Victoria Pendleton: The backing I have received has been incredible
Victoria Pendleton's Switching Saddles campaign is nearing the finishing line with Cheltenham now just over two weeks away. Ahead of her second Hunter Chase at Wincanton on Wednesday, the double Olympic champion reflects on her year in the saddle and the superb support she has been given...
"The guidance and support I’ve received from key figures in the racing industry has been amazing, and to school alongside the likes of AP McCoy, Aidan Coleman and Nick Schofield, and for people like Katie Walsh and Tom Scudamore to publicly back me, has been a huge confidence boost."
What an amazing 12 months! It's hard to believe that just over a year ago - February 22 2015 to be exact - was the first time I sat on a horse, and now I'm two days away from my second Hunter Chase, at Wincanton this Wednesday.
Since that day with Chris King and Yogi in Newmarket just over 12 months ago, time has absolutely flown by -I've ridden more than 65 amazing horses, made friends for life and have fallen in love with an incredible sport. I can't imagine life without horses.
When I was mulling over what I knew was a very ambitious, slightly crazy, once in a lifetime opportunity that Betfair had just put in front of me, a big factor I kept coming back to was the need to challenge myself further. Add to that the fact that I knew people would be saying it was an 'impossible but incredible challenge', and it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
There have been a few knocks and setbacks along the way and of course there was the fall at Fakenham last week. But being totally honest and realistic, I would be surprised if such setbacks didn't come with a challenge of this magnitude, and in the sport of horse racing! I love learning and improving, which is something I really missed when I finished cycling and that's exactly why I've been bitten by the horse racing bug.
Since Fakenham last week, I've been back riding out with Alan and Lawney Hill, had three Point to Points races which continues to be great learning experience and today I'm down at Paul Nicholls' yard on Pacha Du Polder. Rather than dwelling on one unfortunate incident. I have focused on listening to what the support team are telling me, analysing my performances and ultimately improving my skills and experience.
I am hugely grateful to the amazing support team Betfair have put in place, without Alan and Lawney Hill, Yogi Briesner and Paul Nicholls none of this would have been possible.
I would also like to thank Chris King and the guys at the British Racing School who persevered with me and gave me the confidence and motivation when I was a complete novice. And of course Andy Stewart and his family who have shown the ultimate faith in me by allowing me to ride the beautiful and hugely talented Pacha Du Polder.
The guidance and support I've received from key figures in the racing industry has been amazing, and to school alongside the likes of AP McCoy, Aidan Coleman and Nick Schofield, and for people like Katie Walsh and Tom Scudamore to publicly back me, has been a huge confidence boost.
The whole experience has been an incredible new chapter in my life and it's definitely a story I will continue writing well beyond the outcome of this challenge, whether I make it to Cheltenham or not.
But for now, I'm focusing on Wincanton on Wednesday and I really can't wait.