Primary school teacher loses 9 ½ stone and rides her first pointing winner

  • A primary school teacher who lost nine and a half stone to enable her to ride in races has fulfilled a dream by winning her first point-to-point.

    Anna Hylands rode her own Nikki Steel, trained by Robert Chanin, to victory at the Axe Vale Hunt fixture at Stafford Cross, Devon, on 24 April.

    Anna told H&H she grew up around horses, five minutes away from jockey Bryony Frost.

    “I was really overweight, then when I got to about 21, I saw everyone living their dreams with horses and realised I just couldn’t. I really wanted to have a go at race-riding so I just decided one day I was going to lose loads and loads of weight.

    “Lots of people laughed at me but Tom [Chanin] never laughed.”

    Anna was 19st 7lb at her heaviest but went down to 10st in about 18 months, and has stayed at 10st for six years.

    “It’s the hardest thing to do, although it’s also the easiest, to lose weight,” she said. “You just eat less and move more but it is really bloody difficult! I went to the gym, and changing the way I looked at food was the main thing; as fuel, rather than comfort. When I started seeing the changes, it was really motivational. ‘I couldn’t do this and now I can, so I’m going to keep going’.”

    Anna took on Bryony’s former schoolmaster Railway Vic, who still lives with her in retirement, then raced Alice’s Star, whom she lost last year. She bought Nikki Steel last summer and the combination won by three lengths on their fifth attempt.

    “It’s mad, I feel like I should retire now!” she said. “It’s finally happened, and it’s like the pressure’s off now so I can go and see what I can do.”

    Anna said her year 3/4 pupils are very supportive, watching her every race.

    “I think they like it better when I fall off than when I win!” she said. “They think that’s really funny. It’s a real village school, and they all know the farm I live on and laugh when the cows come out. They see me riding and a couple of them want to have a go now.

    “At the village horse show it’s always ‘see who can beat Miss Hylands’. Last year, a little girl from my class went champion and I was reserve and she won’t let me forget it!”

    Anna added that her plan now, with the pressure off, is to try to notch up a few more wins, to “thank the Chanins for their kindness”.

    “Tom says I’m still the same personality I’ve always been,” she said. “But because I always used to ride cobs because I was so big and now I’ve got a thoroughbred, I’m a lot harder to catch on a horse now!”

    >> Read the full point-to-points highlights report from last weekend’s racing action in the 28 April 2022 issue of Horse & Hound magazine, out on Thursday

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