Horse & Hound’s news editor, Abigail Butcher, has taken up a challenge with a difference — to ride in an amateur charity flat race for Spinal Research.
The race is part of Portman Building Society’s charity day at Plumpton on Easter Monday (17 April) and Abi has been training hard for the past month, with the help of seven-times champion jockey Richard Dunwoody, sports scientist Jon Pitts and trainer Philip Mitchell.
“I didn’t take on board how much the training would take out of me,” said Abi. “I’d only ridden out once before I started — let alone raced.
“Now I ride out with Philip on Epsom Downs twice a week before work, train in the gym with Jon after work, have exercises to do as often as I can at home — on top of cycling 12 miles a day to and from work, running and swimming — all around a busy job. It’s knackering!”
Abi will also undertake a day course at the British Racing School.
Twelve riders are entered for the race, including show jumper Nick Skelton and his son, Daniel, Soccer AM presenter Helen Chamberlain, former jockey Chris Maude and Harriet Rochester from the BHB.
Richard is training both Abi and Helen Chamberlain — who has not sat on a horse since she was a child.
“I’m making sure they’re safe to ride and will then take it to the next stage, being able to push a horse out to the finish,” said Richard, who became involved with Spinal Research three years ago after a neck injury forced his retirement.
“I have an arthritic neck, which is basically due to an accumulation of falls — I had nearly 700 falls during my career,” he added.
Jon Pitts, who trains top jockeys, including William Kennedy and Jim Crowley, has devised a specific training programme for Abi to improve her core strength, balance and stamina.
“I’m trying to adapt Abi’s muscle function to the specific technique of race riding, to provide her with the physical capability to make the most of her riding training with Richard,” said Jon.
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