“Camp is for everyone… do not pass it up!”

Wed May 8

By Rachel Allen

Pony Racing Camp Easter 2019

My incredible week at the British Racing School started on Tuesday 9th April.

Firstly, we settled our ponies into their airy stables which they all seemed to love, especially my pony who usually lives out! We were shown to our rooms before having a quick lunch and briefing with the parents before they headed home. We had a tour of the site and then headed back to the stables to tack up for our riding assessment which took place in the indoor arena to start, and then the outdoor arena. Everyone rode well and after riding, the ponies were put to bed and we showered and had dinner. The food was very nice and as a vegetarian (mostly..!) and there was a lot of choice. The boys went out to play football with the students before supper, which consisted of cookies and juice, and then bed.

Wednesday was our first full day and the early alarm call was well worth it – after morning stabled and breakfast, we were split into 2 groups and had our first session of simulator training/fall training. I was awful at fall training to begin with, just throwing myself on the mat…but I soon got the hang of it and it was a lot of fun! Jackie taught us really well and everyone could say that they knew how to professionally fall off a horse by the end! After that, we had our first trip out – a guided tour of the Rowley Mile Racecourse which was so interesting as I don’t come from a racing family or background, so everything was so new to me. Despite this, everyone at the BRS was so lovely and helpful so I didn’t feel out of place at all.

In the afternoon, we rode out on the round canter and practiced going upsides each other – my pony isn’t a racing pony so he was a bit confused to start with but he was loving it by the end and forgot about his showjumping past! Then, we rotated back in our groups, so my group was on simulator training with Michael/Lucy in which we focused on balance and did some difficult, yet fun exercises.

In the evening, Lucy and Tommy very kindly decided to take us all bowling at Bury Bowl which was great as we all got to do something different and got to know each other a bit better, I definitely made some friends for life.

Thursday was probably one of, if not my favourite day as we got to see all the horses from various yards being ridden out up the gallops as we got a tour round Newmarket from Jackie and Julie, it was incredible! After visiting the Al Bahathri gallops along with a few others, we headed to Ed Dunlop’s yard and got to see the horses being turned out for inspection, on the water treadmill, the salt room and the Theraplate – those horses live a life of luxury!!

After lunch, we had our first ride up the 6 furlong gallop upsides which was great and gave my pony a real taste of racing, not to mention it was so much fun and really got my adrenaline going!

Next was dinner, and then mounted games!! My team won 4/6 of the games meaning we won overall, I’ve never had much experience with mounted games but wow, it was so much fun! A very busy day meant I slept so well!

Friday was our final full day. We rode upsides in the morning with the legend that is the Grade 1 winner, Jack Quinlan! He was so helpful and gave some great tips and even stayed to do a video review with us of our gallop up the straight! What an experience.

In the afternoon, we were split into 3 groups which rotated round, either doing ‘plaiting and turnout’, ‘prepare for the paddock’ or simulator training! I learnt so much throughout the day and really took a lot away from it. We fed the ponies, who had worked very hard, had a review of the week including watching all the videos back and a knowledge quiz – supper, and then bed before an important day followed…

Saturday: our final day. We had packed on Friday night so we vacated our rooms and were straight up and out to the ponies to prepare them for the best turned out competition which was to happen on our parent’s arrival. Safe to say, despite my plaiting efforts, I did not win as Zuleika showed some serious plaiting prowess! Our parents piled into the mini bus to watch us gallop up the straight for one final time – what a feeling, the brilliant coaching throughout the week paid off as I had the ride of my life, as did everyone. One by one, we had our moments of glory before packing the pony/s belongings up and heading to the theatre for presentations.

To top of my absolutely exceptional week, I was awarded a fabulous trophy for ‘Outstanding Contribution’ and a voucher for Gibson’s – to say I was shocked was an understatement. I can truly say I had the week of my life, and despite being 14, it was my first time away from home which was a huge deal to me; the people at the BRS are just the kindest people I’ve ever met and I’d relive that whole week if I could.

A massive thank you to everyone involved in the camp, but specifically Maureen, Jackie, Julie, Lucy and Tommy who made me feel right at home. I’ve never learnt so much in such a short space of time, nor have I ever loved riding more – even though I am very much a ‘newbie’ to racing, I felt so welcome – the camp really is for everyone, if you have the chance to go…do NOT pass it up!