Holly swaps kebab shop for a more stable career


Apprentice jockey Holly Watson can’t wait to get to the stables each morning because she knows who’s waiting to see her.

Even though it means getting up at 3am to go to work, Holly doesn’t envy the people sleeping in the homes she drives past. She’s looking forward to seeing the horses – especially her favourite, a young brown gelding called Lexington City.

“He’s shy but I get along with him very well. He’s a sweetheart,” Holly said.

“I like knowing I’m coming to work and I have a horse waiting for me. I have a lot of bonds with horses but he’s special.

“He’s a bit timid and not as confident as the other horses. I try to help him be more confident.

“He’s big and powerful and fast but he’s also sensitive and kind and he always tries very hard. On the track he does zoomies and shoots off but then he settles.

“It’s mutual. I like him and I like that he likes me too. It gives us something to work with.”

Holly spent time around horses from childhood, riding her friends’ horses when she couldn’t persuade her parents to buy one.

In her teens, she was working at a kebab shop when she was offered the chance to become an apprentice jockey and handed in her apron.

She still serves food each day based on a carefully planned menu but now she has customers who never complain.

Horses have become the focus of her life to the extent that she finds it hard to be away from them, even to take a holiday.

“The bond you create with an animal is an amazing feeling,” she said.

“I’m here every day. I haven’t got children but I look after the horses in that way.

“Racehorses are very spoilt and I think they enjoy the routine of racing. They are well looked after and that’s crucial because when you’re on their back you want them to be feeling their best.

“You couldn’t be in racing if you didn’t love animals because it’s your life and you have to be their carer. It’s the top priority.”

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Now 23, Holly is this year’s winner of the Leading Provincial Apprentice Jockey title.

She rides Lexington at trackwork each morning but he carries a more senior rider on race days and she hopes to extend their partnership to become his regular jockey as she gains experience.

“You either click with a horse or you don’t, they either like you or not,” she said.

“I love him because he’s a unique character and very sweet.”

Susan de Ruyter

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