Ride to Time
There are a whole bunch of youngsters eyeing the racing industry after experiencing the thrill of the sport through the Ride to Time Programme.
The joint initiative between New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing and the New Zealand Pony Club Association arms youngsters with the skill and knowledge required to become a trackwork rider or jockey while also aiding them in other disciplines like eventing and showjumping. It’s a holistic two-day programme that gives them hands on experience on the race track while also providing plenty of background including nutrition and understanding the fitness required for a jockey and racehorse, with tips from some of the best.
Emma Slaney and Fiona Stephen last week both tried their hands at the Matamata Racecourse and have come away buzzing.
Emma, aboard former racehorse Colombian Prince headed home her older brother Anthony to take the honours in section one. The 16-year-old, who is a member of the Leamington branch of the Cambridge Pony Club, is no stranger to a racetrack, having done a little track work for Glynn Brick in the past.
“It was fast but a lot of fun,” said the year 12 student from Nga Tawa. “It was really exciting to have the opportunity to go as fast as we could down the front straight. Colombian Prince was quite forward and a bit anxious to start with, but he definitely loved it and was really wanting to go.”
The nine-year-old thoroughbred – by Colombia out of Diamond Princess (by Strike Diamonds) – doesn’t have the best record from his racing days, with a single placing from his 23 starts but he has shown himself to be quite a star for Emma.
The horse is still owned by Jayne Baker and Jess Allan and competes in showjumping, level 2 dressage and 1.05m eventing. “He is quite a character and pretty goofy. I know I will never have another one like him! He is very adjustable and has a super soft mouth, but you have to challenge him, otherwise he takes the mickey. Everyone loves him though, and he has his own little fan club.”
The pair competed in the Beyond the Barriers competition last year, placing sixth in the freestyle and seventh in the dressage. TheProgramme suited him perfectly.
“We got to have a try on the simulators first and were given plenty of tips on the correct position and our riding. Noel Harris just said to let him go and roll around the corner . . . which is what we did. It was awesome!”
The sentiment was similar from 18-year-old Fiona Stephen who took out section two aboard her Anglo Arab endurance horse Pamela. “I saw it advertised through the Pony Club and thought it sounded really interesting – and it was awesome. I learnt a lot and really enjoyed it.”
Fiona, a member of the Timberlands Pony Club, said 11-year-old Pamela had also loved it. “She wanted to hang out with all the thoroughbreds!” Fiona does mostly endurance with the mare but is keen to do more Pony Club, dressage and show hunter with her.
Fiona said she certainly took a lot home from her involvement in the programme. “There was so much general knowledge – so much to learn and the experience of being able to see the speed of what a horse can do, safely.” The input from retired jockey Noel Harris and others had been invaluable. Fiona has previously spent a week doing work experience at the Chequers Stud in Cambridge and is planning on take a gap year in 2019 to do “horsey things” before heading to university. She is hoping to take Pamela to the North Island Endurance Championships and Nationals this season.
The Ride to Time Programme is being rolled out during the school holidays and is aimed at Pony Club members who have their C Certificate or above. It was introduced last year with 26 children gleaning an insight through the eyes of former top jockey David Walsh.
Two-day programmes are being held at racetracks in Dunedin, Christchurch, Whanganui, Waipukurau, Cambridge and Matamata, under the watchful eye of NZTR training advisors and tutors.
The programme has been designed to help young riders recognize a horse’s natural pace while being able to both control and use that pace, at the same time as introducing them to the thoroughbred racing industry and the career opportunities within it.