A farmer from Pickering who got back in the saddle at the age of 50 to ride in a charity horse race is urging others to give it a go.
Karl Avison, fourth generation farmer and owner of Cedar Barn Farm Shop had only just rekindled his childhood love of horses and riding after a gap of more than three decades, when a friend suggested he enter an amateur charity horse race.
Karl said he couldn’t resist giving it a try and put his name forward for the annual Macmillan Cancer Support Ride of Their Lives race.
The charity was close to Karl’s heart as Macmillan had supported him and his family when his father died suddenly from a rare form of brain cancer.
“I hadn’t ridden in 34 years," Karl said. “I’d just turned 50 and wanted to get back into riding. I started riding a few horses out for fun and it totally reignited my passion.”
But he said when this time last year, he applied for Ride of Their Lives he had no idea what the following six months had in store for him.
To apply for Ride of Their Lives, potential jockeys must submit a 60 second video of themselves riding at canter, gallop or jumping along with a referee who can vouch for their riding ability and suitability to race.
If selected the rider then needs to a trainer and yard to support them with training and to supply them with a mount.
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Karl found himself a backer in Malton trainer Brian Ellison.
“I couldn’t have done it without the enormous amount of support I received from Brian Ellison Racing and his team at Malton,” he said.
“Brian got behind me because of his support for Macmillan and the work of the charity. From day one he built up my confidence and technique, he made me believe I could actually pull this off.”
On June 15 this year Karl rode the race which takes place at one of Yorkshire most prestigious courses - York Racecourse. He raised more than £19,000 for the charity and said the day would stay with him forever.
“I never in a million years imagined I could do this, it was a dream of mine to race at York. Probably the best course in the world. It was a perfect experience that I’ll never forget.”
Applications for this year’s Macmillan Ride of Their Lives race close on Monday, December 9 and Karl said it is the “best thing in the world” to do if you have a passion for horses.
“Ride of Their Lives changed my life. It’s as simple as that really,” Karl said.
“I have such a sense of achievement, I discovered a lot about myself; my sense of dedication, bravery and so much more.
“I made a lot of sacrifices in preparing for Ride of Their Lives but it was worth all the blood, sweat and tears.”