take off until I was finished with the farming. I made the decision then to take it a bit more seriously, and here we are more than a decade later with a much bigger operation than I could have imagined.
“I still like to do as much as I can, although I had to stop riding three or four years ago – when you’re in your 70s, you don’t really bounce like you used to when you fall off.”
Instead, Tuer oversees operations from out of the saddle while his assistant, Fergus King, and full-time stable staff, Jenny Connor and Rachel Taylor, put a mixture of experienced veterans and developing youngsters through their paces.
A dual-purpose operation that increasingly leans towards the Flat, Tuer’s team ran eight different horses during the 2013 season and came up with eight winners, hardly a bad ratio of success.
“It’s a challenge to compete when you’ve got a small stable like ours,” said Tuer, whose greatest success came courtesy of Easy Terms in the Jorvick Stakes at York in 2012. “But that’s half the fun of giving it a go.
“It’s difficult taking on the big boys, but when we’re buying replacement horses, we tend to go for three-year-olds that already have a handicap mark so we can start with them right away.
“We breed some of our own horses, and we have a couple of nice youngsters we’re bringing through now, as well as some younger National Hunt horses we’ll look to run in bumpers this summer. But our experienced horses do most of the running and we’re lucky that they continue to run well.”
And while bigger yards might boast more in terms of facilities and expenditure, with just a dozen-or-so active runners to look after, Tuer can apply much more of a personal touch.
He is there when the horses leave their stables on a morning, there when they head to the gallops for their individually-tailored work routines, and there when they return for a spell in the horse walker. Then with their exercise over, he is even able to oversee their down time as they are turned out for a frolic in the field.
“We do that every day in the summer,” he said. “I suppose it wouldn’t really be practical at the bigger yards, but I like to see the horses running about in the field for a bit because I think it does them good.
“The work on the gallops is very organised, and we vary the routines depending on how close we are to a horse’s next run. But once that’s over, we let them run loose and get a bit of sun on their backs. Sometimes, that can be as good for them as anything.”
The next test of the training regime will come next week, when Tuer is likely to have runners at either Redcar, Catterick or Beverley.
Gold Show and Mystical Moment should return to the track shortly looking to build on their top-three finishes last week, while Tuer also has high hopes for Fazza, who won two races at Pontefract towards the end of last season, and Patavium, who might have turned 11, but who has not been out of the first four in his last four runs.
“Mystical Moment is in good shape,” he said. “His third at Catterick was a good run, and although he hasn’t won for a while, he’s always pretty consistent. He might go back to Catterick next week for a seven-furlong race, or we’ve got the option of running him over a mile because he’s equally comfortable with that.
“Fazza’s also going well at the minute. We wondered whether the handicapper had put him up a bit too much on the back of his runs last season, but he ran a really good race to be fourth at Redcar last week. To be honest, he probably even surprised us with how well he did there.”