Newmarket doors open for teenager
HE was first placed on the back of a horse aged five and riding has been an abiding passion ever since.
Now 16-year-old Reece MacLeod, of Brannen Terrace, Dornoch, is set to turn his love of all things equine into a career.
Reece, a fifth year pupil at Dornoch Academy, has been awarded a place on a British Racing School foundation course following a gruelling selection day on March 20.
It is the first step towards a career as a jockey and he will set off in August for the school at Newmarket, the home of racing, leaving behind dad Donald, a Highland Council roads employee and mum Lorna.
If he successfully completes the 14-week course, Reece will be given a paid, two-year apprenticeship in a working horse racing yard.
He said: “I can’t wait to go – I am really excited and I hope to do my best to represent Dornoch and Sutherland.”
The MacLeod family are well known in the competitive horse world, having long shown their Shetland and Exmoor ponies at agricultural events the length and breadth of Scotland.
All four of the MacLeod offspring were introduced to horses early. Reece has three older siblings – Amy, Liam and Jordan – but he was the only one to continue an interest, entering young handler and young exhibitor classes.
In the past four years alone he has won a staggering 81 trophies and too many rosettes to number. He has been the top overall Shetland young exhibitor in the past three years running.
Although he has always know he wanted to work with horses, Reece was unsure how to go about it. But he received help and support from Dornoch Academy youth development worker Yvonne Ross as well as the Employability Award scheme currently running in north schools.
The scheme not only showed him how to prepare his CV and make an application but also the opportunities available.
Mrs Ross said: “When we found out about Reece’s’ passion for horses, we looked at various options that would allow him to do this and the course in Newmarket came up trumps!”
Chief Inspector Iain MacLelland is chairman of Sutherland Community Partnership, which supports the Employability Award.
He said: “I wish Reece all the best in pursuing his chosen career and look forward to hopefully seeing him in the Grand National one day.”