A SIGHT only few will be fortunate enough to witness blessed Lambourn’s schooling grounds over the weekend as trainers continued preparations in the lead up to the Cheltenham Festival next month.

Temperatures dipped as low as minus 11 and up to 10 inches of snow fell across parts of the world-class equine training facilities, nestled in the picturesque North Wessex Downs just a 20-minute drive from Swindon.

But for Folly House-based trainer Jamie Snowden, the wintry weather did little to stop his group of hard-working staff from carrying out their usual morning routine.

The 39-year-old trainer, who previously worked under champion trainers Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson, turned all 36 horses currently in full-time training out on both Friday and Saturday mornings.

With aspirations to overhaul last year’s winners total of 31 and hopes of landing a first Cheltenham Festival winner since 2014, Snowden accepts the comradery that naturally flows with a modern-day racing yard is key to any hopes of success.

He said: “We’ve got 50 or so horses now – we’ve been in Lambourn since 2011 and things are going from strength to strength.

“Our first runner from here (Folly House) won the Summer National, we had a winner at Cheltenham that Autumn and a couple of years later we had a Cheltenham Festival winner.

“Last year we had 35 winners with a 21 per cent strike rate – things are moving in the right direction which is great.

“The facilities here are wonderful – the gallops, fields, swimming pools, treadmills and schooling facilities.

“There isn’t a day you miss. We’ve had horrendous snow this week, it is up your knees in places on the hills.

“But we’re still out exercising the horses each day.”

The racing industry itself is open to the staffing issue – some calling it a crisis – that the sport faces.

A typical yard role will require staff to work 13 mornings a fortnight with one full day off (Sunday) and two half days.

Morning work – which involves exercising three, four or five horses amid other yard commitments - will start at 6am and run until 12.30pm before evening stables – feeding the horses, cleaning the yard and mucking out stables – will run from 3.30pm for two hours.

The demanding nature of the job is described by many as a pleasant way of life, that mixes riders’ passion for horses and racing.

And Snowden, who himself worked as a stable lad in his teenage years before joining the army, heaped praise on his dedicated team.

“We have a great team of staff, my head girl (Kate Robinson) has been here since we started out,” said Snowden.

“We have a superb bunch with great facilities, a good team of horses and a great team of staff – and we’re enjoying a good season too.

“It’s a lovely way of life, none of us do this to make a fortune – we’d all go off to the city if we wanted money.

“The staff are a great bunch and it’s good comradery. We’ve got seven plus inches of snow, but everyone was in for the mornings on time with a smile on their face to ride out their horses.

“They love their horses, and when those horses win they get a huge buzz out of it.

“Jasmine Murphy was a 16-year-old when she started here in the spring.

“The first horse she led up was Monbeg Theatre and he won at Cheltenham in April under Page Fuller, who has been a part of our yard for many years.

“When Jasmine led up that horse to win it was like she had died and gone up to heaven, they get as much of a buzz out of it as we do.”

Snowden’s key Cheltenham hope will be pinned on Monbeg Theatre, who is likely to run in the Coral Cup – a middle-distance handicap hurdle on day two of the four-day festival.

While he can pin parts of his success as a trainer down to years of graft in racing amid his army commitments, a broken leg while chasing the Amateur Jockeys’ Championship perhaps came as a blessing in disguise.

Snowden’s fall left him with little option but to look at the bigger picture, and consequently started his own yard up following four years as assistant to Nicky Henderson – who has won the trainers’ championship for the past two seasons.

“I rode a lot as a kid and started point-to-point racing when I was 16, I absolutely loved it,” said Snowden.

“I finished my A-Levels and travelled the world before working on a flat yard in New Zealand and continued to race ride.

“The army and time at Paul Nicholls’ yard and Nicky Henderson’s followed before my leg break proved a big turning point.

“Understanding that training was always the end game suddenly became a reality – riding was a means to an end.

“When I was riding, I wanted to keep going and winning, but breaking my leg was a big turning point.”