Former star striker Michael Owen took his first — and second — tumble during preparations for his race-riding debut.
The retired England footballer was on the gallops at the British Racing School in Newmarket when the horse he was riding spooked and spun, depositing Michael on the floor before trotting off to eat grass.
Minutes later, Michael’s mount left him on his backside for a second time.
Both horse and rider were fine and Michael remounted to continue with the assessment day ahead of the Prince’s Countryside Fund charity race at Ascot on 24 November.
He admitted afterwards the transition from owner to jockey is proving tougher than he first thought.
“Today was really insightful and, if anything, it has brought me on a lot but also put me back a couple of strides because it was the first time I’ve fallen off of a horse – twice!” said Michael, adding training for the race has been “a big learning curve”.
“It’s made me think that they’re not machines.
“I’ve been doing some practice back at home and it felt very easy and I thought I would breeze it.
“Today, there’s been wide open spaces, horses you don’t know and it’s been very, very different.
“It’s made me think to myself that I need to do some hard work between now and Ascot.”
Michael, who only sat on a horse for the first time this year, will be riding one of his own racehorses in the charity race.
He tweeted on 1 November that he had 24lb to lose in 24 days to make the weight for his race-riding debut.
Leading event rider Harry Meade, Ledbury Hunt master Louise Daly and Qatar racing chief Sheikh Fahad bin Abdullah Al Thani are also among the 11 riders taking part.
Michael also took part in the standard fitness test, which included planks, squats on balance boards and a bleep test.
“It was a tough fitness test, it was obviously specific to what you’re going to be doing so some of it was not what I would have normally done in my career,” he added.
“A lot of strength work and balance and posture and core, work on your thighs, so it was interesting and quite punishing at times actually.”
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Michael’s love of racing is well known — he is a prominent racehorse owner and landlord of Manor House Stables in Cheshire, from which Tom Dascombe has trained since 2009.
Among his stable stars was Brown Panther, who Michael bred and owned. The horse won the 2015 Dubai World Cup, the 2011 King George V stakes at Royal Ascot and the 2013 Goodwood Cup.
“I found in life that a lot of things look easy on the eye,” said Michael.
“You go to a stadium or you watch on TV and everything looks quite easy, and then you try and do it yourself and you think it’s quite hard.
“Then you see the jockeys up close and what they do and it’s nigh-on impossible.
“It’s people at the very top of their games and very top of their sports and they are exceptional at it.
“I think you can only get that respect from trying it yourself and realising how difficult it is and then when you consider they’re half your weight and controlling half a ton of animal.
“It’s fascinating how good they are and how difficult it has been to understand how to do it.”
- Videos by The Princes’ Countryside Fund
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