Hayley Wilson on riding in The Greatwood Charity Race

You’ll probably have heard of The Greatwood Charity who provide care and rehabilitation to former racehorses. They also run programmes for children with special needs. The Greatwood Charity Race is taking place on Saturday 20 October at Cheltenham Racecourse on the second day of the Showcase meeting. Greatwood needs to raise at least £480,000 a year to stay in business so events like this are vital to their survival.

Riding in the race is Hayley Wilson (@hayleywilson88) who very kindly answered a few questions for us in this interview with @cathrynfry.

Please support Hayley and this fabulous cause by visiting www.justgiving.com/hayleywilson88

Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
A. I’m 24 going on 84. I work as general dogsbody for my parents who train in North Yorkshire. I’ve ridden all my life, but probably rode better as an 8 year old! Where’s my violin…?

Q. What horse are you riding in the Charity Race and who for?
A. Esme Rides A Gaine, my mother’s mare. She will be too slow for 1m5f but I’m grateful for a horse to ride, and a sensible one at that. Ideally, I’d like to ride another of Mum’s horses, Ursus, as he’d love the track and trip. And I’m hideously competitive! But he’s not a straightforward horse. So, if you’re reading this Mother, please make a young girl’s dream come true!

Q. Have you ridden in a horse race prior to this?
A. I’ve ridden in loads of races and have had multiple Gold Cup successes – I’m a pretty talented armchair jockey! But no, I haven’t risked embarrassing myself – yet! Cheltenham should be an easy introduction…

Q. It’s for a great cause. Do you have any personal reason for wanting to take part?
A. I know it’s obvious, but without the horses themselves, we would have no sport. So they absolutely deserve the chance of a life and career after racing. That’s where Greatwood comes in and it does a brilliant job. That paired with the work they do to help children with special educational needs, makes it a worthwhile charity to raise money for. On a more selfish note, of course I’m delighted to have the chance to ride around Cheltenham!

Q. Who is your biggest danger?
A. Probably myself – 5 weeks isn’t long to get fit. I was a latecomer. But that’s not what you meant! I know absolutely nothing about the other riders, so they’re all a threat. Most likely, the best horse will win it, regardless of who is on it. I’m trying to convince myself it is the taking part that counts!

Q. What have you been doing in preparation for the big day?
A. I usually live on a diet of Lucozade, crisps and chocolate. So I’ve knocked all that on the head. I’ve been pretty grumpy as a result. I’ve just been riding out, and mucking out too – it all helps! I’m trying to run a bit too but I’m definitely not a natural! Fitness aside, I’ve been watching a lot of past Cheltenham races, and doing a bit of homework.

Q. What will it mean to ride in a race at jumping racing’s HQ?
A. Oh wow, an awful lot. It’s just a dream for most of us isn’t it? Charity race or not, I never thought I’d be able to say I’m going for a spin around Cheltenham Racecourse! Being there, I will also be thinking of a friend of mine who we lost a few months ago. He enjoyed the biggest day of his career at this years Cheltenham Festival, and I’m taking a lot of inspiration and encouragement from him. I can’t wait!

Thank you to Hayley for this great interview. We wish her lots of luck for 20 October and we’ll be cheering for her! To everyone reading this: dig deep in your pockets! No donation is too small; every penny counts. To donate go to www.justgiving.com/hayleywilson88. Thank you in advance for your support.