I LOVE thoroughbreds. I have been hooked on National Hunt racing since the age of about three,when I used to regularly ride a finish up the Cheltenham hill on my rocking horse upsides Francome and Dunwoody. I grew up in a time when national hunt horses were bred for the job and sires such as Roselier,Lancastrian and Over The River were top of the tables. I was hooked on pedigrees and could reel off the breeding of many horses in training-these days the only thing stored in my brain are the lyrics to every 1980’s song ever released and various dressage tests that I will never do again. Why????
When my family is grown and our business has become wildly successful,my intention is to buy up two nice young thoroughbreds to train for pointing. Pipe dream,possibly-but you have to have something to aim for. At various times in my life,I have worked in racing. I started out struggling with the STUPID saddle and pointless bridle (seriously,what is a loose ring snaffle going to stop??) and I ended up riding work regularly. It was a whole new level of awesome,and of developing a knack of holding the runaways. I was small and very light,so the horses ran like the wind for me.
I was lucky enough to land my first racing job with a serious trainer based in Carlow. It was the nicest place I have to date ever worked-we were a small crew and we knew the horses really well. I was treated with respect and paid well,which was welcome as at the time I was trying to run my own yard and finding it tough. The boss sent me horses for retraining as well and I was very happy there.We had three runners at the Cheltenham festival that year and I was devastated when the persuit of my bound-to-blossom-any-minute eventing career took me to pastures new,far away.
My next dip of the toe into the racing world was very different indeed. The boss was a man with a very colourful past and the main owner in the yard featured regularly in The News Of The World. You were paid in fifties,you asked no questions and you told no one what you knew. There were only ten horses in training at any point and although I had ridden some amazing horses in my last job,nothing topped one in particular.He was a small bay horse by Gulch,out of a Theatrical mare and he was serious in a piece of work. He was a bit of a dickhead a lot of the time but he was sheer class to ride-An equine Bugatti Veyron. We used to have to give horses a 20 length start in a piece of work before coolly sauntering up to and past anything you liked without ever coming off the bridle. I also used to school him over fences and he was so classy that you barely felt him leave the ground.
My last job in racing was definately the most fun. Again it was a small yard with only a few staff but it was a laugh a minute from start to end and I loved working there. It was a tonic. Pranks were plentiful. Hacking could become an all day affair requiring the coast guard to find you as we went for miles and miles across random fields,either jumping or crashing our way across the country. We wore wellies to ride out. We used to load up ten horses at a time and sneak onto the local racecourse at half four in the morning the day after racing to gallop. We went racing and had to stop for ice cream ten times on the way,and for a Chinese on the way home. We tried Tokyo drifting with eight of us in the back of a Hilux. We filled someone’s van with live turkeys. We needed resuscitation when the wheel just randomly fell off one guy’s car in the yard as he drove in. It was so much fun. I would have given my right arm to stay there,but the lure of running my own yard up the country was too strong,and off I went again. I wish I hadn’t bothered,because what followed was without a doubt,one of the hardest years of my life.