In February, Gemma Hogg, Assistant Trainer at Micky Hammond Racing in Middleham, was crowned the Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Employee of the Year 2016, one of the most prestigious titles which can be bestowed on stud and stable staff in the UK. Eight months on, she’s still amazed at her achievement and speaks to The Horse Comes First about what it’s been like since she won, the importance of equine welfare, and next year’s awards.
Looking back to the awards ceremony in February, Gemma describes her win as “amazing. It was a dream, and a shock.” It was a big night for the Micky Hammond team who had three finalists in total. Gemma’s sister Becky Smith was nominated, along with Stable Girl and Work Rider Lauren Lucas. Gemma says: “It was a momentous occasion to have three of us nominated – we all felt very honoured”.
The finalists were joined by a number of their colleagues, as well as Gemma and Becky’s dad, who certainly had cause to celebrate when Gemma won not only the Leadership Award, but also the Employee of the Year. While they were able to stay the night in London, the team headed back up to Yorkshire in the morning, and straight into work at a race meeting at Wetherby racecourse.
Even now, people are still congratulating Gemma on her incredible achievement. She says that shortly after the awards, people she didn’t know would stop her and say well done, having recognised her in the local newspaper. She says: “One man stopped me in the Co-Op and said how much his wife loved my dress on the night.”
Along with the prestige of the Employee of the Year title, Gemma was also presented with a cheque for a staggering £40,000 - £20,000 for her, and £20,000 for her yard.
Gemma hasn’t spent all of her money yet, but she’s treated her dad to a holiday, and is also planning to take her sister to New York for Christmas shopping, which she’s really looking forward to.
The £20,000 for the yard was shared out amongst her colleagues. So far, some have used their share to go on holiday themselves, while others have spent it on smaller things like new boots.
Gemma and her sister Becky have worked together at Micky Hammond’s yard for five years, after Becky joined the yard in 2011. Gemma says that “it’s really good working together. We’ve got a strong bond – even though we fight like cat and mouse, we’ve always got each other’s back. And it was fab us both being nominated last year”.
Gemma’s role means she has the privilege of getting to know each of the 65 horses at Micky Hammond Racing. The jumpers have just come back in, and Gemma’s favourite is Skywards Reward who she describes as “the happiest horse in the world and we have lots of kisses and cuddles”.
Equine welfare is “totally paramount” for Gemma and her team. She says that “the horses are treated like royalty and they get the best of everything”. Gemma describes their horses as “so well behaved and well-mannered, and it’s hard not to want the best for them”.
Even when horses aren’t in training with them anymore, Micky Hammond and his team still love to know how they’re getting on. They are all extremely passionate about the rehoming, retraining and rehabilitation of ex-racehorses. One of their former runners, Tallulah, who raced eight times back in 2011 and 2012, is thriving in her new eventing career with Sarah Spence in Dundee, competing in Retraining of Racehorses competitions, the Blair Castle Horse Trials and the Ex Racers Club Ridden Scottish Championship Final.
Motafarred (Moto) ran in 40 races during his time at Oakwood, and has now teamed up with Gemma’s colleague Tim Jones for a new career in cross country.
Other former runners are enjoying their retirement, such as Memory Cloth who is now a very happy hacker.
Looking forward to next year, the team would love to have a runner in the Grand National. The BHA’s Chief Executive Nick Rust is one of Micky Hammond’s owners and they are working hard to secure his horse a spot in the National.
Next year will also see the 2017 Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Awards. When asked what she would say to trainers who are thinking of nominating a member of their team, Gemma said, “it takes just a little bit of time and thought to convey why people deserve to be nominated, and it’s so worth it. You make someone feel so special, so worthy and amazing.”
Gemma’s looking forward to the awards too as she’s going to be on the Judging Panel. “I’m so honoured and excited. It’s going to be surreal being of the other side of the awards this year.”
Speaking about her job and the racing industry, she said: “If you’re a horse and racing lover, you should work in the industry. It’s a lovely industry, and there’s so many options and avenues you can go down, from working in studs, to training to working at racecourses. Racing is one of the biggest employers in the country. It’s a real team effort – I couldn’t have won a leadership award without my team.”
Nominations for the 2017 Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Awards are open and will close at 5pm on Wednesday 16 November. You can submit your nomination via: