Blog - Simon Bailey, Chaplain to Horseracing

Pastor Simon Bailey, based in Newmarket, is the National Chaplain to horseracing and provides vital emotional and spiritual support to all racing staff

Pastor Simon Bailey, based in Newmarket, is the National Chaplain to horseracing and provides vital emotional and spiritual support to all racing staff, their close dependants and carers and retirees. If you need support with a life event or you need a listening ear, you can arrange a friendly chat with Simon. Fellow pastors Louise Brown and Nigel Johnson cover the West and the North of the country. Read Simon’s blog below for an insight into his imperative role in racing.

We can choose our destination: make space to embrace nature 

May 10, 2021

It’s great to be writing this blog again at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme for this year is nature which has conjured up a couple of thoughts. Firstly, when I think of nature I am automatically drawn to Psalm 23, which begins with the words, ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.’ We are fortunate enough in the U.K. to have nature all around us. We are never far away from heading off the beaten track and escaping with our own thoughts for a period of time. But for many of us it is something we don’t do a lot of. Busyness in life takes over and we often fail to make space for our own well-being.

The two verses that I’ve shared speak to me about being led. Something, or somebody is always leading us and those places we end up in can be either beneficial to our mental health or harmful. The good news is we can choose our destination. The first part of this blog would be to highlight the benefits of being in the good place. The psalm continues to say: He restores our soul. Being led to a good place, green pastures and quiet waters leads to restoration. If you are not in the good places that nature has to offer then there are many willing to lead you to an altogether different place. The harmful places are never worth visiting.

As we look again at nature it would be careless of me not to mention Mother Earth this week, albeit not the planet but the racehorse. As many of you will have watched the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket a week ago it inspired me to talk about never giving up. We celebrated another classic success for Frankie Dettori, who at 50 years of age could have been tempted to retire from racing a number of years back, having achieved much success. We often think that racing, alongside other parts of life are for the younger generations. I am not sure if I write this as someone who is getting close to the milestone of half a century of life but it inspired me to think that my greatest successes could lie in the future. To double up on this inspiration, Frankie was the youngest Classic-winning jockey from last weekend, a full 4 years younger than Kevin Manning, who won the 2000 Guineas on Poetic Flare.

So, during MHAW 2021, join with me in never giving up before it’s your time to do so. You will never know in the words of Jim Bowen, “what you could have won.” Experience brings great success. And finally, be led by those who will lead you restoration, not harm. It is easy, with experience to know the difference. If you don’t know the difference then get in touch and I will be only too happy to help.

Simon

National Chaplain to Horseracing

If you work in horseracing and you need support, do not hesitate to contact Simon on 07877 981498 or you can email him sbailey@racingwelfare.co.uk

 

Reasons To Be Cheerful

January 25, 2020

It would be safe to say that many of us will look back upon 2020 with fondness. It was a year where plans were made, then cancelled, then made again, then, well you get the idea! I’ve lost count of the times a concert that my daughter, Sarah and I, are going to has been rearranged. The latest of these dates in the end of February this year and I’m not hopeful of seeing my first live music event then either. It would be sad to write the whole year off though. Surely for most of us, even in the most difficult periods we can bring to mind a glimmer of light.

From Racing Welfare’s point of view, fundraising took on a whole new look, having to put aside the in-person activities that we took for granted. Gone were the bustling open weekends in the racing towns that attract thousands of visitors. In their place we watched virtual open weekends. We still got to look behind the scenes but did so without the bites that could come from standing too close to the horse with the, “Keep your Distance – This Horse Bites” sign right next to its stable door.

Racing staff also had the chance to show off other gifts when signing up for the Furlong Factor during last summer. For the majority of us, we still have a mindset of keeping going and making the best of a bad situation when it arises. We are left in no doubt though that 2020 was a year when many struggled and that is a struggle that is continuing into 2021. I cannot stress enough that racing has continued to raise its game where looking after staff is concerned and to urge anyone who feels that they need extra support to please get in touch.

I look forward to being able to participate in live church services, sporting events and concerts during this coming year. The thought of being with a larger group enjoying the atmosphere is something that I miss but in saying that I refer back to the Ian Dury song, Reasons to be Cheerful. One verse goes, and it is better for you that I am typing the lyrics and not singing:

A bit of grin and bear it

A bit of come and share it

You’re welcome we can spare it

Yellow socks

It’s the simple things in life that give you the most pleasure it seems and although I don’t have much to say regarding yellow socks, if that’s what adds to your happiness then it’s fine with me. My hope (yes, there’s that word again) for this year is that, for those who feel they are grinning and bearing too much at times, they will find people who have time to spare and invite them to come and share in their reasons to be cheerful.

Simon

National Chaplain to Horseracing

If you work in horseracing and you need support, do not hesitate to contact Simon on 07877 981498 or you can email him sbailey@racingwelfare.co.uk

World Mental Health Day: mental health for all

October 8, 2020

It is the time of year again that we recognise World Mental Health Day on October 10th. I stopped short at using the phrase, ‘celebrating WMH Day’ as celebration does not quite seem right. Celebrations, to my mind conjure up thoughts of winning goals, tries or races. The sense of relief and satisfaction of a job well done and the perfect outcome achieved. For every celebration there is also commiseration. The team or player that things have not gone well for are often overlooked and when it is looked at it is often from a commentary of what went wrong and who was at fault.

This last weekend I had a mixture of feelings as a sports fan. I don’t play too much sport anymore and I get my satisfaction from watching others do what I once enjoyed. From a mental health perspective, it is vitally important that we don’t pin our hopes on other people playing a big part in our own happiness. I write this wondering how many people let the results of their teams set the tone for the week. Sports Chaplaincy UK talk often of the rise in domestic abuse when the local football club loses or goes on a bad run of form. Similarly, birth rate rises occur when the local team is doing well. In general life is also the same. We can’t let our actions, good or bad be governed by outside influences.

I think it is safe to say that 2020 is a year that nobody will look back on fondly. It has been a time where confusion has reigned and, for many, a time of fear and loneliness. My hope through this summer was that the racing industry would get through it unscathed. It was good that horses were in training, even though they weren’t racing. I hoped that the racing staff in employment would keep good mental health because their situation hadn’t changed as much as people in other industries. Unfortunately, I have seen over these last months that racing staff have been just as affected by mental health issues as those in other industries. They have been affected by the fear of the present and uncertainty of the future. I have said at the beginning of this blog how important it is not to let outside influences influence how you feel, whether it be news and social media outlets, colleagues or even the club you support or the poor form of the horses in they look after.

Our job at Racing Welfare is more important than ever. The need to help racing staff seeing themselves as valued members of the sport and society is crucial to a healthy person and a healthy sport. The fight continues to get individuals to see that their happiness comes from within rather than from events that happen around them.

Simon

National Chaplain to Horseracing

If you work in horseracing and you need support, do not hesitate to contact Simon on 07877 981498 or you can email him sbailey@racingwelfare.co.uk

Mental Health Awareness Week: make kindness a habit

May 18, 2020

Does Kindness Go A Long Way? We’ve all heard of the saying, ‘an act of kindness goes a long way,’ or something to that effect. The fact of the matter is that although this statement is true, it is often the hurt or the wrongdoing that someone has caused us that sticks longer and fresher in the memory than any act of kindness that we see.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and in any other given year the Welfare Officers at Racing Welfare and myself would be visiting yards, studs and racecourses making staff aware of the potential dangers that arise from poor mental health practices. I’ve written blogs before highlighting the work done by Racing Welfare around mental health and I’m keen that this shouldn’t just be about the courses that we put on or the offer of counselling that can help individuals.

My words today are to urge you, the reader, to put past hurts behind you. Let go of the things that you can no longer do anything about and think more at this time about someone that has shown you kindness. I’ve been blown away over these last few weeks about how kind people can be. Some of you may have been on the receiving end of a food parcel that I have been dropping off at certain homes.  I have been in touch with a couple in Newmarket who simply, even though on twelve week lockdown, had more food than enough and couldn’t cancel their food hamper delivery. Having spoken to them on the phone it became clear that through their kindness, an opportunity to help others was on offer. If you’ve received some goodies over the weeks I hope you enjoyed them. Look out for me knocking on your door in the coming weeks!

I have been on the receiving end of kindness myself over the years and I’d like to finish by mentioning a couple of these times. Unfortunately, I have these experiences to mind because of sad news. You will not have heard of Doug Hamilton. Doug’s act of kindness to me in 2005 paved the way for a move to Arbroath in Scotland. Sometimes it only takes a phone call to realise that someone is looking out for you and Doug was the reason that my family and I took the decision to do ministry in a town that was unfamiliar and friendships non-existent. I owe Doug a lot for his friendship. I write these words today in the knowledge that Doug passed away earlier. I will never forget him.

Most of you will have known Jane O’Shea. Whether you’ve worked alongside Jane, especially at William Haggas’ yard or have been given a tour around yards and the National Stud by Jane you will have noticed that kindness came easily to her. Nothing was too much trouble, her knowledge of the racing industry was second to none and 24 hours in a day just wasn’t enough. We are shocked by her death which was out of the blue and far too soon, but humbled by the fact that she was a friend. Jane was above and beyond kind, she always asked about my family and was always ready with some useful advice. Those of you in the town who knew her will never forget her.

That’s what kindness does. It blows nastiness out of the water. It makes both parties feel better. ‘Be kind’ isn’t just two words to be tagged at the end of a hashtag. Being kind is an action and at its best, a continuous action. Let’s not just do kindness once. Make it a habit. In doing something kind for somebody, not only does it make them feel better, it benefits you too. That’s what Doug and Jane had in common. Kindness was what they did. I’m a better person because of them both.

Simon

National Chaplain to Horseracing

If you work in horseracing and you need support, do not hesitate to contact Simon on 07877 981498 or you can email him sbailey@racingwelfare.co.uk

Coronavirus: I want to carry faith and hope, not fear and gloom

March 25, 2020

Quite a time to be writing my next blog. With the news changing daily it seems we just about have enough time to get to grips with what’s going on, for it then to change again the following day.

Isolation gives you time to ponder what’s going on and what’s important. It seems no one likes to live in times where we are not in control. We’ve seen on the news that human nature goes after the things that we can control to counter act the stuff we can’t. For example, we can’t watch live sport but we can go to the supermarket.

It’s a lot more difficult to see where buying patterns come into the picture but what we’ve seen on the TV and in person, at the shops, seems to be borne out of fear. You can catch fear pretty quickly. It’s possible to see others panic and do what they do. A few people panic buy which leads to more people doing the same thing. It makes no sense but they do it anyway.

Moving on from shopping habits, we now find ourselves in a form of lockdown. Racing has an unusual lockdown in the fact that it’s business as usual in the mornings but the sport ends there. No racing at present can bring its own isolation. Friendships can drift if our common interests are taken away from us.

At Racing Welfare, and as chaplain we are only too aware that we will be dealing with challenges differently to how we’ve normally come across them. With offices closed, it is vital that we strive to make sure everyone knows it is business as usual. We offer the same services as we always have. It will just look different to what it did only a few days ago. Open but at arms length. This too will pass and I look forward to the day when services resume as normal. We may even learn during this time of ways we can do things better in the future.

Pondering gives us more time to think about others. Just because we cannot gather physically doesn’t mean we can’t get together. If anyone needs help, please give us a call. Either me personally or the Racing Welfare team.

Finally, I’m always intrigued how the media focuses on specific words in times of trouble. If I had a pound for every time I’d heard the words ‘carry’ or ‘carrier’ recently, I’d have enough money to buy some toilet roll. No one wants to be a carrier right now, but I do. I want to carry faith and hope, not fear and gloom. Let’s change the atmosphere around our lives. I’d rather hang around people that I can catch positivity from than hang around those who project fear and panic. Yes, it can be scary but let’s get through this together. Although we are living through social distancing, let’s keep in touch in with one another and be encouragers. Let me know how you’re doing.

Simon

National Chaplain to Horseracing

If you work in horseracing and you need support, do not hesitate to contact Simon on 07877 981498 or you can email him sbailey@racingwelfare.co.uk

Life, good and bad, is better when it’s shared

February 5, 2020

The end of 2019 seems a way off now. It’s good to look back on a year and see how far we’ve come. There is much that goes on in a racing year and it seems that once we’ve got through one week we’re looking at a full calendar for 2020. Before we talk about things new I’d like to thank everyone who has made 2019 the year it was. I never think about years being great or bad as we all have a mix of the good and not so good throughout the year. The blessing is having people who will share our good days and bad, helping to share the load when things get rough.

In racing, we remember Robert Alner, James Banks, Mark Monkhouse and Patricia Hughes who have recently passed away. It’s important in both my chaplaincy, and within Racing Welfare that support is in place for when loved ones need the extra help.

On a brighter note, one of the highlights of the run in to Christmas is the Carol Concert at Tattersalls. It was a huge success again in 2019. My hope is always to draw a crowd that brings the racing community and wider Newmarket community together for a fun evening. The time given by Fairstead House School, Newmarket Town Band and this year, Newmarket Academy, plus special guest, Lilli Hines, made it a night to remember. I’m still being stopped in the street by people who thought it was a great evening. We are also hoping that Lilli’s performance wasn’t a one off either. I’m indebted to the time that trainers give up to take part in the evening and a special thanks must go to George Scott, Charlie Fellowes and Tony Rushmer for bringing a sample of the ‘Off the Bridle’ podcast to the concert. It went down brilliantly and I can’t thank them enough.

If you’re reading this and haven’t yet been to a carol concert, put it in your diary for this year. Time is flying and we don’t want you to miss out. The problem is how to better the last one. We can but try. Personally, I hope 2020 is a great year for everyone but if you’re struggling, please get in touch. Life, good and bad is better when it’s shared. Let’s do this year together.

Simon Bailey

National Chaplain to Horseracing

If you work in horseracing and you need support, do not hesitate to contact Simon on 07877 981498 or you can email him sbailey@racingwelfare.co.uk

 

We must not stop the push for mental health awareness in racing

October 21, 2019

There will be a theme that will hopefully run throughout this and future blogs. There can be no let up in the push to make racing staff more mental health aware. Not only does it benefit staff personally but enables us to look out for our friends and colleagues. This is an issue that won’t go away and to be a part of courses in Newmarket and Middleham during the last few months has seen racing staff taking seriously the need to be more aware of mental health issues.

The Middleham run course was done in memory of Tim Jones, a local lad who worked for Micky Hammond. Sadly, Tim lost his life in the summer. One life is one too many, so if you’re working in racing and want to know what you can do to help please get in touch and book on to a course or ask for a course to be set up near you.

I’m always pleased that the sport of cricket has close links with racing and I had the opportunity to play in the ‘Adlestrop Ashes’ held at Adlestrop Cricket Club during August, organised by racehorse trainer Richard Phillips. Any excuse to put my whites on again! It did give me more opportunities to meet new people and chat with staff who I’d never met before. From this day, new contacts have been made and visits are in the diary for the next couple of months. The only problem with the fixture was that it coincided with Ben Stokes’ heroics at Headingley in the Ashes! Sometimes you’ve just got to miss great sporting moments to support a greater cause.

In my last blog I mentioned that racing had lost a few stalwarts during the summer. A big part of my role is caring during injury, illness and bereavement. Racing said its goodbyes to Nicky Murray and Chris “Yorkie” Conway. They will be sorely missed by loved ones and friends alike.

Can I thank all those who gave generously for my effort in the Great North Run. We raised a good amount between us for Racing Welfare. Thank you. I finished mid division in what was a massive step up in trip. I have come to realise that I’m not built for speed or long distance so after careful consideration I’ve decided to hang up the trainers and, unlike Enable, you won’t have the pleasure of seeing me in training next season.

Finally, it’s always good to never rest on your laurels. In an attempt to become a better Chaplain I accepted an offer from Ridley Hall, Cambridge to study Theology but with a sports bias. I hope they can teach this old dog new tricks!

Simon

National Chaplain to Horseracing

If you work in horseracing and you need support, do not hesitate to contact Simon on 07877 981498 or you can email him sbailey@racingwelfare.co.uk

Mental Health First Aid Courses: I feel privileged to take the lead

August 19, 2019

The months of April, May and June arrived and passed too quickly. It’s strange looking back and thinking on the start of the flat season and picking up racecourse chaplaincy again in Newmarket. I enjoy seeing the racecourse staff back in their roles and seeing how they are.

Middleham Open Day was a success and something I love to go to. I didn’t know it at the time but I would spend a good amount of time Middleham during these three months and into the foreseeable future. April saw the first two Mental Health First Aid courses rolled out at the Racing Centre. Staff from racing yards, studs, veterinarians and the BHA signed up for the two-day training. This is the start of many of these courses being offered to racing employees throughout the UK and I’m privileged to lead and be a part of this programme. Hamilton was the first racecourse to offer the training to its own team. It was received with great reviews and I loved presenting the course and being back in Scotland for a couple of days.

The sad death of Tim Jones from Micky Hammond’s yard in Middleham is evidence enough that more is needed to get the mental health message across to those working in racing. I’ll be leading the first MHFA course, in Tim’s memory, in Middleham this September. There’s always a sad element to chaplaincy and bereavement is one of the saddest. As well as officiating at Tim’s funeral and celebration services, Newmarket has said goodbye to Jean Bucknall, Viv Wallis And Willie Snaith recently.

Even during the saddest times, I’m honoured to be a part of racing’s family at these times to offer some comfort.

The work continues and I’ve been greatly helped by the appointments of Louise Brown and Nigel Johnson who will offer chaplaincy support in Cheltenham/West Country and Sedgefield/Middleham respectively.

Simon

National Chaplain to Horseracing

If you work in horseracing and you need support, do not hesitate to contact Simon on 07877 981498 or you can email him sbailey@racingwelfare.co.uk