Using social media as a force for good to link the public with the grassroots of the racing and breeding industry has proven a monumental success
Words: Sally Ann Grassick
So many of us owe so much to the world of racing and breeding racehorses. We all have childhood memories, favourite family moments, incredible travel experiences, lifelong friends and even marriages that have stemmed from our involvement in this incredible industry. Each generation, however, is ultimately just custodian of this great sport and it is our duty to pass it on in as healthy a state as possible to those following behind us.
Our industry has so much to offer to the wider world, but we have a tendency to keep looking inwards and forget that we need new generations of fans and enthusiasts in order for it not just to survive but also to thrive. This issue is not just specific to one country but affects our sport on a global level.
This is where the positive side of social media, which is often overshadowed by the darker negative side, can come into play to our advantage. There is a world of social media users out there, across different platforms. who could discover all the positive stories that our industry has to offer but are instead being bombarded with negativity around events such as the Grand National or Melbourne Cup.
For too long also, top trainers and jockeys have been the only faces that the public associate with racing, but what would happen if we pulled back the curtain and showed fans aspects of the industry that they may never have had access to before? What if racing provided a bridge between newcomers to the sport and the people who are the backbone of the industry, people they could ask the questions of that they have always wanted to know the answers to? What if we used the hard-working people behind the scenes to flood social media with positive messages about the racing and breeding industry? I personally think the sport can only benefit by sharing those amazing stories with the public.
In November 2019, myself and a group of other passionate professionals, who fulfil a variety of roles within the industry, launched Thoroughbred Tales. This social media project, which centres mainly around Twitter, aims to have different guest hosts from all areas of racing and breeding around the world to showcase the high level of care given to thoroughbreds at every stage of their lives, as well as the hard work and dedication that goes on daily behind the scenes.
Each guest host posts photos and videos to our Twitter account throughout their week explaining their daily routine and encouraging followers to get involved and ask them questions. Our very first ever host was Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Employee of the Year 2019 in Great Britain, Catch Bissett, who set the bar extremely high when she showed followers what it is like behind the scenes at Nick Alexander’s yard in Scotland. Since then Thoroughbred Tales followers have travelled virtually around racing yards and stud farms in Ireland, the UK, Dubai, France, USA and Australia. Our hosts have varied from high-profile racing names, such as Joseph O’Brien, Tweenhills Stud and York Racecourse, to the lesser-known racing professionals who nonetheless soon felt like friends after a week in their company.
We have met not only trainers, jockeys and stud farm staff but also saddlers, syndicate managers, photographers, osteopaths, vets and racing managers. We have also been exposed to institutions like the National Horseracing College and the Irish National Stud Management Course, both of which are producing future generations of racing professionals.
Our Twitter followers have since grown to over 11,000 and our Thoroughbred Tales team has developed too with the addition of some new, young passionate members from the next generation. Because of that, we now have a dedicated website, weekly podcast, where we chat in more detail to each host, and YouTube channel, which features a recap video of each host’s “week in tweets”. We have even taken the plunge into the world of TikTok, where videos from the Thoroughbred Tales archives have been recycled and are now being viewed by a new, younger audience. We have already amassed over 2000 followers, 50,000 likes and more than 330,000 views.
None of this would have been possible without our wonderful hosts, who have each given up a week of their time to bring the public behind the scenes but in return many have gained not only new followers but also potential clients. So many people have invested their time in this social media project with the desire to contribute something back to the industry that has given them so much over the years. This project can only work with the help of industry professionals volunteering to host the account and helping us to spread the word about Thoroughbred Tales to their own followers.
So, let’s make the people at the heart of racing and breeding the real celebrities of our sport.