A catch up with racing trainer and vet Ilka Gansera-Lévêque

December 13, 2017

Written by Arabella Clegg


1. How has 2017 been for you?

It’s been a good starting point for our business, we’ve been getting more horses in but have no way reached our maximum. In the yard currently there are about fifteen horses but the ideal number would be thirty plus. 
We are a diverse establishment and are working on involving new owners to build the yard up. The idea is to be out there on big race days eventually, so we continue with the day to day race meetings and build up to Saturday runners.

2. Where do you aspire to have runners?

We are so fortunate to be based in the heart of flat racing, in Newmarket. Therefore runners here are fantastic but we don’t get the big feel of it, unlike going to Royal Ascot or Epsom. The dream is to have entries and runners in Dubai and at the Breeders cup as well as in France and Germany too.

3. What has the process been to get to where you are now?

The initial horses came to us at the back end of 2012, we literally had a couple of horses. In 2015 we brought the yard and started gradually getting more horses in, we would have five to thirteen over the first year and a half.

4. What challenges have you faced so far?

Personally I feel there has been a massive hike up in business rates over the recent years, so trying to begin and maintain a well run business has been a challenge. From the day to day running of admin, staff, and recruitment as well as building the yard and trying to make a name for ourselves and create recognition. Ultimately the publicity has got to grow, after all it’s a numbers game in this industry, and so the more horses we are training and races we are entering, people will begin to notice us.

5. Tell us a little about your yard and how the horses work…

Being based at The Heath in Newmarket is spoiling, with access to the racecourse gallops daily. We can use an equine swimming pool just a few yards from us which we like to do with some horses, especially if they don’t need to be worked on the gallop quite as much.
On our yard we have an arena, this allows us to do flatwork schooling and give them a little jump or do some pole work, so this proves very useful. They will also be lunged as part of their work and use the trotting ring. It would be nice to one day to have some spa facilities for the horses.

6. How did you get in to becoming a racehorse trainer?

I was an apprentice jockey, so it has always been what I’ve wanted to do. It’s almost a natural progression to move in to the training. I have always been interested in the training side from an early age, the fitness and everything that goes in to working with racehorses.

7. How do you maintain your horses to be on peak performance?

I’m a big believer that the horses should get turn out on a daily basis, this keeps them supple and often a little less fresh.
As well as their general work they will use the haygain flexineb day to day, regardless of whether they need a medicine I will put it on the horses with just a saline wash. This initially started when I had a horse with a sinus infection that ultimately didn’t need surgery.
The horses are fed steamed hay from the steamer that is on the go 24/7 so none of them get dry or dusty hay.

8. Have you found any time to get a holiday in?

No real holiday but we did go to Sheik Mansoor Racing Festival which I suppose you could call a working holiday. We went here with the idea of going back in years to come to purchase horses, so it was great to see how it worked.

9. What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

You should row your own boat.

10. If you could have or ride any horse who would it be?

American Pharoah.

11. How do you keep fit yourself?

I love fresh and organic fruit and vegetables, so I try to ‘juice’ when I can, as well as drinking green tea as a part of my diet. Other than that I feel I work hard enough not to be too concerned, but I do enjoy cycling.
I’m a big believer of massage and physiotherapy treatment for myself as well as the horses, especially as I suffer from a tight neck and shoulders.

12. What is top of your Christmas list?

A Cartier bracelet.


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