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Jane Thomas

Ready To Run

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Far End Farm’s Jane Thomas

Having been a licensed trainer for a decade from 1990 to 2000, it is difficult not to say that Jane is an ‘old hand’ at what she does, but she certainly knows her way around a pedigree page, as well as how to produce a good, sound individual that will be a rewarding prospect well beyond the sale ring.

About Jane

Jane grew up in the South of England and says one day she decided “horses were the way to go.” She spent five years working for renowned top horseman David Morley on a spelling farm as well as with polo ponies, mucking out stables and working from the bottom up to be manager.

Then, deciding the weather wasn’t for her, at age 23 she packed her bags and set off to see the world. After time in the USA, she arrived in Africa, met a husband and by her own admission “got stuck in Mooi River.” She’s been here ever since.

Jane took out an open trainer’s license, training off her Far End Farm in Mooi River from 1990 – 2000, before shifting her focus back to pre-training. “I used to drive horses all the way to Greyville and I’d be driving home at 2am with young son Luke in tow. I decided it was ridiculous and have been pre-training since 2000. Then I realised what nice horses other people had to work with!”

Success stories

Hill Fifty Four wins the 2014 J&B Met

Hill Fifty Four wins the 2014 Met

Previous Far End graduates include the likes of Warning Zone, Count The Money, Urubamba, Bedloes Island, Fighting Warrior, Warm White Night, Wylie Hall, Hill Fifty-Four, Afrikaburn, It’s My Turn and Zodiac Ruler to name but a few. “I’ve worked with some really smart horses and I’m really proud that a lot of my graduates have gone on to win Group 1’s, but when you work with those types of horses, it really makes your job easy.”

Jane’s Philosophy

Jane learnt her breaking in skills at a pre-training yard in her native England and has adapted it to Africa. “Certain things that were done in England can’t be done in Africa, so I’ve adapted a way that works for Thoroughbreds here. My process is done slowly, over 3-4 weeks, we mouth a horse properly and teach it to accept the bit and go forwards happily and strengthen the topline.” They do their basic work in the round pen teaching directional aids and do the initial backing in a ring as well. “We rarely have horses bucking their riders off on the first ride, because by the time we get on, they’re fully prepared for it. On the whole, it’s a gentle, easy process for the horses.”

With these Ready To Run sales, one has to be careful that they’re not ‘Ready To Retire’ sales. When you’re working with young horses, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re not just keeping them sound for the sale. The most important thing is to produce a sound, confident horse at the sales for the buyer to see.”

“It’s about being ready mentally as well as physically.You can’t force them to do it – your job is to give them confidence and be sound for the gallops and then you’ve got to allow them to move out by themselves. They just need to show their action and it should be about bringing them on with confidence and allowing the horse to tell you what they’re ready to do. It’s the same as I say in pre-training – you have to let the horse tell you what he’s ready to do.”

“I trained off this farm from 1990 – 2000 and prep my horses on the same tracks I trained on. I’ve got grass and dirt and a lot of undulating hills, which helps strengthen a horse. I’m a great believer in hill work and developing a strong topline and all my tracks have a gradual incline. I don’t do any full speed work here – it’s all buildup work and everything I do is geared towards conditioning a horse correctly for the rigours of full training.

Clientele

Jane with 'sidekick' Emma Rorke

Jane with ‘sidekick’ Emma Rorke

“Fred Crabbia has been very good to me and I help him look for horses. Emma (Rorke) is my sidekick at sales. I love looking at horses and do a lot of short listing for people and it’s fun to do. A lot of good trainers ask for my opinion. I’m really lucky. My work is my passion and my hobby turned into my work. I think horse people are some of the luckiest in the world.”

Is it hard being a woman in a man’s world? “You need to be tough and professional in this game, but once you’re here it’s great. I’ve spent 30 years in this industry and work with some really good friends who have always supported me and treated me like an equal. Horse people are all a bit weird anyway, but we’re all exactly the same – we’ve all got the same glitch in our personality to make us go near a horse!

2016 Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run

Yellow Star Ready To Run gallops

This year’s Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run will be held at Randjesfontein

Jane is consigning one of her largest Ready To Run drafts for the 2016 CTS Emperor’s Palace Ready To Run Sale and is looking forward to the new venue. “In a way it’s easier that it’s all at Randjes this year and we don’t have the gallops at Summerhill and then the trip to Johannesburg for the actual sale and can get it all out of the way on one trip. It’s the first time the horses will be galloping on the polytrack, so I’ll be going up a week early to let my horses practice and get used to it. We don’t want any frights on gallops day. It’s going to be interesting to see how the poly affects things and will be interesting to see what the viewers see on the polytrack.”

Jane is usually on her own at sales as someone has to stay at home to manage the farm. This is ably done by her stalwart manager, Lisa Hattingh. This year, with 44 it is more of a challenge. Luckily she’s got an extra bit of help. “Equine physiotherapist Beth Shaw does all the work on my farm and I was crying about how I was going to manage the sale this time round so she’s sending some of her students for work experience. I’m really looking forward to working with them. They’re usually on the fixing end of everything – it will be nice for them to see where things all start. They’ll learn about the sales and help me manage at the same time. I’m sorted for the actual gallops and have very good grooms – my main guy Stephan has been with me for 30 years and all my riders are very good – the difficult part is potential buyers arriving all at once wanting to view horses, so it’s more to help with showing horses, but they’ll be on hand to sort out any problems.”

Draft

Jane Thomas

“I’ve got some really smart sorts”

I’m really lucky and have got some really smart sorts. The pedigree pages look good and physically they’re a really good group as well, so I think I’ve got the strongest draft by miles.”

“It’s hard to choose a standout, but obviously one can’t go wrong with a Dynasty. I’ve got 2 on the sale – Lots 106 and 127. The colt is a nice horse and the filly is beautiful – a real racehorse.” And for those whose budget doesn’t quite stretch that far, she recommends having a look at her Irish Flame colt (lot 36). “Another really nice horse. He’s sound, has a nice temperament and likes to lead the string. A more economical way to get Dynasty blood?” she suggests.

“I’ve got two Captain Al’s (lots 182 & 215) who would be ideal for either the Sprint or the Ready To Run Cup. There’s a very well-bred Var filly (lot 87) from the family of Capetown Noir, I’ve got some super Kahals, and then I’ve been lucky and have a good crop of imports. Probably the most precocious is the Lope de Vega, who can skip along nicely. I always try and pick one. When I prepped Red Barrel for sale, he was my pick of the bunch, so I always try and be clever and see if I can pick the one that will win the race. Of course, it’s all good in hindsight!”

She also singles out the Bywords for praise. “They’re so easy to work with. I’m not sure they will be right for the sprint – they seem more classic types – but it’s nice to have horses with such good temperaments – it makes the job a lot easier.”

“I’ve definitely got a good few for that sprint race and I’d recommend taking a look at Lots 123 and 169, who are both precocious speedballs, but there’s everything from a Poet’s Voice, to Fastnet Rock to Curved Ball, so it’s a nice spread and there’s a bit of everything.”

Asked if she’s not a little nervous of the BSA November Mixed sale scheduled just beforehand, she says, “It’s not ideal, but hopefully people will be looking at my string first – I think mine are worth the wait!”

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