If you ask 24-year-old Jockey Brooke Sweeney what she does in her spare time, she’ll laugh and say, “what spare time”. Having dedicated her life to riding racehorses and re-training them as equestrian mounts once they retire, Sweeney is always on the go.
A typical day for the young jockey involves a 4am start for trackwork at Lindsay Park Euroa, home to work her retired racehorses, and then she’s either off to a horse show or the races.
“I love my life, the equestrian side is a great out from racing. I can just poke around at home on our property with the horses and it keeps me sane and grounded,” Sweeney said.
While Sweeney has worked with many thoroughbreds both on and Off The Track, there’s one special gelding that stands out from the rest, Amber Cavalier.
Amber Cavalier (Bear) and Sweeney have an association that dates back to her days as a stable jockey for the Corsten’s at Flemington, where she piloted the mercurial gelding to a win at Pakenham and rode him a further ten times.
“When I joined the Corsten’s at Flemington he was my first race ride for them and I rode him everyday in trackwork. He was so quirky, there was always a different trick each morning. No matter what he always looked after me though, if I was falling off he would shift to pop me back into the saddle.”
Sweeney credits her long association with Bear to the Corsten’s family of Leon, Kevin and Troy. Who made sure he found a home with her once he retired.
“I can’t thank Leon, Troy and Kevin enough. Without their help I never would have been reunited with Bear once he retired, they really had our best interests in mind,” she said.
With a full-time commitment riding work in the morning and races during the day, Sweeney uses all her spare time preparing her horses for local shows, which is no easy task.
“A few weeks ago I rode work at Euroa, came home and got the horses, headed to Narrandera races and rode a winner called Hangin With Willy. Then I drove to Dad’s in Jerilderie and plaited the horses’ mains until 10pm. I woke up the next morning and took Bear to the Weethalle Show, it was our first one for the season and he came home with a place! It made the hard work all worth it,” she said.
Since their first outing the pair have come along in leaps and bounds. At their most recent show in Finley, Bear came away as Champion in his class, Best Performed Off The Track Thoroughbred and Supreme Open Saddle Horse of the Show.
“Every time I set a goal, he just hits it out of the park. I love this horse so much, he even made me cry on Sunday at the show thinking about Leon and his other owners who still love him so much.
Bear’s former owners still follow his progress and come to watch him at shows whenever they can, bringing lots of apples and carrots.
“My life is busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. To ride two-year-old racehorses and help educate them and then follow their journey as racehorses, and the re-educate them once they have retired, is why I do what I do. It’s so rewarding.”