Eight young riders took part in the Hastings edition of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing’s special Ride To Time programme last week.

Ride to Time is a joint initiative between NZTR and the New Zealand Pony Club Association and aims to teach Pony Club riders how to ride at a given pace over a given distance, while understanding their horse’s natural pace.  It also helps young riders to judge how fast they are travelling and what is a safe and balanced speed as well as several aspects of thoroughbred racing.

National Riding Mentor Noel Harris, along with NZTR Central region Licensing, Training & Welfare advisor Bridget Flynn, were on hand to take the young riders through their paces, with successful thoroughbred trainer Kirsty Lawrence and apprentice jockey Hunter Durrant also there to give a hand.

“Of the eight riders we had six of them were returning riders, having attended the first session at Waipukurau so they were at the next level,” Lawrence said.

“Noel Harris and Bridget Flynn took them and were amazing.

“They first got to ride the mechanical horse and learn about all aspects of horses and then they had an address from Mike Newall from VetOne, who went through how heart rates are taken from horses etc.

“They then went out onto the racecourse where they all trotted a lap on the plough to get used to the track and then they went singularly and had to do 1000 metres in 1:50. It was all about teaching them about metres to seconds.”

Lawrence said they all got to do a second lap and were allowed to sprint up the home straight, something they obviously all enjoyed.

“They were really nice kids and, even if they don’t go on to become jockeys, they can always become trackwork riders while they are studying for their future.” Lawrence added.

More than 70 school-age children have enjoyed taking part in the Ride To Time programme, with New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing CEO Bernard Saundry saying it has been a huge success.

“Noel Harris, along with NZTR Licensing, Training & Welfare advisor Matthew Barnsley, attended the event at Pukekohe last week and it was so successful that a second session had to be scheduled for this Friday, which indicates the programme is filling a need.”

The South Island has also hosted two events, at Cromwell and Wingatui, with South Island Riding Mentor David Walsh and South Island Apprentice Tutor Amy Johnson representing NZTR.

“The feedback from the participants has been extremely enthusiastic and it is a wonderful way for our industry to give a glimpse into some of the requirements needed if considering a career in racing,” Saundry said.

“Clubs have been embracing the concept and will be welcoming the Ride to Time attendees back on track to get a behind the scenes look at what happens on a race day.”

While Ride to Time will help to give young riders the skills required to become a trackwork rider or a jockey in the future, it also aids them in other disciplines, such as show-jumping or eventing, when riding against the clock.

“It has been pleasing to see how attendance at these events has grown and with a further six to be run in the next school holidays we are looking on target to have around 150 graduates of the Ride to Time programme this year.”