It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, with some ups and downs. I’ve had a couple of winners, but I’ve also had a few days off with a shoulder injury, which wasn’t much fun.

One of the highlights was the Clydesdale race at Exeter on Sunday (24 November).

It was brilliant. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I signed up to race a Clydesdale — but it wasn’t that. It was certainly different from riding in a normal race, for a start they are much wider — I’m sure I’ve stretched my inner thigh muscles!

SNEL7892

We rode in hunting saddles, but Sam [Twiston-Davies] and I upped our leathers a bit. It was seriously competitive, and it wasn’t just the jockeys. My horse, Big Al, definitely wanted to win, he was going for it. Sadly he couldn’t get his hooves up and forward enough to take it though and we finished 3rd.

When they were walking round the paddock I was a bit wary for my toes, they had the biggest feet I’ve ever seen. It was definitely more effort to get on than usual too — I needed a strong leg up that’s for sure. I was thinking about vaulting on, as I used to be pretty good at that, but Big Al was another level and I wasn’t too sure I’d make it…

Racing Clydesdales Micheal Nolan, Nick Scholfield, Ian Popham, Hadden Frost

There was no worry that they wouldn’t start, they trotted off nicely and went into a canter. I had to resort to a few Pony Club kicks at one point [check out the video] but Big Al responded well and he was off! He was very well behaved too, there was no problems pulling him up.

What also got me was how kind and gentle natured they all were. They’re that big they could easily be overwhelming, but they were a pleasure to ride. I’d never ridden a heavy horse before and although they’re not your traditional riding horse I’d recommend anyone having a go, you’d have a nice hack.

A high pain barrier

I had a fall Fontwell a couple of weeks ago (17 November) and hurt my shoulder. Picking up an injury is never ideal, and I was lucky it wasn’t too serious — just a few stretched ligaments. It meant I had to have a few days off, most of which I spent getting x-ray after x-ray, after x-ray….

You become fairly familiar with hospitals in this game, but it’s part of the job, and we’re well looked after.

Obviously you don’t want to sit around and watch someone ride your winners on the TV, so that spurs you on. Jockeys do have a higher pain threshold than normal and we recover quicker than most — we’re back from injuries in days when usually it would be weeks. I’ve definitely got better at blocking out the pain as I’ve got older too.

The worst part is riding out in the morning when you’re cold and sore. At the races your adrenaline is up so you don’t really feel it.

AP McCoy sets an example of how tough you need to be, and you have to live up to that standard to be competitive.

Talking about AP, I must congratulate him for being nominated for BBC Sports Personality of the Year. It is very well-deserved, good for him and great promotion for racing. I suspect he’ll have some strong competition from Andy Murray though…

Ones to watch

Melodic Rendezvous — one of my favourite horses who I’ve mentioned before in my blog — is due to run in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on Saturday. I’m very much looking forward to that ride. He’s passed every test so far, so hopefully he’ll put his cards on the table on Saturday. He’s got to contend with My Tent Or Yours, but he’s very genuine and I’m confident he’ll give a good performance.

Another horse to keep an eye on is Irving, I’ve won on him twice this month — at Taunton and Ascot — and I think a lot of him. He’s a 5-year-old by Singspiel and is trained by Paul Nicholls. He could well pop up at the Cheltenham Festival in March and is an exciting prospect.

Finally I have to mention Cue Card. It was great to see him winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock last weekend (23 November). It was brilliant for the Tizzards too. There was a lot of talk that Cue Card might not get the trip — that 3m might be that bit too far — but he silenced his doubters on Saturday, he was pure class. And it was good to see Colin, who can be hard faced, shed a tear after his win. It shows how much it means to them all.

Enjoy your weekends,

Nick