A 37-year-old man who has never ridden before has lost nearly five stone to take part in a charity horse race.

Tom Connors is one of 12 riders taking part in a charity race later this month to raise money for HEROS (Homing Ex-Racehorses Organisation Scheme) at Hereford racecourse.

Until Tom made the decision six months ago to take part in the race he had never ridden a horse before.

Since January he has also lost nearly five stone in order to make the weight to ride in the race on the 22 June.

Tom told H&H: “When I was a young lad I really wanted to be a jockey as both my father and grandfather were jockeys.”

“But I soon realised that I was a bit too tall and too heavy. This is like fulfilling a boyhood dream.”

Tom will be riding Knowhow, who was given to HEROS by owner Malcolm Denmark.

“I sat on a few ponies when I was a boy but it wasn’t really proper riding. I’m really enjoying the experience and Knowhow is making it easier — he’s an absolute gent,” said Tom.

Tom, who is a supervisor for a tarmac firm, now goes to the gym and runs five miles everyday as part of his intense training for the race.

Tom added: “Learning to ride has been the easy part — the hard part is losing all the weight! I was 15st 10lb at the beginning of January and I’m now 10st 13lb. It’s costing me a fortune as I’ve had to buy a whole new wardrobe!

“I’d never been in a gym before January — now you can’t keep me away!”

Also riding in the race is HEROS founder Grace Muir’s husband, Kevin Bell. Kevin, who used to be a trainer, will be riding Grace’s Yeoman Sailor who won his first race under rules for Grace at Hereford, so she is hoping for a repeat performance.

The twelve budding jockeys taking part are hoping to raise around £1,500 in sponsorship to take part in the race.

Grace told H&H: “The charity is largely dependent on fund raising events and individual donations to continue its good work. We are very grateful to Hereford racecourse for this opportunity to stage our first HEROS charity race day which will include an auction, celebrity speaker and a parade by our ambassador Monsignor.”

HEROS is based at North Farm Stud on the West Berkshire/Oxfordshire border and rehabilitates and rehomes racehorses. For more information visit www.heroscharity.org