Joshua Thompson has been training hard in pursuit of his goal to ride in a charity race and to raise funds for the British Horse Society’s Changing Lives Through Horses Campaign
I’ve always been competitive person from running at county level at school, eventing internationally and taking part in half marathons. When I saw the British Horse Society Charity Race advertised on Facebook, I thought this was the ideal next challenge to get stuck into. I originally applied for the 2020 race, but this was obviously postponed, and to get an email in March this year to say I was one of the 12 jockeys selected to race at Newbury on Thursday 4 November was a huge shock but massively exciting!
I’m aiming to raise £2,500 for the British Horse Society on behalf of their charity “Changing Lives Through Horses” which is a programme of regular sessions taking place in a BHS Approved Riding Centre with qualified and experienced BHS Accredited Professional Coaches.
A whole new regime
There have been several challenges to overcome over the past 12 months, possibly the biggest of all has been to lose the lockdown weight gain and shift 2.5 stone to meet the weight requirements. I’m currently weighing in at 11st1lb, which is on track to get to 11st7lb with my kit on the big day.
This has meant lots of late nights and early mornings at the gym, getting out running and trying to eat healthily. I’ve also had to make the move from riding the odd horse on a Saturday morning to regular Saturdays (and 6am weekdays) on the gallops, improving my riding skills and learning what it means to actually work a racehorse. I’ve also had regular sessions with professional jockey coach Rob Bellamy to work on my core and practise my race riding on the equiciser.
The main hurdle to overcome before the race was passing my fitness and riding assessment at The British Racing school at Newmarket in September. After a lot of training in the gym, I was delighted to score to score 94%… the highest score in a charity race assessment ever!
The past six weeks I’ve been riding out every Saturday mornings as well as the early 6am lot twice weekly in the dark. I am riding a horse of Ben Pauling’s called Serjeant Painter, a novice hurdler who has had a few placings on the board this season as well as a win.
Friends and colleagues right behind me
I am incredibly excited to hit the racetrack for the very first time, although I have to admit the nerves have already started! I have a great group of family and friends coming to support me on the day. My colleagues at CrowdProperty, who I work for as a case manager providing development finance, are also coming to watch and will be sponsoring me for the day. I’m looking forward to the buzz of being in the paddock and most of all to crossing the finish line in (hopefully) one piece! Once the race is over, I cannot wait to celebrate with a few drinks and a very big meal without having to worry about my weight!
Changing Lives Through Horses
The BHS programme is for young people, aged 5-25, who are either permanently excluded, at risk of permanent exclusion or who have special education needs or disabilities (SEND). It also supports those who are not in employment, education, or training (NEET). They may also be at risk of becoming socially excluded with income below the poverty line and without the skills to improve their economic situation. The programme utilises a range of awards and achievements to create a community for development, learning and celebration. The awards are structured around promoting the holistic development of all involved and nurturing six life skills for all young people: building relationships, communication, confidence, responsibility, teamwork, and perseverance.
I am based in Cheltenham, the home of jumps racing, so it was inevitable what while my own competitive riding slowed down, my interest in racing grew. I started to follow National Hunt racing, originally just to have days at track but then joined a racing club with Ben Pauling. Being an “owner” and having your own horse to follow on the day makes the whole thing even more exciting!
I started to do some riding out in the winter of 2019 on Saturday mornings, to fill the void of not having my own horses to do every day. The 2020/21 season may have been a difficult one for many people but our club horse, The Cob gave the Ben Pauling Racing Club a phenomenal experience, winning three races, including the Grade 2 River Don at Doncaster, and running in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival. Sadly, Covid rules meant I wasn’t able to watch any of these at the racecourse but with a promising bumper winner looking to take over the mantle this year, I’m really hoping for some good days at the races this season, too.