An Interview with Former Racing Groom Maddie Webster
Updated: Mar 8
‘I followed after my mum, who was very horsey,’ states Maddie Webster, before reflecting on a very successful career as a racing groom. Whilst in her first fulltime job in racing, Maddie was shortlisted for the Best Newcomer category in the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards. A few years later, she looked after the fantastic Baby Run who won a Foxhunter at three major Festivals. Maddie also looked after Beat The Boys, who won a Rehearsal Chase in 2009, Billie Magern – a half-brother to the talented Ollie Magern, Bermuda Point, Mahogany Blaze, a young Astracad and Cootehill, who had successful summer campaigns. Maddie also won many best-turned-out awards from the big meetings, including the Cheltenham Festival.
Poles apart from the world of racehorses that Maddie once worked in is her beauty business Personal Touch, a boutique salon based in the heart of the Cotswolds in the picturesque Guiting Power. With over eleven years in the beauty industry, she is a fully qualified Level 4 Skin Therapist using world leading technology and medical grade skincare and Level 3 Sports Massage Therapist. Maddie was a finalist in the Mobile Nailist of the Year awards in the 2018 Scratch Stars Awards.
Maddie, 35, was born in High Wycombe and then ‘I moved around a lot’, she laughs, having lived in Blunsdon, Lechlade and Fairford. She now lives down the road from her salon, with her fiancé Ben Moreton, a project manager, along with their two whippets, Beau and Minnie.
Did you have a horsey childhood?
Yes, my first pony was Rosie who was a naughty gymkhana pony. After her, I had Percy. I didn’t like jumping on either of those two because I fell off all the time. Then I got Flint, who I loved jumping.
How did you get into racing?
I skived off school a lot and used to help out at a yard in the village, which pre-trained racehorses for Richard Phillips – and it went from there.
What trainers have you worked for?
Unsurprisingly, my first job in racing was for Richard Philips. I went there on my sixteenth birthday as a stable lass, and it gave me a good grounding.
Then, I went to the late David Wintle’s, where I did a bit of travelling work. I left after a few years and went to work in the Talbot pub in Stow-on-the-Wold; I still lived at the yard and rode out one lot every morning to pay for my keep. When DJ retired, I obviously lost the accommodation, so I had to go back into racing, otherwise I would have been homeless. I went down the road from DJ’s former yard to Nigel Twiston-Davies’ and started the following day.
What was your favourite racecourse?
Ludlow was always my favourite, it wasn’t too far but far enough not to be back for evening stables and you always got a full cooked breakfast when you arrived and a pork roll when you left.
What was your favourite canteen?
Ludlow for the reasons above. I think we had it better back then, the stories you hear now about the racecourse canteens are disgusting!
2010 Cheltenham Foxhunters'
Photo Credit: Famous Racehorses
What was your favourite racehorse?
Baby Run, the best horse I looked after. He may have pulled my arms out every day on the gallops, always leaving me red faced when he would run off with me in front on any press days. He gave me my best days in racing.
Memories of the gorgeous and talented Baby Run
What were your best days in racing?
Having Baby Run in ‘my’ string meant I was very fortunate to win races on the big days. He won the Foxhunters' at Punchestown, Cheltenham and Aintree. The best day of all was in 2010, when we had the most shocking week at Cheltenham prior to Gold Cup Day, where we then had three winners, starting with Imperial Commander in the Gold Cup. Baby Run won the Foxhunters' with Sam and then Pigeon Island took the Grand Annual – that is a day I will never forget; that night however was gone the following day!
What did you love about working in racing?
The family you create, living and working with the same team, you really end up being in your own little world. The horses: being able to look after such amazing animals, winning races no matter how big or small, they made the hard work worthwhile.
What didn’t you love about working in racing?
Getting frost bite on my toes one particularly cold winter. I am reminded everyday how hard it was, my red weathered cheeks are a result of working outside in freezing, wet, windy conditions, as are my fat toes!
How do you reflect back on your time working in the racing yards?
It was great fun, really hard work but it was a rewarding industry to work in. I was lucky to achieve the racing dream of leading up big race winners, I made some amazing friends who are now like family.
How has working in racing changed since you were a groom?
Nowadays, grooms don’t muck out half as many horses, don’t ride out half as many horses, get a lot more time off and get paid a lot better – the generations' work ethic has certainly changed. There’s now support from the likes of Racing Welfare and NARS – we didn’t even know they existed back then.
with Beat The Boys
What was the best racing party you attended?
Celebrating the treble at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010…or in Naas having had a winner at Punchestown…actually, I can’t choose between those two and I certainly can’t remember anything after Aintree!
What was your worst day in racing?
The first was when Sam fell off Baby Run first time in the Aintree Foxhunter’s and then Willie falling off him at the last at The Festival. I was very fortunate never to lose a horse at the races during my career and for that, I am very grateful.
Please detail your job at Cheltenham Racecourse:
I was there for five years, working in multiple departments. Originally, I covered someone’s maternity leave and was kept on at the end of it. I’ll always be grateful for the chance I was given by Peter McNeile and Rebecca Davies, nee Morgan, after Cathy Twiston-Davies championed my hiring.
During my interview, Peter gave me a typing test as I had massively over exaggerated my ability on my CV, it’s safe to say I didn’t even finish typing the paragraph he gave me before the interview finished! My eventual role was managing the trade stands in the shopping village and coordinating Sponsorship for Carey Weeks, nee Buckler. On race days, I organised the trophies. In my first year, the goblet for the winning trainer of the Gold Cup was stolen before the race - this had never happened before or since for that matter!
with Billy Magern
What other roles have you had in racing?
On leaving Cheltenham Racecourse, I started my beauty full time but then Vix Bowen-Jones called me to say there was an ideal job available for a racing secretary for Kim Bailey. I did just under five seasons in that job, only leaving when my beauty business got too busy to manage both.
Please describe the role of a racing secretary:
The racing secretary role at Kim’s was very different to a normal secretary role, luckily for me Kim was very hands on and took care of entries, declarations, Sandie Wilkinson managed all accounts, so it was really just running all the admin in the office – writing the newsletters, putting up the social media, taking photos and videos, updating the website, health and safety, insurances and organising the annual owners’ lunch and brochure. Plus, I cooked breakfast for owners and visitors, but I would always try and book them in on a weekend first to get out of doing it!
What made you retrain in another profession?
Racing is a hard industry, a fantastic one to be in when you are young but I was getting to the stage of needing something to fall back on. I was still at Nigel Twiston-Davies’ when I went to the Cotswold Beauty Academy but he gave me every Monday off, but I had to muck out and ride out two lots before I went.
What do you love being a beauty therapist?
I enjoy making people feel good about themselves. I’m a perfectionist, which suits the beauty industry. I’m always training – there’s always so much to learn and no day is ever the same. What I do know is that it’s also hard work, like racing but it is very rewarding, especially when you are doing it for yourself, I love everything about it. I love that quote, ‘If you love your job, you never work a day in your life’ and I’ve done that, that’s me.
Favourite drink: Amaretto and lemonade
Favourite meal: Pizza.
Favourite snack: Chocolate.
Favourite holiday destination: Cornwall.
Favourite pastimes: Going on long walks with my dogs, running, reading books and papers on anatomy.
Parading Baby Run down The Hollow Bottom pub - all three Cheltenham Festival
winners went and then the celebrating continued!