My happy place: Tayla Wenn - apprentice jockey

By Penny Lewis

Jockey Tayla Wenn is at her happiest in a race and winning. Photo / NZ Woman's Weekly
Jockey Tayla Wenn is at her happiest in a race and winning. Photo / NZ Woman's Weekly

My happy place is riding in a race. I get really excited, but I'm pretty relaxed on a race day - I don't get nervous or anything.

I'll get a racebook and go through the form before the race, look over the other horses and try and plan the race a little bit - how it's going to start, anyway, because it doesn't always go to plan.

Whether the horses can handle a race, well, a lot of that is up to them. Every horse is different. If a horse isn't worked up before a race sometimes they don't go any good. But if a horse is too worked up sometimes they don't go any good, either.

While I'm waiting for the horse to come out, I'll stay relaxed, with not too much going through my mind. I'll just be making sure I know what to do and not stressing out.

It's quite relaxed with the jockeys - everyone's really nice and pretty chilled out.

The horses can sense if you're nervous so, if you're not relaxed, they could play on that a little bit.

At the start everyone's really quiet, keeping to themselves, concentrating on the horses. The caller will call the horses up and you'll go into the gates. Some horses might be anxious and moving in the gates. Once everyone's loaded up, he'll [caller] ask if everyone's ready and then he'll say, "Watch your gates." Then the gates will open, with a bit of a crash.

During the race I can't hear the crowd, I can't even hear the caller. I'll just hear the breathing of horses, the jockeys calling out, the whips. You're concentrating on what you're doing so everything's blanked out.

When it's going well it's a really good feeling, but it can also be a challenge. Sometimes you won't be able to do what the trainer wants you to, so you've got to have a plan B.

I was riding at Waipa once on a horse called Kontiki. The plan was to race handy, in the first three, but at the start he jumped out of the gates and went sideways. We were sitting in last, or second to last, so that plan went out the window and I just had to ride my own race.

I was riding for luck, really, on the rail. At the top of the straight the rails opened up and I fit through a gap and he just kept going. At 50m to go, I thought, "Yeah, I've got this." We won by about a length. It was a relief to cross the line and get the win. Winning's definitely my favourite moment.

- as told to Bronwyn Sell

- Herald on Sunday

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