Apprentice jockey Gavin Ashton, trained at Sir Mark Prescott by The British Racing School reveals what it takes to survive in the saddle…
What’s the hardest thing about being a jockey?
The early mornings aren’t easy but the 5am start grounds you so well. It teaches you the basics. I was right at the bottom of the chain at this yard and I just listened to what the boss had to say and took on board everything I possibly could. It was a natural progression in many ways but I was desperate to learn. You don’t get anywhere in life without having that kind of attitude.
What kind of tools do you use to help you improve?
I still go to the racing simulators every night and push myself as much as I can. I’ve got a coach there who I see every single night, so again that’s helping me. I work on my balance and go to the gym as much as I can too. It’s every little detail that can help you improve.
What’s the most important skill as a jockey?
Balance is massive in racing. I have a balance ball that I work on every night. Basically, every aspect of racing I try and work on and that has all come together to help me improve. I still know I have a long, long way to go. It’s a work in progress.
Do you have any jockey that you particularly look up to?
Riding-wise, I really love Ruby Walsh over jumps. I’m also a huge admirer of Kieron Fallon – the strength he shows in the finish of races is just unbelievable. Luke Morris, who is the stable jockey here and is someone I see going about his business everyday, is also someone I admire hugely. I really like his work ethic and his drive to get those rides. He is a hugely determined individual and he’s definitely someone I look up to.
Do you find yourself watching a lot of racing now?
I would always watch the odd bit of racing before, even when I had never sat on a horse before, but I watch an awful lot now. I watch every single race every day before I go to sleep in the evening. I’ll watch replays of every run and, again, I think that’s helping me to understand the sport. It’s a great way to learn, watching these great jockeys over fences and on the flat and looking at how they approach a race.
Are you the optimum height for a jockey?
I’m 5”3’, which is the perfect height for a jockey, although, to be honest, it’s all about weight rather than height. I could be seven foot tall and as long if I wanted to be as long as I was under 8st 5lbs. It does definitely help if you’re smaller, though. I enjoy my cooking, so I’ve always eaten well. I love eating well, but I’m also very lucky that I have quite a quick metabolism. I do eat healthily, which is obviously important. If I didn’t then it would be harder to maintain my perfect weight. Hopefully that’s something that I’ll have throughout my career because staying at the right weight is probably one of the hardest things that a jockey has to do.
The British Racing School
At The British Racing School, we provide Apprenticeships for young people wishing to start their careers in the exciting industry of Horse Racing. All training takes place in our state of the art facilities located in Newmarket, Suffolk. On completion of the residential element of the course, our trainees are guaranteed work placements with Racehorse Trainers located all over the UK. There are plenty of opportunities in a racing yard: Assistant Trainer, Head Lad, Jockey and Work Rider to name but a few.With prospects of career progression and world travel coupled with the thrill of riding a thoroughbred, Racing is a career like no other. Check out more at www.brs.org.uk.