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Race For Life - The Journey Begins


SJ Barker is one of 12 amateur jockeys taking part in a once in a lifetime charity challenge, the Ernest Cooper Macmillan Ride of their Lives race.

SJ, 38 who lives near Malton, runs the family breeding operation, but until this year had never ridden a racehorse.  She is now riding out daily at Tim Easterby’s yard and tells us a little about her journey in the following blog.

On 13th June 2020, I will be undertaking the daunting but exhilarating challenge of racing 1 mile and 1 furlong around York Racecourse in front of a 20,000+ crowd.  Riding at York Races will be a dream come true – many happy days have been spent on the Knavesmire and I have to pinch myself that I will get to ride there – it seems very surreal. I grew up riding ponies and horses in eventing, show-jumping and dressage, but riding a thoroughbred at high speed is an altogether different matter!

Cancer affects everyone and I will be primarily riding in memory of my cousin and godfather Caley whose battle with cancer lasted just 6 months, and close family friend Colin, who worked on our family farm and passed away on Christmas Eve.

The first few weeks have been slightly overwhelming! Since finding out I was a chosen jockey, I have been on the phone A LOT! Family life has been turned upside down and all the chat around the table is horses, riding out and fundraising. The kids are so engrossed, they are planning what they can do to help raise some money! Good news…

Before the charity race entered my life, I could be found preparing foals and sometimes yearlings for Tibthorpe Stud, based near Driffield, to be sold at Tattersalls, Newmarket and Goffs (UK). Or more recently spotting yearlings for Tim Easterby.

When not outside, I prepare the farm accounts as well as owning and running Ryedale Mumbler and Scarborough & Whitby Mumbler. These are two well-established hyper-local parenting websites which provide a wealth of information to families, parents and carers. From days out to classes and playgroups, jobs for mums, offers and discounts, family friendly restaurant reviews and much more, you’ll find it all on a Mumbler site. Plus they allow me to juggle my time and make the most of the opportunities that arise.

Team TDE (Tim Easterby) kindly agreed that they would allow me to ride out…I have ridden all my life but until January I had never sat on a racehorse in full training before. The kids went back to school and so did I, I felt like a new girl on her first day! A big thank you to everyone who has been so patient so far, especially Emily who has seen me right and given me invaluable tips and instructions.

The horses have been very patient, especially Things Change, who regularly has a boisterous squeal! When asked to lead the string, I felt very apprehensive but I was reassured by Emily that it would be fine, he would dictate the pace! He did.

One morning, one of my assigned lots had to be ridden in draw reins. Now I have ridden competition horses in draw reins quite happily before and competed dressage in a double bridle so I was comfortable with lots of reins! However, I wasn’t used to a bridge thrown into the mix as well, plus having to tighten my girth (have slight OCD about that!) and how to get my goggles on all whilst trying to hold double reins (I seem to struggle to do the latter with one rein)!

Riding pointers has been a great starting point, especially Things Change and Panthers Creek who have been fab! Sarah, Emily and all at White Holme have helped me so much. Answering my daft questions, giving me tips as to how to improve and just making me feel as part of the team. I still feel pretty clueless but slightly less clueless than I was!

First visit to main yard gave me a spin on Mountain Hawk and Travel Lightly. The routine is all slightly different so again I felt like I was at my first day at school….first obstacle to be over come was getting the right horse of the horse walker….there are a lot of bays that look very similar!

Life’s a juggle as I have to acquire school run “volunteers” to be able to get to Main Yard at 7am for 2 lots before heading down for 2 lots of pointers. I certainly couldn’t do this without a lot of help from A LOT of people, I am overwhelmed by people’s support and determined to repay them by raising a significant amount of money.

For the first few weeks, I woke up with a different muscle shouting at me! I have certainly located a couple that I didn’t know I had. I am pleased that this is now passing and I feel less like a creaking gate post.

I have a previous shoulder injury, where I did my AC joint falling off my own horse 18 months ago. I was lucky enough to see the physios at Jack Berry House then and it was amazing that Danny remembered when I had my gym induction. We soon discovered that it is very weak! My gym programme has been tailored by Danny, taking account of this. The facilities at Jack Berry House are second to none. I feel lucky to be able to use them, I just need to get there as much as possible!

Everyone keeps asking about my legs, but at the moment, I feel it is my upper body and my core that is the weakest. There is plenty of hard work to be done!

Whilst I am busy riding out, I am getting all the fundraising plans in place, these seem to be taking shape with many things in the pipeline including Nearly New Sales, Family Fun Days, Supper Clubs, a Grand National Party, a Ladies’ Lunch, a Clay Pigeon Shoot and some Mumbler Awards plus the normal Just Giving Page HERE….it certainly is all go!

Perhaps it’s time to stop eating cake and sweets….

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: British Horse Racing has been suspended until the end of April. Read our full statement.