I really didn’t expect to be writing this, but I’m sad to say my horse of a lifetime, Park Pilot (pictured top wearing the Union Jack at the 2002 young rider Europeans), has passed away. He was a very special horse to my family and I — he shaped the future for us all and I was with him from the minute he was born. I backed and broke him in and I was the only person to ever jump him over a fence throughout his entire life. We had some partnership.

Mum was responsible for looking after him and I suppose it was unusual in my parents’ dealing days for them not to have sold him on. I only remember dad wanting to sell him once, which was quite good for him. He was offered a lot of money for him to go to Ireland but mum wouldn’t let him, she adored ‘Zippy’ too much. We all had a special place for him in our hearts as he was one of the quirkiest horses I’ve ever known and probably wasn’t even the scopiest, but he had the heart of a lion.

Jumping into The Lake at our first Badminton in 2006

He still is to this day one of the fastest cross-country horses I’ve ever sat on. I don’t think he ever had very many time-faults throughout his entire career. And he managed to finish in the top 10 of the majority of competitions he completed, including internationals. Of all Zippy’s achievements throughout his career, I think my proudest moments with him were completing our first Badminton together with a double clear, coming 13th at the senior Europeans at Blenheim, being one of only a few clears inside the time, and probably when he came back after three years off with an injury and won at Tattersalls. It was some achievement just getting him back from injury, and most of the hard work was done by mum.

122	PARK PILOT	Wright, Matthew

Horse & Hound did a great tribute for him online, which if you haven’t seen yet please do take the time to read. It is great that his achievements have been noticed from his years of service to the sport.

My first ever H&H cover in 2006 riding Park Pilot

On a more positive note, we took delivery of our new TheraPlate from F & Co Equine who are very kindly sponsoring me for the 2018 season. If you haven’t tried one yet, I would highly recommend it. The kids were our test crash dummies before we put the horses on and following a positive response I can also strongly recommend it for a calming/sleeping effect on toddlers in pushchairs.

TheraPlate uses Zone Vortex Wave Therapy and offers a zero impact experience utilising a low-amplitude orbital motion for rehabilitation and sports conditioning. I already have noticed the improved muscle tone on all of my horses and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Our new TheraPlate

It felt great to have a lot of the horses out cross-country schooling recently. For some of the younger horses it was their first time seeing a cross-country fence and with my new more experienced horses it was my first time over a cross-country fence with them. I’ve been working closely with Bomber bits to try and find the best possible bitting combination for each horse, especially some of the stronger ones. Bomber’s philosophy is great and so easy to work with. With a lot of strong horses, less is always more and a good thing to bear in mind. Sometimes changing the noseband and bridle combination can be more effective than just putting the biggest bit you can find in your horse’s mouth. Working out the reasons why they are strong is a good shout too.

My first entries of the season have been done and we’re on the countdown now to the first event which will be at Epworth at the beginning of March. We will then go onto Oasby with the younger ones the following week and bring the big boys out for open intermediate runs at Great Witchingham at the end of March, which is usually my preferred starting point each year.

I’m pleased to report that Macmillan have raised a combined total of over £4,500 already for the Best Western Hotels and Macmillan Charity race which will take place on Saturday 16 June at York Racecourse between all the amateur jockeys who are taking part. And this is just from online donations made so far.

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Macmillan also revealed the final amateur jockey to take part and complete the line up of the race — Love Island’s Chris Hughes. This is great news for everyone involved and especially great for raising awareness and the fundraising. He might however be a hit with the ladies and used to people moving out of his way to get a good look at him as he passes, but if he tries to go up my inside during the race to grab the rail, I certainly won’t be moving out of his way, but will hopefully get a good look as I pass.

It’s half term week next week for the kids and also the last opportunity before the season gets into the full swing of things to spend some quality time with them. So I’m off to the Canary Islands with the in-laws for a couple days to get some much needed sunshine. The diet and fitness routine will continue each morning despite being away as I have just under three stone to lose now and am making good headway.
Matt