Since I was eight years old I have been horse mad and my passion for these elegant animals has only increased over the years. I have owned my own horse, worked in the equestrian industry most of my life and had my fair share of falls that I’ve bounced back from. Horse owners are often seen as fearless due to our gung hoe nature to getting jobs done whatever the circumstances. However one part of the industry I hadn’t delved into until late last year was the racing world. Thanks to a friend who works on a racing yard in the heart of racing (Newmarket for non-equestrians) I was given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride a racehorse.
I was excited to accept this offer but in my heart of hearts I hadn’t really thought about what it would entail until the night before. It suddenly dawned on me how different riding a racehorse would be and boy was I right to be nervous. I arrived at 6am the next day to a bustling yard of jockeys and horses ready to head out to the gallops. Thankfully I was given a hand in tacking up my first ride as each race yard has their own way of displaying their logo on the equipment. I was given a leg-up and told to walk my horse round until it was time to leave. The horse felt like he was dancing on tip toes, which was a completely different experience to the stocky warmbloods I was used to riding.
All was going well until we rode past a gap in the hedges and due to unlucky timing a loud bang spooked my horse. In a racing saddle I had no chance of staying on as he turned on a sixpence so it was out the side door for me. I landed on the ground with a thump but fortunately it was a soft surface. ‘That’s it’, I thought, ‘I’m not getting back on, this obviously wasn’t to be’. As I was explaining this to a yard hand who had kindly caught my horse I could tell he wasn’t really listening. He told me to get back on and enjoy it.
Every single fibre in my body was telling me not to do it. I felt sick at the thought of sitting back in the saddle and couldn’t contemplate galloping on board a horse that was so on edge. However, I’m one of the most stubborn people I know and I had a nagging doubt at the back of my mind telling me that I’d regret it if I didn’t take this chance. Against all the voices in my head I was legged back up on the horse and headed out with the others towards the gallops.
If I said the rest was an easy ride I’d be lying. Unbeknownst to me my horse didn’t like traffic or lorries and spooked every time one passed. Now picture this, we headed out on the horse path running next to a road during rush hour in the middle of Newmarket. It was scary and I was worried sick that something was about to go terribly wrong until the 20 minute ride was over.
Experiencing Britain’s busiest racehorse gallops
We arrived at The Severals where we gave the horses a trot round the oval shaped track to warm up their legs. I was still anxious at this point and nerves were tingling throughout my entire body. There were horses everywhere and the buzz in the air was palpable.
Walking across to Warren Hill is a memory I will hold onto for the rest of my life. It was a conveyor belt of horses lining up to take a run on the famous hill at (what felt to me like) break-neck speed. My turn came and I was partnered up with an experienced jockey who ran his horse just in front of me. His parting words before we started were ‘if he starts to overtake my horse, just shout and I’ll let you pass’. Great, so how the hell would I stop him if I had nothing in front of me?
We set off and the exhilaration was out of this world. I can’t describe the power those horses have as it’s something you have to experience. Before I knew it we’d reached the top and my mouth was as dry as sandpaper – little did I know I was in that much awe my mouth had stayed open for the entire experience! I wanted to do it all again but we had to head back to get the next round of horses out. I only rode one that day but that was more than enough for my nerves. Despite the initial hesitation I rode through my fear and made a memory that will last a lifetime. It wasn’t easy to drown out the voices telling me not to do it but I’m so glad I did.
So what are you waiting for, feel the fear and do it anyway, it could turn out to be the best day of your life!