Children’s TV presenter Matt Baker (pictured) recently joined Hartpury College students at the Newmarket Racing School in Suffolk as part of a Blue Peter Challenge to learn to ride a racehorse in just six days.
The challenge was for Matt to safely pilot a racehorse at racing speed down Newmarket’s one-mile gallop.
“I thought the producers were a bit mad when they told me about it, especially as my only previous riding experience was spending a week with the Household Cavalry at their summer camp in Norfolk,” explains Matt.
Matt followed an intensive version of the school’s nine-week course for trainee jockeys, beginning with an assessment of his balance on the school’s mechanical horse.
“After riding the mechanical horse, I was given 40mins tuition in the indoor school before progressing outside to the schooling track. I quickly learnt how difficult it can be to persuade half-a-tonne of racehorse to work at half its preferred speed.
“When I was told we were going towork the horses alongside each other, my experiences with the Household Cavalry made me think this would be easier than working the horses on their own, but I soon realised my mistake!”
Matt stayed on board throughout the week, despite a couple of “hairy moments” and praised the efforts of the school’s staff, particularly Colin Raynor.
“I really don’t think I would have done it without Colin’s help. There were moments when it was touch and go as to whether I was going to achieve the goal and he really helped my confidence.
“When it came to the day of the challenge I felt nervous. We turned the horses to the straight and moved up into trot, then canter and then we went flat out — the power and acceleration hasto be experienced to be believed.
“Once I got the first furlong under my belt I started to relax and enjoy myself — it was truly incredible.”
So is Matt planning a change of career?
“Both of my Blue Peter equestrian experiences have been great in different ways and although I wouldn’t want to be a professional jockey I am considering getting my own horse when I return home to my family’s farm in Durham.”
See how Matt got on on BBC1 at 4.55pm on Wednesday 2 April.