The jump season is about to get going properly and it’s an exciting time of year for us.
Although it’s been quite quiet in the past few weeks, I’m feeling fit, healthy and ready to go. I’ve sat on lots of different horses recently and I’m really looking forward to the winter ahead.
As jockeys we have to work harder on our fitness over the summer, as during the winter you stay race fit when you’re racing every day. The past few months I’ve tried to go running to keep my fitness levels up — and my weight down.
When you’re on the scales on a daily basis, you’re very aware of what you weigh. I’m much luckier than some of the other lads though and never have to lose too much. Obviously I have to keep tabs on it, and being one of the taller jockeys (I’m about 6ft), I need to be sensible.
In the morning I’ll drink a cup of coffee before I ride out and then just try to limit what I eat during the day. I’ll have one proper meal a day. Of course I’ll have the occasional treat — I like a good steak and chips or a roast dinner.
It’s not a part of the job I love, but on the whole it’s not too bad and I’m quite lucky really. My natural weight is about 10st5lb-10st6lb and the minimum I can do is about 10st.
Sometimes your agent will give you a couple of days notice if you have to do light for a ride, but usually it’s only about 24hr. When that happens I go for a run and have a sweat. With a sauna at every racecourse, I can lose about 3lb and still feel comfortable to race. I’d never lose more than 7lb though as that could affect your riding.
Earlier this week I was up schooling at Kim Bailey’s yard before going to see eventer Chris King. Chris works a few racehorses over the summer, some that had jumping difficulties in races, and he does a lot of pole work and grid work with them, which builds their confidence for racing.
If they are used to galloping a 5f straight then it’s a change for them to do a steady canter round an arena. It makes them use different muscles, which improves their balance.
Harry Topper won some nice races last season, but had a couple of mishaps in his last two races, and Kim felt a bit of jumping work would help him. I sat on him and he feels like he’s improved. Obviously time will tell in races, but he has a nice shape and seems to be more confident.
It’s always good having a chat with riders in other disciplines too. Eventing is the closest sport to racing, the fitness levels are similar, as are the techniques you use to make a horse listen to you.
Chepstow has its first autumn jump meeting on Tuesday. There are a number of quality entries so hopefully a good sign for the season to come. Lots of good horses are ready to run, we just have to hope for some rain to take the firmness out of the ground.