Jacqueline Coward: why you can’t beat a good brush and encouraging novices [H&H VIP]

  • I’m always on the lookout for snippets of advice from more experienced riders, so decided to give trainer and jockey Val Jackson (pictured above, left) a call. Val is a successful trainer and jockey and started raceriding in 1976, a year after women were legally allowed to compete in races.

    When her teacher asked her what she wanted to do when she left school, she said she wanted to be a boy so she could ride in the Grand National, after watching her father John Alder finish ninth in 1965. She finally got the chance in 1984 riding her own Bush Guide, who was a 21st birthday present.

    When I asked Val how she stays riding fit, she said that aside from riding three lots a day and mucking out, she gives her horses a proper brush. Her dad used to tell her that brushing a horse properly was a better workout than riding, and she sticks to it even now.

    Apart from the odd exception, mine get washed off after work, but only see a brush on race days!

    We also discussed how youngsters and newcomers need to be encouraged. I’ve noticed a lack of novice riders in novice races up north recently and we should start thinking about how we can improve this.

    At Sherriff Hutton, we had a club members’ race that gave novice riders a 5lb allowance to encourage owners to put up a novice. This is a great incentive and will hopefully mean more novices riding in different races.

    That way, they are getting the opportunities to ride against experienced riders, which will hopefully teach them about judging the pace of a race — if you notice, most novice riders’ races have very fast times.

    Plus most, if not all, experienced jockeys are quick to reprimand people if they’re doing something wrong midrace, so they learn that way too.

    I encouraged my younger cousin Laura Mason to get her licence because I had a couple of horses who I knew would benefit from novice riders’ races.

    Novice riders must not be afraid to ask advice from more experienced people either. I’m forever picking people’s brains. You never stop learning!