As an Olympic gold-medal winner and nine-times world champion, former cyclist Victoria Pendleton has been using her attributes as a top athlete to make the transition from two wheels to four — rather hairy — legs.
Nine weeks ago, Victoria, who retired from competitive cycling after London 2012, was set the challenge by Betfair to start riding and secure an amateur jockeys licence.
Having never sat on a horse before, she has now progressed to jumping thanks to guidance from Yogi Breisner and more recently para-dressage rider Tamsin Addison.
“It is an audacious challenge, but I want to push myself and I have enjoyed it so much so far. I have been overwhelmed with the support and I have faith in the people training me. I know Yogi wouldn’t take me to a level in training he didn’t think I was capable of,” said Victoria.
“I feel honoured to work with someone like Yogi, he’s so insightful of both horse and rider and has a very good way of delivering his coaching.”
Tamsin, who has Rio 2016 in her sights, has been assisting Victoria with the basic riding skills — understanding diagonals, striding and improving her seat.
“Victoria is so professional and is such a quick learner. She doesn’t just turn up and ride, she’s interested in the wider picture — why the boots and why the type of bit, for example,” said Tamsin.
“She’s very keen and focused, by the time she comes back the following week, she will have achieved what we were working on. She also has a great ability to laugh at herself.”
Victoria says she has been learning a lot from the para-dressage rider, who overcame bone cancer and had to re-grow the humerus bone in her upper arm.
“She is wonderful to work with and has also trained with Yogi, so I feel we are on the same page. I’m having to learn the basics of riding and race riding in parallels to each other,” added Victoria.
Victoria’s training regime also includes three days a week at the British Racing School in Newmarket — giving her an initial feel for riding racehorses, which she admits is “surreal”.
“They have a great range of horses there and I have been riding different horses all the time — they give great feedback,” said Victoria, who has invested in an Equicizer for her garage at home.
She has been riding everyday and on her “days off” from training has been hacking out, including with eventer Izzy Taylor’s mother, who has lent her the mount on her hunter, Miss Hazel.
“I have been cross-country schooling with Yogi and Izzy and had so much fun jumping small logs and some hedges,” she said.