I recently joined five other budding point-to-point jockeys for an afternoon of training with Yogi Breisner at the British Racing School in Newmarket — sharpening up our technique over a fence and learning the secret to jumping a horse at speed successfully.
Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the action-packed day…
The spotless stableyard
The main yard at the British Racing School is surrounded by a number of American barns. Many of the horses at the racing school have had careers on the track and are loaned to them for use as schoolmasters.
Meeting my steed
I am introduced to my mount for the afternoon, Masters Blazing — a six-year-old gelding formerly trained by John Ryan.
Starting in the sand school
Yogi puts up two hurdles in the sand school and gets us trotting through them first, to give the horses a chance to have a look and get any spooks out of the way.
Lower leg position
We are all told to keep the lower leg pushed forward, to maintain a good position and balance. “If your lower leg is coming back before the jump, it means you don’t have true balance and are pinching with your knee,” he explains.
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Staying low in the saddle
Staying low in the saddle will keep the forward momentum coming into a fence, then release the hands over the jump — as Yogi demonstrates.
Putting Yogi’s words into practice
Masters Blazing and I have a school over the hurdles before Yogi tells me to shorten my stirrup leathers — this helps me get lower in the saddle approaching the fence.
The schooling ground
We then head out to the schooling ground where there are three hurdles in a straight line — Yogi wants us to practise getting the horses to jump at speed and out of their strides.
Masters Blazing puts in an exuberant jump a stride too early and my lower leg practice comes into play — is that a smile or a grimace?
Yogi gets us jumping upsides each other — Tommy (nearside) and Louise pair up, with Lucinda behind.
Jumping out of their strides
Izzy (nearside) and Harriet demonstrate jumping at speed. “Well done,” Yogi says at the end. “You all got them jumping nicely out of their strides.”