An Interview with Andrew Reeves - Racing Groom and Author
Updated: Dec 23, 2020
Andrew ‘Andy’ Reeves is a genuine horse lover. He was raised in Luton and Milton Keynes, not having had a horsey upbringing. Yet, all this changed when Andy was a teenager. Fate intervened and his destiny became to work in the horseracing industry, alongside the thoroughbreds he grew to love. “How many people can say they follow their passion and get paid for it?” he says with a big smile. “Every day, I get to do something I love and I have the great fortune to be employed in an industry that allows me to be with horses.”
Since working in racing, Andy, 51, has led up legendary jockeys such as Pat Eddery, Peter Scudamore, Richard Dunwoody, Lester Piggott, Frankie Dettori and styled his riding on Alan Munro, copying his low riding position.
In July 2020, Andy published his autobiography entitled Living the Dream: My Life with Horses. Andy says the book “maps out my years in racing, of fond memories of horses I have cared for and ridden, the ups and downs of this lifestyle and the many opportunities it has presented to me.” Additionally, Andy has included in his book a handy list of items needed for a day’s racing and a useful glossary of everyday racing terms. He aimed to make the book “an easy read for anyone new to the equestrian lifestyle or if looking to work with horses, especially racehorses, or just to learn more about looking after their own horse.”
Andy speaks of the book’s “good reviews from those familiar with horse welfare and racing” and has hinted that he’s already been approached to write the next chapter. Will it be the first of a trilogy? Yes, it should.
How did you get into racing?
Not in a very conventional way! I didn’t feel like I was in a job I wanted to make my career. At the time I was an apprentice on a YTS scheme at a garage fitting exhausts and tyres.
I was encouraged to visit a psychic artist who used charcoal to draw out a storyline. For me, she drew a tree, a robin and a horse in a field; her interpretation was she could see me as a jockey. The idea of working with horses grew from there. I was small framed and light as jockeys needed to be. It was an easy decision to make the change, and at the age of 17 I left home for the equestrian life.
Which trainers have you worked for?
My first role was in Suffolk, for a lady owner at a livery yard, working with dressage horses, ponies and hunters. It is there that I learnt how to ride and got to go hunting as well.
My second job was in Sussex at a racing yard for horses that just race on the flat, no jumps. Here I had to learn how to ride racehorses, a very different style from the quiet, mellow hunters! One of the highlights of working here was the many winners this yard produced, including two horses that ran in Nashwan’s Derby in 1989. The yard was third in the trainer’s championship that year.
My next racing yard was in North Yorkshire where horses raced over the flat and jumps; and then later in Sussex working with Arab racehorses, again a different breed. It was here I completed an ‘Arab jockey’ course but, although I received my licence, I didn’t get to use it.
Furthest from home was a yard in Jersey, with perks such as being by the sea and no “goods tax”. It also reminded me of some lovely childhood holidays with my parents and grandparents.
I currently work for a racehorse training yard in Norfolk, where I have led up numerous horses at local racecourses and ones further afield.
What studies have you done during your time in racing?
As well as the raft of knowledge and experience I’ve gained throughout my career, I also continue to add to my academic qualifications, including an ‘Amateur Jockey’ course, horse health and well-being, NVQ and British Racing certificates.
Outside of work, I have trained in the art of Riki and Sukeme and hold a certificate of qualification for equine, dog and human healing. From an early age I had a good connection with pets, horses, and now with people. I use positive energy in my hands combined with different crystals to help with people’s and animals’ healing.
Which roles have you done in racing?
I’ve done pretty much all the roles; yard, racing, welfare and managing, but I’ve been happiest when riding.
What have been your best days in racing?
The first racehorse I cared for raced at Redcar in Yorkshire and won. Even though I wasn’t able to attend that day it was still my first winner. My favourite horse ever, a filly, raced at Carlisle and won; another of my favourite racehorses won twice at Chelmsford, one in really foggy weather! Leading up famous jockeys, like Frankie Dettori, has been a special highlight.
What is your favourite racecourse?
Ascot – I was lucky enough to lead up there and the horse won best turned out, for which I received a money prize and a glass tankard.
What is your favourite canteen?
Chelmsford – as I got a voucher that included a main course, dessert plus free tea and coffee. Canteen facilities are better all-round now as they are subsidised, whereas in the past we had to buy everything ourselves.
What is the best advice you can give?
Love the horses – do it for the love of horses, not for the money.
How did you initially come to write your book?
A good friend and I were just talking and she said, “With all you’ve done in racing, all your knowledge and information, you should write a book!” From then on, I started taking notes and it all took a year and a half to complete, and of course she received a signed copy!
Why did you write your story?
If one person gets into racing or horses, then I’ll be happy. It’s more than the money – of course, I would love to sell thousands of copies but I love to inspire others to follow their dreams.
What are your other hobbies?
Drawing, photography, football; I’ve been a Liverpool supporter since I was seven. Also fishing; the biggest I’ve caught was a 17½lb carp that took two hours to pull in.
Andy’s book is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions. Please click into www.amazon.co.uk to buy a copy!