Jonny Featherstone, a young rider with talent to burn!
'There's a key to every horse - it's just finding the key to unlock them. That's my motto' explained Jonny Featherstone, a 22-year-old horseman who is currently building a reputation in the Midlands.
Jonny has been called In to help with all kinds of horse problems - his first case was a six-year-old Thorough Bred that had been to three different experienced people to be backed and after six months no progress had been made.
'The horse would just bury people' Jonny said, in a very matter-of-fact tone. 'I got the horse sorted in a month, getting on her every day, although for the first two weeks she went crazy every day. She didn't get me off though. She was a very nervy horse but had got to the point where she was using that to get out of work.
Johnny's mother trained racehorses for the flat and for jumping and her approach to her children was simple - they learnt to ride bareback! 'Mum didn't let me or my brothers have a saddle until we were about 11' explained Jonny. 'Horses were very much a way of life - we still have the one-eyed Shetland which was my first pony. Mum had him before I was even born.
'My Mum has definitely been the biggest influence on me - she was back race riding three weeks after I was born - and she has made me the rider I am today. She's probably the best horsewoman I know, she really understands horses and as a rider she can settle even the craziest of horses. She's got a brilliant work ethic but she doesn't suffer fools or wimps.'
From the age of 12 Jonny had been riding out in school holidays for trainer David Loder and at 13 was even riding Group 1 horses! At 16 he went as an apprentice and had 80 rides in his first six months.
Although Jonny clearly had talent he did have a battle on his hands - for within a year he went from being 5ft 4ins and seven and a half stone to 5ft 8ins and another stone heavier.
'All I ever wanted to do was ride racehorses but when your body won't let you it's really hard.' He tried turning amateur, as these riders can be heavier, and he came second in the amateur Derby at Epsom in 2010. 'I got the pick of two horses owned by my Mum and the other one beat me on the line' he explained. 'I also wanted to race ride professionally, riding every day, so with that out of the question I thought I'd try just working in a racing yard.
'I went to Sir Michael Stoute as Pupil Assistant and at the age of 21 had some serious responsibilities with some of the best horses in the world. I was there for seven months but eventually decided that if I could not race ride I'd rather not be in racing at all. Racing was all I knew but I decided to give it up and try something different.'
A change of direction
So it was that Jonny started to help ordinary owners with difficult horses - often working with owners at their yards although he can also take horses in. Grand National winning jockey Brendan Powell has described Jonny as 'a completely fearless rider and a huge talent'.
However, while his daily work does require this aspect of his riding skill, it also demands much more - as Jonny says he likes getting inside a horse's head and understanding what the horse is thinking. He approaches problems by taking a step back and reading the situation, as he is aware that there is a very fine line between a horse being nervous or scared and a horse being bolshy or taking the mickey.
Jonny also believes that everything should be done in the nicest way possible and that if a horse enjoys what he is doing then he will do it to the best of his ability.