By Hayley Clarke.
Some of you may have heard the name Jessica Young around the equestrian circle before but you probably won’t Know how she is making a name for herself these days.
Jessica grew up around horses due to her father, Paul, being a harness racing trainer and driver. Although she had been brought up around racehorses all of her life, it was the sport horse scene that she was first interested in. Jessica competed up until age 17. After her final year of competitive riding, she went to Horse of the Year and then ended up selling all three of her ponies which marked the end of an era as she changed her seat from a saddle to a race cart. Although she misses the sport horse scene, she realises times change and is now more accustomed to the harness racing instead.
“Mum would say, ‘It doesn’t matter what the float looks like, it’s about what comes off it,’- I always got the horses that no one else could ride and I had to sort them out.”
A talent that you could say is in the hands for her success both riding and driving horses.
The 25 year old attended Ashburton College until 2008 when she took up a job with trainer Dean Taylor until 2010. Jessica’s parents Paul and Barbara wanted her to get a degree behind her before she carried on working in a stable, so she moved to Dunedin where she completed a four year degree in Pharmacy, followed by one year working in a chemist.
Jessica made the decision to try her hands at driving thanks to a horse called Triple X. The gelding intrigued Jessica and around this same time her Dad had an accident leaving her to get the chance to drive the horse.
“We couldn’t get a regular driver and I loved him and it made me angry that one driver wouldn’t stay on,” she
says. “The more I went to the races the more of a drug it was.”
Accordingly, Jessica went on to drive her first winner, Xterminate, a half-brother to Triple X. Xterminate was bred, owned and trained by Jessica’s parents, which made the moment even more special.
“I got the win on my ninth drive and I had the trail the whole way. I got my licence to drive for Dad and I had three wins for him in my first season, it was awesome,” she says.
Little did Jessica know, just three months after her exciting victory she would experience one of the worst rides of her life. On July 11, 2009 Jessica was tipped out at the start of a race when the horse beside her swung round and knocked her cart over. As she got thrown from the sulky, her foot was left caught in one of the cords which resulted in her being dragged for quite some distance.
“I couldn’t let go because my foot’s stuck and there was no way I could hold him,” she says.
Jessica managed to pull her boot off and get free around the back straight. She was very lucky to escape with just some bruising. The incident didn’t put her off racing. Jessica cannot speak highly enough of her families support and involvement in her harness racing dream. Her Dad gave up driving completely so that he could help her race.
“Mum and Dad, they’ve been through a lot. I did a lot of silly things when I started out, Dad would put me on rough horses to persuade me not to do it. I got criticism from him and Mum would say, ‘it’s alright you’re doing good’.”
So what does the future hold for a young talent like Jessica Young?
“Ideally I thought I would have a couple of horses with Dad, whether I go into partnership with him, I’m not sure but I’ll own a couple and train a couple and that will be it.”
“I love what I’m doing but I don’t know if I could do it my whole life. I would want a family and that’s why Dad cut back on the driving. Having a family is a bit more important to me than going all over the country driving horses. I get more of a kick out of driving horses I work and the ones that Dad owns”.
For now Young is going with the flow. There are moments when she feels like giving up, but a reminder from her Mum to keep going is all she needs to get her focus back on track.
“I love being out there in a race, that adrenaline rush you get, nothing beats that, especially when you’re sitting behind something and you’re absolutely bolting.”