'As soon as I was allowed on the track I ran to him'

Every day of the year, come rain or shine, over 6,000 dedicated stable staff provide first class care and attention to the 14,000 racehorses in training.

On Saturday, racegoers at Wetherby were afforded an emotional glimpse of the close bond that exists between racehorses and the people who care for them.

A tearful but beaming Jessica Gulrich was seen leading Ballyoptic past the stands after a fall that had resulted in the screens being erected and had many fearing the worst.

Gulrich, who is from Germany and has been with Ballyoptic's trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies for four years, reflected on an emotional day:

I watched the race on the big screen with all the other grooms and I feared the worst. As soon as I was allowed on the track I ran to him, as any of us would have done, and I was so happy he was alive.

We got the saddle off him and also the crossed noseband, and we poured water over him. It was his first fall and he was in a bit of a shock so needed time. He was a long time on the ground, and so I was really happy when he got up.

He's a little bit stiff now, as he would be, but he went out in the field and all is good. He'll be okay.

I've been in England only four years, but with horses all my life. It's mainly Flat horses at home in Germany, but I was with Christian von der Recke and so I knew something of the jumping world here.

I came here because my height made it a struggle on the young Flat horses and I thought I'd have more opportunity here.

I had Ballyoptic straight away when he came last year from Ireland and so it's my second season with him. He can be a little bit strong on the gallops but is a really nice horse and lovely to lead up.

If you work with horses you love them, and I love all of my horses. I look after Cogry, Belmount, Kerisper and Templehills, and also have two of my own horses, an ex-racehorse of Nigel's I do a bit of showjumping on, and a 25-year-old eventer.

I think of my grooming horses the same as my own two horses, and look after then as if they belong to me. I know they aren't mine, but it feels like it to me.

They're all different but I love them all the same. I'm like a mother with six or seven children. They're all special and they're all different. Some are more difficult than others, but I love them the same and treat them all as special in different ways.

First published in the Racing Post, 31st October 2016. 

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