I was surprised at the size of the saddle.
It can carry a jockey many furlongs around the track but is no larger than a handbag.
We got a peek at a couple of saddles at Royal Windsor Racecourse during the Family Fun Day Spectacular — a day where families could not only watch the races but also meet Dora the Explorer and Diego, get their face painted, and go on funfair rides. The event is part of Great British Racing’s #StirrupSummer — which is all about a new national under-18s campaign, getting kids and families out to the races.
My husband and I got to attend with my 13-year-old, meet the #StirrupSummer ambassador Sara Cox, and see behind the scenes at the racetrack.
We love attending racing in our family. I’ve written before about point-to-points and what we like about those. The races at the Windsor Racecourse are more formal than an amateur jockeys jumping hedges in a farmer’s field, but it features those elements we love — viewing these beautiful creatures as they are led around before racing, picking a horse and putting down a modest bet, cheering as the horses speed by, and then gathering your winnings or — as is more frequent in my case — tearing up your ticket ruefully.
There are also the purely aesthetic delights of attending the races: the lush emerald grass in the enclosure, the sheen of the horses’ coats, the natty attire of some of the gentlemen, the excited voices of children. Here they are joined by the excitement of the funfair. This is mainly geared to younger kids. For our 13-year-old, the attractions that appealed were the dodgems and what we used to call “The Scrambler” at the good old Texas South Plains Fair.
We were lucky enough to go into the Club Enclosure, where there is a dress code, although nothing so onerous as to interfere with our 13-year-old’s usual sartorial choices (the rules dictate smart casual, which includes no ripped jeans and a request for collared shirt for men). We also got to meet Guy Lewis, a former jockey who now works as a race judge. He showed us some images of photo finishes — one in which the winner seemed ahead not by a nose but a nose hair. He told us about jockey injuries (his multiple broken collarbones sounded particularly painful) and working as a race judge — all fascinating insight into the world of professional horseracing.
“Do owners every actually make money from these races?” I asked my husband as we stood in the stands waiting for one of the races to start. “No,” said a woman sitting behind us, with a smile. All the money is spent on upkeep of the horses, training, the jockey. “You do it for the love of it,” she said.
Then, as the horses sped by, the unimaginable happened: the one I’d picked was in front. And stayed in front. And crossed the line in front!
I won a whopping £13 and change by choosing the right horse from the earlier viewing (using my friend’s guidelines which — no — I won’t share).
We all do it for the love it, win or lose.
But when your horse comes in, well, it is exciting!
If you go
Under 18s go FREE on all racedays at Royal Windsor Racecourse. (Must be accompanied by a paying adult.) See the schedule for upcoming events, and look for family days at other racecourses this summer.
Jenography and family attended as a guest of Great British Racing. All opinions are my own.