Victoria Pendleton enjoying life in the saddle
Despite being new to the saddle, Victoria Pendleton, the dual gold medal-winning 34-year-old announced in March she was training to become a jockey, with a long-term aim of competing in the Foxhunter Chase at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.
After four months of training and riding out five times a week for Oxfordshire-based trainer Lawney Hill, Pendleton enjoyed her first taste of competitive action when finishing eighth aboard the Hill-trained Mighty Mambo in a charity race at Newbury.
Pendleton is looking forward to continuing her education in racing, but admits riding over fences at Cheltenham is still a huge ask at this stage.
She said: “If I’d had the opportunity to be involved with horses from a younger age, I’m sure I’d have pursued it above cycling. I definitely wouldn’t have been on the track.
“I loved every second of it (at Newbury) and it was over so quickly. I kind of blinked and thought ‘that can’t be it’!
“I can’t wait to do it again. The next morning I was riding out as per usual.
“We knew it was one step at a time and ticking the boxes of the plan. A charity Flat race is the first step and I know there’s many more rungs to go.
“If I manage to qualify (for Cheltenham) and get there on the day, it will be like I’ve already won, as that in itself is a massive expectation and a very unrealistic achievement.
“I’m just going to try my best and see how it goes. I already feel like I’ve won in some ways, just to be given the opportunity. I feel very blessed and very lucky, as I’ve loved every second of it.
“I just can’t wait to ride out and I wake up every morning feeling that way.”
Pendelton admits it is difficult to compare her new-found love to her career in cycling, but revealed being a jockey is more demanding than many realise.
“It’s completely different. Adding the variable of having a horse with a brain and it’s own ideas of what it would like to and not like to do is one of the biggest challenges, building that rapport with the horse,” Pendleton told At The Races.
“Knowing how to get the best out of it is really challenging and something you can only learn over many years of riding. To be able to jump on a horse you don’t really know and find out what makes it tick is something very special and I’m in complete awe of anyone that can do that.
“For me every day is a new experience and I’m learning so much and it just goes to show how many years you have to put in before you get to the stage where you can just turn up and ride any horse. It’s quite incredible.
“You’re relying on a partnership and a two-way trust really, which is quite crazy. My bikes were made to measure – it’s not like I’m going to get a horse made to measure!
“It’s a completely different challenge, a completely different skill and very physically demanding. I think people underestimate how physically demanding being a jockey is.”