Where are they now : Jillian Morris
Scottish native and Christchurch based jockey Jillian Morris earned 164 wins throughout her 12 year career. We caught up with Jillian to see what she’s been up to since hanging up her riding boots.
You’re originally from Scotland, what made you want to pursue your career in New Zealand?
I came over here because of the opportunities for females, it’s a much more of a level playing field. Whereas in the UK, it’s still very male dominated. There’s just more opportunity here.
Is there a moment in your career which stands out as a highlight?
Winning the Invercargill Gold Cup on Taniwha, because Jim Curran and his wife Gay, they're like family to me. It meant a lot, because Kelly Thompson who was in the ownership of him had recently passed away. It was a race Jim had always wanted to win, and he wanted to win it for Kelly. It was emotional, and it all just came together. It meant a lot.
Why did you decide to retire, and what are you doing now?
I have my young daughter, and her Dad is away working in the United States at the moment. I was away too much so it was becoming harder and harder when it was just me. I always knew once she started school I wouldn’t be able to ride in order to keep a routine. I always wanted to be a jockey, but I went to University first and gained a bachelor in equine science with honours. I gained my diploma in equine sports massage around seven years ago, and I did a course in personal training and have been pursuing that. I even held a bootcamp for all the jockeys down here. I want to combine the two together, doing both equine sports massage and then personal training with equestrian riders and jockeys. They often tie together because when the horse is sore, it can sometimes be the rider and vice-versa. When you're riding, and you get injured, you really need someone who actually understands.
During Covid lockdown, while I haven't been able to do anything, I’ve been studying a paper on human nutrition online which has been interesting. One day I want to put it all together, but it’s a long term goal. It was always something to do when I finished riding, because you can't ride forever. So with personal training, equine massage and running around after my daughter, it keeps me busy! I would also really like to do a psychology course, just to add another thing in!
What did you learn as a jockey, that has helped you in your career pursuit now?
There is a lot you learn along the way. The people skills from having to deal with all the different kinds of people that you come across when you're riding. Also really learning to listen to your body and your mind. Learning how to look after yourself. Even clipping - it was something I learnt as an apprentice and it’s now my side hussle through the winter!
Are there any parts of being a jockey, or working in the racing industry that you miss?I miss riding, the people, and being out on race day. That's the biggest thing. I miss working with the young horses and seeing them go right the way through. As an apprentice, breaking them in and then seeing them get to race day, it was quite satisfying. Especially when I got to ride them. I remember there was one I broke in and then won a race on, it was pretty cool. I don’t miss all the travelling, being in the South Island we had to do a lot of that.
What advice would you give to someone looking to become a jockey?
You’ve got to have a pretty thick skin and be quite resilient. You’ve got to work hard. There are a lot of highs and lows. Also, to look after your body and their mind.