Schofer back on the horse

Hazel Schofer
Apprentice jockey Hazel Schofer made a winning return to the saddle at Te Rapa on Saturday. Photo: Trish Dunell

Weight, it’s the bane of many jockeys’ existence, and late last year it became a bit too much for talented apprentice Hazel Schofer. The New Plymouth rider had been battling weight issues for some time and elected to take a break from racing. “My weight just got a bit out of control,” she said.

Originally planning to return to raceday riding in May, those plans were shelved as a result of COVID-19, but Schofer said she was pleased to be back in the saddle at Te Rapa on Saturday.

She had six rides for employer Allan Sharrock and she rewarded his support with a win aboard Tavi Mac in the Legacy Lodge 1200. “He was super brave,” Schofer said. “He had a lot of work to do, but I have a bit of experience riding him and he is a horse I know how much he can give and I just trusted him to get to the line.”

Schofer said she rediscovered her passion for racing on her hiatus, and those sentiments were reinforced last weekend. “That was my first raceday back since I took a break last year,” Schofer said. “It was really nice to be out on raceday again. I really missed it and I noticed that being back on Saturday.”

Schofer is focusing a lot of her energy on maintaining her weight and has a strict exercise and diet regime in place to try and achieve that. “I have raised my book weight a little bit,” Schofer said. “I rode 55kg on Saturday and Allan is happy for me to keep it around there, which is a bit more manageable for me.

“I am really trying to focus on my eating and doing the right things to keep my weight down and trying not to sweat too much and focus more on exercise. “I have a personal trainer, so I spend quite a bit of time in the gym. I worked with a dietitian last time around, but I am doing my own interpretation of it this time in.”

Schofer is thankful for the support she has received from Sharrock, who she said has been very patient with her return to race riding. “I was really lucky to be on six of his on Saturday and it was all the team that I could ride, with Tellyawhat and London Express being in the same race. “He has given me all the time I have needed and he hasn’t really pushed me in terms of getting my weight down really quick. He has let me do it on my own. The support really means a lot.”

Schofer said she learnt a lot from her initial efforts to get on top of her weight when she first became a jockey and plans to be more realistic with her weight expectations this time around. “On Saturday I was able to go and have something to eat and drink, which is something I couldn’t do before,” she said. “I think being in that sort of state is a lot more important for me.

“Being more reliable with my weight is definitely something I want to work on. “Last time around my main struggle was eating. I would binge eat a lot and I relied on sweating and I don’t want to be in that state again. “I try and stay really active. There is a mechanical horse at John Wheelers and I make sure I go to that every second day plus a gym programme several times a week.”

Schofer said she enjoyed her time away from the saddle, but now that she is back she is hungrier than ever to make a career in the irons. “Riding is something I want to do and I think I realised that over the time off, I just need to remember that,” she said.

The former competitive showjumper also took a bit of time over her break to reacquaint herself with her first love and to also work a few thoroughbreds on her Taranaki property. “I had the opportunity to have a few pre-trainers where I live, so that was a bit of extra work which was nice,” she said. “We have our own horses at home and I am just trying to focus on racing at the moment.

“I did do a few of the A&P Shows, but I got an off the track Bullbars from Allan that I put a fair bit of time and effort into and I might try and sell her this season depending on how the market is.”

With a realistic outlook pertaining to her weight, Schofer said next season she is aiming to build on her impressive strike-rate established in her first two seasons of riding. “I would like to work on keeping a nice strike-rate,” she said. “With my weight I can’t always take a lot of rides, so for me having a good strike-rate is more important than getting a heap of winners.”