ARTICLE BY EMMA HOLDEN
“I began riding when I was 12 in a riding school in Castledermot. I had a 1-hour lesson once a week for a year before I was asked to help out in the pony school”.
I then worked weekends and during the summer and helped bring ponies in from the fields, brush them, feed them, and then prepare them for the lessons.
I got the opportunity to do a small bit of show-jumping and cross country with the riding school. I never owned a pony, so it was all a learning experience for me. Helping with the ponies taught me how to tack up, how to use the correct brushes when grooming and it kept me fit having to run around after them all day.
I gained an interest in racing when I was first brought into Jessica Harrington’s yard in County Kildare. My mother, Karen, who has been in Jessies for 6 years, brought me in one Sunday morning with her when I was 15 and I completely fell in love with the place! It was my first time to experience a racing yard and my first time to see Thoroughbreds. I was amazed with how stunning these animals were.
Mrs Harrington was very kind to bring me around the gallops in the jeep alongside her, I got to see them all warming up in the arena and fly up the gallops – Mrs Harrington’s daughter, Emma , kindly offered me a weekend job on the yard to help muck out and water and other general yard duties. My first day on the yard didn’t start off too great. I had to be thought how to muck out as I was 100 percent confident in what I was doing. and I wasn’t strong enough to carry buckets of water to fill the water pots so I had to keep asking for help; I felt like such a burden and to top it off I didn’t realize that I filled all the horses feed pots with water instead of their water buckets so I had to go and empty them all and get the head-lad to go and feed like 3 barns all over again.
Eventually after a few weeks of being there I finally got the hang of things on the yard and one Saturday morning, Mrs Harrington invited me to come and ride out with her and the rest of the string on one of her daughters ponies – I had a smile on my face from ear to ear with excitement. I got to ride around the gallops with her and everyone else and it was from there that I knew I had to be involved in racing some way.
After a few weeks of riding the pony, I got promoted to a racehorse. I have to thank the lads in Jessies for putting up with me and having to teach me everything from scratch… They have great patience! I’m currently in Jessies 5 years now.
I admire Mrs Harrington and what she’s achieved especially being a woman and being so successful. She inspired me to put my fears behind me and take the chance in trying to take out my license to become a Jockey, even though I knew how tough it was going to be. I later found out about RACE and luckily there was an open day just a week after I heard about it, so I attended the opening day. I was extremely nervous but excited at the same time.
It was all so new and overwhelming; I knew so little so I thought it would be a great way to learn everything I needed to know. I was delighted to be accepted into RACE and it was honestly the best experience I’ve had. I learned everything from there! I learned how to school horses, the theory side of horses and racing and also the main thing I learned from race was how to be independent. Race was a big step out of my comfort zone – I’m a shy person so moving from home to move in with a bunch of strangers for 10 months was extremely brave of me, I’m so grateful for the experience and I’d do it all over again – I’m so grateful for Race as I’ve met some brilliant people in that place, I’m so grateful for every one of those people in there that were there for me through the tough times and the good times. Race was definitely a big step for me in my goal to get my license.
I’m taking it one step at a time, I’m so proud to be able to say I have my license out. I’m so thankful that Mrs Harrington was so kind and so helpful to sign me on and to say I’m the apprentice to such an inspirational woman is more than I could ask for.I can’t thank her enough for the opportunities I’ve been given.
I haven’t rode a winner yet but It’s still early days, I’m just glad to be getting the chances as it’s not an easy game; I just keep my head down and listen and learn from the experienced Jockeys and hopefully my time will come.
My goal is to try and come out of my box and be braver and more assertive with everything I do. I know that’s something I struggle with, but I can’t let that get in the way. Tom Madden has been a great help to me in Jessies and I can’t thank him enough for all his support. I aspire to be as good a rider as Eadaoin Byrne who rides Supasundae everyday – She makes me want to be a better rider, she’s a brilliant rider and definitely one of the best riders I know. I have the chance to ride work and learn from the great jockeys that come in and ride work for us – There’s Dusty (Shane Foley), Tom, Conor Hoban, and Warren O Conner.
Warren has helped me greatly when it comes to having confidence and my riding. It’s great to have someone like him around to help you with your position on a horse, to help you with your balance and mostly to have confidence in yourself when riding.