“I’m not keen on things that make it difficult to enter the sport. I think we should encourage people who ride to try it … I was lucky enough to have some great opportunities and I’d like others to have them too” new PPORA sponsor David Renney shares some memories along with his reflections on “change”
David in action with All Great N Theory. Top image courtesy and copyright Henry Kinchin, others courtesy & copyright Phil Britt Photography
“Thrilling for everyone involved” is how David Renney, owner and former rider, entrepreneur and Managing Director of Nimrod Veterinary Products Limited the sponsors of this season’s North and South & East Regional Young Horse Awards describes Point to Pointing. In the latest of our “In their own words…” features David shares some memories, as well as some thought provoking reflections on our sport.
Tell us about … the day job?
“I trained as a vet and now run Nimrod Veterinary Products, a veterinary pharmaceutical company that I founded 11 years ago. We focus on cattle, horses and poultry. We are different from much of the industry in that we concentrate on niches and provide products that are interesting and useful to vets, but that are ignored by the huge multinationals typical of our industry. Having said that, if people look at the packaging on some of the products that their vets provide it’s quite likely they’ll see our name.”
… what lit the Pointing spark?
” I came from an utterly unhorsey urban family, but when we moved to a rural county my mother took me to the local riding school. So it started with a passion for riding, and then that led to riding out for Fred Rimell, and later for Mrs Rimell, in university vacations. From the very first day of doing that I thought ‘This is for me, I want to ride in races’.
It took a few years to become a reality. The first chance came when I was working as a vet in practice. One of our clients asked me to ride horse for her, my boss banned it straight away – he didn’t want to risk me getting hurt! It wasn’t till I was 28, and had left practice and gone into industry, that I was able to afford a half share in a horse called Awning. That’s how I got started.
My co-owner was kind enough to let me ride – particularly kind because I fell off the first several times! He’d won over two miles, and I don’t think he stayed more than two miles and a furlong – we used to go screaming off in front and when he got tired he’d make a mistake and he’d fall or I’d fall off!”
… your most treasured moment?
“My first winner, Lochinvar Lord in an older horses’ Maiden at Lockinge on a Bank Holiday. I’d been riding for four or five seasons and was getting a bit frustrated thinking I should have had a winner by now. Coming into the final bend there were two ahead of me, they drifted out slightly and I stuck to the bend gaining several lengths. I remember being so thrilled I didn’t think about anything else really for a week, and that is still a very happy memory! There was poignancy about winning there too as my wife’s older brother had a treasured winner on a family horse there shortly before he was killed in a road accident.”
… All Great N Theory your most successful horse and a PPORA Young Horse Award Winner in 2013?
“We’re very lucky to have him. We went to Doncaster Sales but everything on our shortlist was withdrawn. As we walked up the yard my wife Donna said, ‘What about this?’ I looked at the catalogue and said that he’d be way out of our budget because he’s by Old Vic and shares a second dam with Comply or Die. Donna said, ‘Let’s see him anyway’.
The groom brought him out of the box. He had a dipped back, but he moved like a dream, so then I thought we definitely couldn’t afford him but we went to watch him sold. There were two other bidders and as soon as I bid they both dropped out. So we bought him for very small money and spent the next 6 months waiting to find out what was wrong with him! There was nothing, and I still don’t know how we got him, he’s been wonderfully honest and given us a huge amount of fun.
The first time I rode him at Larkhill his trainer Julie Wadland said ‘I’m not sure he’s quite fit so if you’re not happy pull him up’, going out into the country I had a double handful and thought I won’t be pulling up – we finished second.”
… lessons learned along the way?
“I learned my lesson very late in my riding career when I started going to Newmarket to be coached by Steve Smith-Eccles. It was a very valuable one – recognising the benefit of experienced coaching – and Steve’s help made a huge difference to me.
Poignantly I remember watching a video of my penultimate ride where the horse I was riding, As It Is, was beaten about a length to be third in a good race at Brocklesby Park and thinking ‘wow you do actually look like a jockey now’.
After all those years of knowing that I really wasn’t a great rider that coaching had really made the difference. Unfortunately for me I broke my back on my next ride.”
… if given the chance to ride any horse in any contest, what it would be?
“All I would want to do is get back on All Great N Theory in any race at Brocklesby Park – his favourite track and one of mine – and relive the winners I had with him there.
The first time I rode him there I walked the course with Charlie Wadland and going up the back straight he said, ‘watch it here second time round it’s where people are likely to make a move and go for home, don’t get caught napping’. In the race I remember thinking ‘remember what Charlie told you – where are you boys I can’t hear anyone’the horse was still so far in front I couldn’t hear anybody – if I could re-live that I’d love to!”
… the best thing about our sport?
“Along with the competitive endeavour it’s the friendliness. We went to our first Point To Point of the season a couple of weeks ago and our horse unfortunately unseated this rider, but I really enjoyed the overall day. I realised it was because of seeing all the people who share the endeavour with me. It’s a really friendly sport, despite being competitive there aren’t really many petty jealousies, and people take genuine pleasure in each other’s success, that’s lovely.“
.. and the things you’d like to change – or protect?
“The thing I’d most like to change about the sport is for people to stop talking about what they’d like to change because there’s really not much wrong with it. It’s run by volunteers who do really good jobs so I am not inclined to criticise it or to encourage others to do so.
Having said that I have seen positive changes over the time I’ve been involved. One of those is the condition of the racing surface, that’s improved hugely since I started 25 or 30 years ago. These days there is a lot more thought about this, and it’s very often presented in a good condition. That’s an important change to maintain and protect.
There’s also been a huge improvement in the quality of riding, it’s some years since I’ve seen anyone riding on the track and thought ‘you shouldn’t be there’. Some benefit from Pony Racing, which is a great thing, and the coaching I mentioned before is much more readily available now. Progress in the quality of riding is definitely something we should protect, but I’m not keen on things that make it difficult to enter the sport. I think we should encourage people who ride to try it and help those that do to develop in it. My background was riding school, Pony Club, hunting, it certainly wasn’t racing. but I was lucky enough to have some great opportunities and I’d like others to have them too.”