We’re chatting to all-round equestrian enthusiast Jess McKie today! Horses run through Jess’ veins, being brought up hunting, eventing at international level & even grooming for a gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics! Jess’ main focus is now on pointing however & with a phenomenally successful start to the sport & a 46% strike rate, Jess has kept the momentum building with her sights set high on the maidens market.
🏇🏼How are you involved in pointing?
It’s a family run affair with mum, dad & my sister Rose all heavily involved. We have all our own point-to-point horses, 5 or 6, mostly homebred. All the training & preparation is done at home. We live on the family farm in Northumberland so we’re very fortunate to have good grass & lots of hills to get the horses fit. We also take them hunting & to the beach to change up the routine.
🏇🏼Favourite aspect of pointing?
I imagine like most people it’s celebrating a winner at the end of the day at the back of a car boot with family & friends. There is something quite special about celebrating often in the pouring rain in the middle of a muddy field with the daylight disappearing.
🏇🏼How did you get into pointing?
My family have a deep history in racing, I was more into the eventing and hunting side of things for a long time. My grandpa gave us an old chaser who had lost his form called “The Falklander”. He adored his hunting and was so well that we decided to give him a run, he went on to win 3 Men’s Opens very impressively and I got the bug.
🏇🏼What is your day job?
Alongside the point to pointing we have a lot of young horses and eventers that take up all of my time. The eventing is very demanding and something that I try and take very seriously.
🏇🏼What’s your pointing career aim?
To produce, educate and prepare young horses for a future career under national hunt rules. I really enjoy producing a maiden and watching them progress. The challenge is to source them in the first place, they are getting so valuable, then, you either survive or fall by your judgement.
The first time I went to a point-to-point as a trainer, we took “The Falklander” & an old homebred horse “Crazy Diamond” I had been eventing who was described as an “elderly maiden with no previous form”. As he was running, I was tacking up The Falklander for the next race, I heard the commentator getting excited about him at the 3rd last & thought he has got to be joking. I ran out of the lorry with Falky half tacked up & started shouting my head off. To cut a long story short we had a double on my debut!
🏇🏼Any changes in pointing you’d make?
I’d simplify everything. Theres a lot of red tape, form filling, box ticking etc. Just keeping up with the rule changes is challenging enough. But I do think the PPA office do a great job in difficult circumstances- trying to satisfy everybody’s demands.
🏇🏼Favourite point-to-point & why?
Has to be our own, The College Valley & North Northumberland held at Alnwick; we are all involved in the running of the day as well as having runners. Alnwick is a tough but fair racecourse & has become popular with the southern raiders (not over happy about this!). This is partly because the team who look after the course do such a great job & this is reflected in the number of runners it attracts.
🏇🏼What do you think lies for the future of pointing?
There will always be a demand for amateur racing in one form or another so I am confident the sport will survive. Dad bangs on that it is not like it used to be, but nothing stays the same forever & we’re still here. The emphasis is moving towards young horses now & not the homebred owner ridden ones, but there has to be room for all & it must be simple. Sure, numbers are down, but as far as I can see there is massive enthusiasm still so let’s just crack on & enjoy it.
🏇🏼What's your favourite aspect of training & owning pointers?
I love riding work, schooling upsides and getting that feeling of the horse telling you he is ready to run. As far as the training is concerned I’ve learnt to be a lot more patient and to think of the long game. I find it very nerve-racking owning a horse, particularly when watching them race as I cannot do anything but look on. At least when I’m eventing I am more in control of the situation!
🏇🏼How would you describe pointing to someone that hasn’t been before?
To me, it appears more of a family day out with like-minded people who enjoy and appreciate all aspects of the countryside and country sports. There isn’t the pressure and formality of a racecourse, and all the locals are involved in way or another. The only piece of advice to someone who has never been before is to take a pair of wellies, a warm coat, and a tow rope for the car!
🏇🏼Any hobbies outside of horses?
Would love to but I have no time! I look forward to a yearly relaxing week away in the sun somewhere-not an adventurous one!
Thank you so much Jess, it's been brilliant to hear your fantastic stories and goals for the future!