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Cheltenham Festival trainer Kayley Woollacott on why mental health in horse racing must improve

Horse trainer Kayley Woollacott. Credit: ITV News West Country

A race horse trainer whose husband took his own life has called on the horse racing industry to be more compassionate.

The West Country racing community was left shocked and saddened when 40-year-old Richard Woollacott was found dead at his yard in Rose Ash, near South Molton, in January 2018, following a battle with his mental health.

His wife, Kayley, described the past 12 months as “tough” but said she and her family were now firmly “on the other side”.

And with a number of her horses due to compete at this week’s Cheltenham Festival, including top tip Lalor, Kayley has called for the horse racing industry to improve its understanding and acceptance of mental health issues.

Horse racing is a very demanding and tough industry and it does expect people to be on top of their game all the time and you know I think it just needs to have those allowances for people to say you know that whether they are okay or they’re not.

– Kayley on mental health in horse racing

Kayley said seven-year-old Lalor, who was one of Richard’s favourite horses, has helped keep her going during a difficult year.

Tuesday’s Arkle favourite will bring the house down at Cheltenham with emotional scenes if he manages to get the job done under champion jump jockey Richard Johnson.

Lalor. Credit: ITV News West Country

He’s special to everyone here. We had him before he’d ever run his first race so what he’s achieved has been fantastic and he’s won a graded race every year since we’ve had him so, you know, for a little yard like this, he’s always going to be very special.

– Kaylor on 'special' Lalor

Lalor is not only a favourite among the bookies but also Kayley’s daughter Bella.

Nicknamed ‘the little trainer’, the feisty three-year-old has gained a following online after helping her mum with the horses on the yard.

Bella’s a massive fan of Lalor. She knew her dad was and I suppose she’s latched on to that. But we’ve had to change our life and she’s coped really well. She’s lucky she’s young and it’s just been a very tough 12 months but thankfully we’ve got to the other side and now we’ve got things to look forward to.

– Kayley on 'little trainer' Bella

If you are struggling, or know someone who is, there are several organisations that can provide help and support: