Camilla Henderson, daughter of top racing trainer Nicky Henderson describes her upbringing in the Henderson household, and how she is working to encourage others to become as enthusiastic about the sport as herself:

“I have been involved in horseracing one way or another throughout my life, I suppose it’s my destiny; after all, it is in my blood.

Both my parents were great jockeys, and my mother [Diana Henderson] was also an elite event rider back in the day, she competed at Badminton and Burghley countless times, the era of Lucinda Green!

She was the first lady jockey to ride under National Hunt Rules against men, and oh yes, she made sure she won that one (at Stratford)!

At the age of two I had no other choice but to make best friends with Chubby, an old chestnut hairy-but-kind pony who was handed down after loyally serving both my elder sisters through Pony Club camps, gymkhanas and shows. He was mine at the ripe old age of 19, these were my earliest memories and this was just the start..

My sisters and I were always looking forward to Super Saturdays, getting dressed up, running to the car with Dad, mad rush after second lot! There was such excitement, anticipation and adrenaline, not many of my school friends would have had such active weekends as we did!

I did quite a bit of eventing, as seriously as possible all the way up to University. I did Pony Club, areas, dressage, show jumping, BSJA, BE Eventing, everything bar polo! That was Sarah’s thing, in fact still is! I got to the Sansaw Pony Club Championships three times and then onto Ballindenisk in Ireland representing GB in the FEI Pony Championships. T

hen, I went to Bristol University, my equestrian aspirations were put on hold. I thought it was massively important to continue with my studies, something academic was going to earn me more money in the long run, and University after all, is where you learn about life! It was becoming impossible to commit to both with such a long drive in between lectures and training and lessons the whole time. So I reluctantly took a step back with the competing, I knew it had to stay as a hobby, and my career was going to be psychology based.

Getting out the racing saddle!

I quickly got the urge to race ride, after all, I was riding out most days in my holidays for my father from the age of 14, so it had always been on the agenda, as a bit of fun really.

For the last eight years I have had a few rides each season and now hold my amateur Category B license whereby I can ride against professionals over jumps and on the flat. I had a few rides on the flat and also a few hunter chases, I have loved every minute of it and I am always yearning to do more! Pulling my father’s leg for more opportunities and leg-ups is another matter…

After my Applied Psychology degree I went onto Loughborough University to study a masters in Sport Psychology. Now I am training under the BPS and HPC to become a chartered Sport Psychologist, this entails three years of consulting, writing publications, teaching, research, lecturing and working with individual and team athletes. I have been lucky enough to be signed with Bristol Rugby on a three-year contract and am currently in the process to start work with Swindon Town FC.

Keeping the interest

I took on a few part time jobs in between my studies, but one which I was and am adamant to continue is my job at EPDS Racing as communications and client manager – a small friendly, ethical and affordable racing club with seven horses in training, and four retired.

I love my position here, because it is all about making those fun days out possible, making dreams happen! We have encouraged a real mixture of people from all over the UK, some are born and bred into racing, and some are newcomers to all things equine!

The common ground is that we all share is the appreciation of the sport and the horses for what they are. We hold particular emphasis on the welfare of the horse and the processes of this. The aim is to educate and teach members about the upkeep and the training of the racehorse.

Through my role at EPDS Racing I want to try and help the industry move forwards, opening it out, gaining more supporters, especially those with non-equestrian backgrounds.

Great day out for all ages

Racing is simply about having a fun day out, whether it be with friends, family or loved ones. I love going with friends, always look forward to dressing up, putting a hat on, and having no expectations of coming home with much cash in my pocket, in fact the far opposite!

When taking some of my London friends for a day out, I try to persuade them to bet small in a few races. This way they automatically have their own personal interest when watching the race. It’s all very well saying this is my father’s horse, but this has no direct interest for them!

I will often hail down a knowledgeable racing friend, or a jockey before the first to help mark our cards with some tips, and the day has already started off (we hope!) to be a good one!

There is always such variety at the races, so many options of what to do and where to go. Having a little gathering spot for warmth, food and drink is always key to a successful day’s racing. It’s good to have a walk about, get involved and see the horses up close, go to the pre-parade ring, watch them get tacked up and prepped, go to the paddock and have a look, choose your horse and watch the trainers give their instructions to the jockeys and get legged up.

It’s amazing how much you really can see, and it’s always fascinating.

Then watch the races from different view points, the outside stands would be my preference, higher the better, get the best views and soak up the atmosphere.

Spread the word!

My aim is to share my racing experiences, give some insight and encourage others who are not as familiar with the sport to come along and try it. Whether you choose to go to a point-to-point in South Devon on a Sunday or you go to an Open meeting at Cheltenham on a Saturday, it is always a guaranteed fun day out!

I have been working with the Racing4Girls team for the past year now, a really fun group of racing girls who all write blogs about our various interests within the racing industry. It is all very light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek and the objective is to give insight and knowledge to those who are new to the sport, to add interest, raise money for racing charities and to give racing fans more fuel for their daily racing fix!

Racing4Girls have recently raised over £6000 for Racing Welfare and the IJF with the inimitable Racing4Girls 2014 calendar. Visit the website www.bettingbeauty.com to get more information.

I have written about my sport psychology work and discussed how different mental skills, strategies and interventions can be utilised in order to improve an athletes (jockeys in this instance) performance. I’ve looked at the physiological challenges jockeys face, and the psychological implications and negative impact it can have on their riding.

I would love to see the industry continually grow alongside other more developed sports. The problem jockeys are faced with is that they are working for themselves and not a club, so money isn’t invested into them like footballers and rugby players, the sport is centered around the horse, not the jockey.

Slowly but surely this notion is changing and the sport is developing, its good to start discussing, relating, chatting and debating!

I hope I have given some of you some interesting insight, inspired others to come racing and bored a few!..

Best wishes to you all, and enjoy Cheltenham Festival – Come on Team Hendo!” Camilla x

Pictured: Camilla and Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth – favourite for this year’s Gold Cup next week. Picture by Vicki Blatchley.

GUIDE TO THE FESTIVAL AT CHELTENHAM 2014 – CLICK HERE


CAMILLA HENDERSON

Camilla Henderson is a Sport and Performance Psychologist, living in Oxfordshire. Currently in her Stage 2 training under the BPS to become a Chartered Sport’s Psychologist, she works for Bristol Rugby and various individual athletes. She aspires to work with international golfers, cricketers, tennis players and athletes all over the world.

She holds her amateur Category B license and regularly rides in point-to-points throughout the season and has also had a few rides under Rules. In the winter she rides out for father Nicky Henderson, and Charlie Hills and Brian Meehan in the summer.

Camilla is also the Communications & Client Manager and all things admin for EPDS Racing, an ethical and affordable racing club. 

CAMILLA HENDERSON SPORT & PERFORMANCE CONSULTANCY BSc, MSc (BPS chartered sport psychologist trainee)

28 Fawkner Way, Stanford-in-the-Vale, Faringdon, Oxon, SN7 8FF

Tel: 01367 718495 Mobile: 07796844170

Website: http://www.camillahenderson.co.uk

Email: [email protected].

Picture courtesy of Ed Whittaker – Racing Post.

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