Scottish Racing Academy students, back row from left, Chloe Blaikie, Ollie Whiteley, Lewis Renwick and Krysten Port. Front: Rhys Elliot and Ciaran Wood
With such strong horse racing links to the town, it is no surprise to find a course in the subject has proved a safe bet.
Several high school students have jumped at the opportunity to embark on the Scottish Racing Academy/Borders College project aimed at educating and encouraging those interested in the industry.
The innovative project was recently shortlisted for an award, as we reported last week.
Fourteen-year-old Rhys Elliot is no stranger to the racing world, spending his weekends riding out for Newmill-on-Teviot trainer Alistair Whillans.
While Rhys is benefitting from hands-on experience, he was keen to reap the rewards the new course has to offer.
“I started the course about six weeks ago when the schools went back,”
explained the fourth-year pupil.
“I’m really enjoying it and learning a lot about horse care and riding, as well as visiting yards.”
Along with half-a-dozen other high school pupils – Rhae Pringle, Ollie Whiteley, Ciaran Wood, Lewis Renwick, Chloe Blaikie and Krysten Port, Rhys enjoys horse racing studies twice a week.
Involved in equestrianism from an early age and a regular follower of the Cornet, Rhys hopes to pursue a career as a professional jockey.
Krysten Port, 15, also has aspirations of becoming a jockey.
“The course is really enjoyable and educational,”
said Krysten, who aims to ride on the Flat.
“I applied because I wanted to learn more about racing and for the education side of things.”
Chloe Blaikie, also 15, added:
“I have been riding since I was four and used to go to the races with my papa and dad as they were both clerk of the scales at Hawick and Selkirk common-ridings.”
Sixteen-year-old Ciaran Wood is in fifth year and, along with his brother Connor (already a successful amateur jockey) was encouraged into the sport by their father, Barry.
The Eskdale Pony Club member has ridden since age five and follows at the Common-Riding.
“I’ve really enjoyed working the odd weekend at Alistair Whillans’ yard so a career in racing is a real consideration, but it would be behind the scenes with a possibility of working up to management.
“It’s a great course – it shows you what’s involved and the commitment you need.”
Fifteen-year-old Rhae Pringle agrees.
“My sister works in racing and in the past I’ve done work experience in the summer holidays at her yard.
“I hope to go to the British Racing School as soon as I can leave school.”
High school guidance teacher Graeme Cockburn commented:
“Hawick has long been famed for its unbeatable production line of professional jockeys.
“Names such as Wilson Renwick, Bruce Gibson, Paul Robson and Ryan Nichol up to current-day favourites Craig Nichol, Jamie and Tom Hamilton, Rowan Scott and Jason Hart would, I am sure, have benefitted from such a course.
“The real training is, of course, based around our yearly Common-Riding and the horsemanship skills the youngsters gain as they move from pony to cob then a thoroughbred horse.
“It’s also great to see girls on this course – their skills and input to the racing world are tremendous and I’m sure for all concerned the future is bright.
The Scottish Racing Academy is designed to develop and deliver a strategic, ambitious, innovative, joined-up and sustainable model of education and training provision for young people entering the racing industry, existing racing staff and their trainers.
It also aims to address the gap in education and training provision available in Scotland and reflects the importance and impact of Scottish racing on the racing industry in the UK and the Scottish economy.
“All of the SRA qualifications have been written in consultation with Scottish, and northern trainers as well as meeting the rules of racing,”
explained Eleanor Boden.
Borders College deputy head Lynne Gilchrist added:
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Scottish Racing Academy.
“The programme allows students to gain essential skills and knowledge to progress to further study or gain employment within a horse racing yard.
“The SRA programmes are a great opportunity for pupils to gain an insight into the numerous careers within the horse racing industry.”