This time last year she had not even sat on a horse but with a top team behind her and a new found passion for racing, Pendleton has embraced her ‘switching saddles’ campaign in the manner befitting a dual Olympic cycling champion.
Her progress has been startling as she has progressed from work rider to competing in Flat races last summer followed by point-to-points during the winter.
She only had her first mount in a hunter chase a month ago. That may have ended in disappointment when she was unseated from Pacha Du Polder at Fakenham, but any tears turned to cheers as she guided the Paul Nicholls-trained 11-year-old to victory at Wincanton.
Even after that success there was much soul-searching before Pendleton accepted the challenge to ride in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase, backed by her advisors, including trainers Lawney and Alan Hill, Nicholls, Sir Anthony McCoy and equestrian expert Yogi Breisner.
“By no means was it an easy decision to make. I wouldn’t have made the decision without the support of my team of experts around me that have been without me throughout the whole challenge,” Pendleton said.
“I appreciate it was not a decision that should be taken lightly as National Hunt racing is an extremely dangerous sport where there are lots of risks involved, but I feel that I’m capable of being part of that race.
“Lawney and Alan Hill have been putting up with me as a work rider, helping me and coaching me and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it
“Yogi Breisner, who gave me those first lessons, wondered if I was going to ever rise and trot, but we progressed quite quickly and I appreciate his continuous support throughout this.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that Paul Nicholls has been supportive and Andy Stewart (owner) has given me a wonderful opportunity to ride an incredible horse.
“I would also like to thank the jockeys that have publicly supported me, the likes of AP McCoy, Aidan Coleman and Tom Scudamore, because there have been tough times and their positivity has helped me through that.”