Backstretch Education Fund
The Backstretch Education Fund provides educational opportunities to Backstretch workers that assist them both in their jobs at the racetrack and in their lives. Through our vocational training program, The Groom Development Program, and our English as a second language and literacy programs, we offer workers the means to help themselves thereby benefiting the entire racing community. Since our programs began 5 years ago over 600 grooms have graduated from the Groom Development Programs and over 1,000 workers have participated in English courses. To learn more about the Backstretch Education Fund, download the brochure.
The Groom Development Program
The Groom Development Program consists of vocational training classes offered at two levels; basic and advanced. Classes are taught by top professionals in the industry including veterinarian Dr. James Hunt, equine educator Ted Landers, trainers Allen Jerkens and Rick Violette, equine dentist Chris Brown, and former NYRA starter Bob Duncan.
These classes cover all aspects of care of the thoroughbred racehorse. Basic curriculum includes study of anatomy and confirmation, horse health, tacking, and horse behavior while advanced curriculum covers the groom's daily routine, lameness, advanced bandaging, and first aid.
As a result of their study in the classes, grooms are better able to spot problems with the horses and report such issues to their trainers. With increased competence they are better able to care for their horses as well as position themselves to become foremen or assistant trainers, if they are motivated to do so.
English as a Second Language and Literacy Classes
Classes are offered at three levels according to ability and are specially designed to appeal to the workers, many of whom do not have a formal education. They include basic conversation and grammar as well as literacy or basic reading and writing. In addition special sections are offered each semester of horsemen's English needed specifically for use on the workers' jobs. An interactive language lab program has also been added using computers and headsets. ESL teachers are now using student mentors, ie those students with more developed language skills, to assist with teaching in the classes.
As the workers gain proficiency in English they communicate more effectively on their jobs and in their daily lives. Their confidence increases and this reduces their sense of isolation and enhances their performance in their working environment.
Benefits of Our Programs
NYTHA also maintains a scholarship fund to provide financial assistance for higher education to Backstretch employees and their direct dependents.
The intention of the scholarship award is to promote education in fields relating but not limited to Thoroughbred racing. Its aim is to increase the number of qualified persons associated with Thoroughbred racing at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. Applications for support of undergraduate studies in other fields at recognized colleges and professional institutions are also considered.
Click here for a scholarship application form (PDF)