Rachael MacLean has been the Manager of Kilgraston’s on-site Equestrian Centre for five years. She’s kept very busy, supervising the care of 25 horses and ponies and organising over 50 lessons per week, for 130 plus riders, in addition to running a full calendar of competitions and events…
“My job is full time with hours changing between term time and school holidays. I generally work Monday to Friday in a variety of shifts running between 8am – 8pm: horses don’t comply with your average working week!
Before Kilgraston, I was a freelance riding instructor, covering Perth and Kinross, where I taught a variety of clients, including pony and riding clubs.
I love my job at the School. There are not many places in the world that have so many horses and girls in the same location. It’s such a varied role: obviously I coach and coordinate all the lessons, clinics and camps, but a large part of my role is the correct implementation of Health and Safety procedures. Horse riding is a wonderful hobby but it can also be a risky one, ensuring regulations are followed is vital; rider and horse registration, parental disclaimers and livery agreements all generate a lot of essential paperwork.
My team and I always have to find the right balance between pushing the girls outwith their comfort zones, whilst keeping both horse and rider safe. Knowing the 100+ Kilgraston pupils (who regularly ride here) so well, is a vital part of the relationship between them, the animals and instructors, and leads to a great understanding among everyone.
As with the care of any animal, following a strict, daily, routine is important. Implementing rules and regular ‘hands-on’ yard duties, including mucking out, clipping, feeding and sourcing of feed, take up the majority of my working week. Budget management and the procurement and purchasing of consumables and equipment are also on-going tasks.
Last year, during the so-called ‘Beast from the East’, life in the yard was fairly challenging. Luckily Chloe, our groom, lived on-site at the time so the horses were very well cared for throughout this difficult period. We have lots of back-up plans in place for when pipes freeze, etc. It’s hard work getting 250 gallons of water out to the fields each day by hand.
However, there are also lots of highlights. A couple of years ago, the School made considerable investment in the yard, adding several new stables and storage areas, making the area a really fantastic place in which to work.
One of my favourite tasks here is sourcing suitable horses and ponies for the Equestrian Centre. It is vital to have appropriate animals and very rewarding when you find just the right one. At Kilgraston we treat each horse as an individual, getting to know their personalities and quirks and caring for their needs accordingly.
Every day of the year, the horses make me smile. Rory, one of our oldest residents, a 26 year old Highland pony, still loves a ‘Chase-me-Charlie’ competition. Usually he’s very laid back, verging on lazy, until he realises it’s a competition and springs into action, still managing to clear one metre!
Kilgraston hosts two riding competitions every year: the Scottish Schools Equestrian Championships and Kilgraston Inter Schools Hunter Trials. People come from all over Scotland so there is quite a bit of pressure to get it right. Of course, it’s hectic during the run up to, and on, the actual days, but it’s all very worthwhile.
Last year Kilgraston became an accredited Riding for the Disabled Association centre and working with the clients is very rewarding. I’m hoping to develop these sessions over the coming years and have more Kilgraston girls become involved with this fantastic charity. I also love witnessing pupils’ progress with their riding and watch their confidence grow, along with them having fun with the horses and ponies: that’s what it’s all about.
The summer months are definitely the highlight of the year for me, for the weather alone. I don’t think my job can be beaten when the sun is shining and the horses and ponies are happy doing their jobs. That said, the school’s fantastic Christmas Concert is always a highlight; it’s lovely to see the girls out of their jodhpurs and not wearing hats!”