This week we're joined by the top South East area jockey Will Hickman. Will has ridden 43 winners and scored a top strike rate this season with 4 wins & 4 seconds from just 10 rides! Will and his partner Hannah Jones are real South East pointing enthusiasts with Will assisting Hannah in training their pointing yard. Hannah also used to ride pointing herself and is always keen to help, having done the horse catching at Aldington!
🏇How are you involved in pointing?
I’m primarily a rider but also train in partnership with my fiancée, Hannah Jones. I do the exercising, feeding & race planning, and Hannah tells me when they’re looking too lean/fat. Hannah organises the farrier, chiropractor, talks to owners & generally just sorts everything out. Riding-wise I’ve been very lucky to ride for most people in the South East, as well as a few of the regular South East raiders.
🏇What is your favourite aspect of pointing?
The friendliness, especially when you get to know everybody involved. The South East is a great area as there aren’t any ‘professional’ yards so it’s a very relaxed atmosphere in the lorry park & changing room. When someone has a winner everyone else says well done, we all know how hard it is – the majority of races in the South East are won by horses from out of the area so it’s worth celebrating when one of us gets a winner.
🏇How did you get into pointing?
My family have been very involved with pointing. My grandfather rode 89 winners in an era when all the races had about 18 runners. Three of my uncles & both my parents rode. Andrew is currently the most successful with 90 winners, I’m nearly halfway there…
I had my first ride on Native Performance in December 2007 trained by my mum. I rode 14 winners for her before she retired from training.
🏇What is your day job?
I’m an ‘Architectural Technician’ but have just started my own company so now I suppose I’m also a Managing Director. I create drawings for planning permission as well as the more detailed design. My parents had an extension when I was about 13 & I found the architects drawings exciting & started designing houses for fun. After a failed attempt to become a vet & suffering 3 years of a maths degree, I’ve ended up doing what I wanted to do in the first place. I didn’t think there would be anything that could keep me at a desk all day but, for some reason, drawing does. I’d love to see some of the drawings I did when I was 13 & see how terrible they are!
🏇How would you describe pointing to someone that hasn’t been before?
It’s horse racing’s version of Sunday league. A load of amateurs with day jobs, racing around a pop up racecourse that was just farm land a few days previously. Ideally in warm sunshine with a few thousand spectators in attendance.
🏇What’s your pointing highlight?
I’ve had some very good days and ridden some lovely horses, but I had always admired Little Legend & to be able to ride him was special. He didn’t disappoint & just tore around Aldington, paying absolutely no attention to anything I told him. When I asked him to slow down, he quickened, when I asked him to go long, he went short, when I asked for him to go short, he went long. We finally gelled at the third last where I asked for a very long one & he came up, it felt like we were flying. When we turned into the straight he showed me his top gear & it was like in Star Trek when the stars all whizz past, he was like riding a little rocket & this was when he was 13-years-old! He was the most intelligent horse I’ve ridden, giving himself breathers when he needed them. It was a privilege.
🏇If you could change one thing in pointing, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about horses I would make their tendons unbreakable! That way we could run them more often & there would be more runners. One thing I often find disappointing is a lack of video footage & photos. Our owners had their first winner this season & there’s not a single photo to commemorate it, let alone a video that they can watch back.
🏇Where’s your favourite point-to-point & why?
Aldington is my favourite for several reasons. A) It’s our most local & only takes 10 minutes to get home. B) It’s my most successful course with 9 winners from 27 rides. C) The long walk back to the winner’s enclosure is lovely as you pass everyone in the lorry park & car park. D) With five fences down the back straight it’s just nice to ride.
🏇What’s your earliest pointing memory?
I’m not sure if it’s the earliest but I remember my dad driving the lorry to the races, jumping out & running out of the course, then watching the whole meeting through a hole in the hedge.
🏇What do you think lies for the future of pointing?
I hope those that are negative about the future are wrong & that we can keep things going. Crowds have been very good this year & hopefully hunts will have been given confidence to keep having meetings. But there are two things that are going to impact pointing.
1) It is becoming too expensive for owners. It’s a factor that’s seen horse numbers drop & is only going to get worse. People say that prize money doesn’t make a difference but whenever I talk to someone about getting involved in a syndicate their first question is usually ‘so how much do you win?’. When I tell them how little it is they usually reply with a swear word.
2) Is the hunts. If they go, then their point-to-point goes too. A few around us are doing more fun rides & hopefully that will raise enough funds for them to persevere.
🏇What's your favourite aspect of riding/training pointers?
Winning. Winning makes you realise that it’s all worth it. Some of our owners had their first winner this season & there were tears from everyone, it’s a sensation that you just can’t get from anything else. Also, the people. I have ridden for some lovely people who are happy if you pull up & ecstatic if you win. They do it for the love of their horses & it’s nice to be a part of that.
🏇What is your current set-up/training operation?
We have a handful of pointers on our yard. We have one or two of our own & one or two for owners. I’d love to have a big yard full of pointers but there aren’t many people keen on owning them at the moment. We have a two-furlong sand gallop about 10 yards from the stables & a nice field for the schooling fences. We have a few dozen acres of woodland that has just finished being coppiced, so I’m going to start making some tracks for the horses to hack through. During the season I get up at about 5am. I muck out and ride & try to be back home & in the office for 9am (rarely happens). I run at lunchtime & then back down the stables at about 5pm to do evening stables. Then back in, cook & go to bed. It’s a non-stop day & is now even busier with our son, Harry, to work around.
🏇Any hobbies outside of horses?
I got into long-distance running with my sister & cousin over the first lockdown; something I never thought I’d be capable of, let alone enjoy. I don’t really have time for it anymore but I’m going to try and do at least one long run a week this summer. One of the biggest perks is you can eat anything you like after a 20-miler!
Will thank you so much for such an in-depth insight into your pointing life! Have a restful summer, despite the long-distance running, and see you pointing next season!