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An Interview with National Hunt Trainer Harriet Dickin

Last year, when a yard relocation meant Harriet Dickin had the chance to take over her father Robin’s training license, she grabbed the opportunity. Initially uprooting to the Cotswolds, the whole yard then relocated to its present base at Twinhoe, near Bath.


Racing runs through Harriet’s veins. Robin rode more than 115 winners and trained over 400 more. Mum Claire qualified as a McTimoney chiropractor in 1986 and has a wealth of experience in treating horses and humans alike. Older stepbrother Chris is a businessman in commercial property and investment, but has dabbled in racehorse ownership through managing the syndicate The Tricksters and, once, rode in a charity race.

 

            Not content with just training racehorses, Harriet, 28, is also a talented eventer, producing horses to 4* level, with high hopes to reach 5*. Harriet competes Threerocks Peggy Bawn at 3* and Dargle Looks is her retired 4* horse. She has recorded a win at Bicton in Devon and has had many placings at International level. Not stepping far from her roots in racing, Harriet also owns ex-racehorses Thomas Crapper and Moon Over Germany. Her Robins Field flies the flag for the Robin Dickin Racing Club, run in her father’s honour.


Dominic Ruane is Harriet’s partner; a perfect match as he also successfully mixed two equestrian disciplines. He is a former 5* event rider who also rode winners between the Flags. ‘Dom is an integral part of the team,’ Harriet explains. ‘We are always using his knowledge to help ride and produce some of the more difficult or opinionated horses!’


The winters are busy with National Hunt runners and the summers are packed with eventing, meaning Harriet, accompanied by her naughty terriers Jinx and Treacle, and her team, doesn’t stop. Yet, whether the winners are racehorses or eventers, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Did you have a horsey childhood? I could ride before I could walk. Nibby was my first ever pony, my brother’s old pony. Dusty followed him and then Trendy and Bubbles. Bubbles was the most amazing 12.2. She did it all: Pony Club eventing, mounted games, hunting and even raced at Cheltenham. At ten-years-old, I was the youngest person to do the PC area eventing (90cm being the smallest back then!). I started to ride the racehorses whenever anyone would let me! From a very young age, I would ride them back in from the gallops.

Harriet had a childhood rich in the Pony Club and one of her early winners between the Flags

 

Do you remember any of your Dad’s racehorses from when you were growing up? Kadastrof. When Kaddy was in work, I was 2-3 years old. He would be bandaged at night and when Mum or Dad would do them, they would throw me up on his back and I’d sit on his rugs for a bit! Looking back, it was especially amazing as he was a colt!

 

Did you ever ride in races? I had one ride when I was just sixteen at Exeter over hurdles, and finished third. I was able to do it so thought I should give it a go but eventing was always my path on a horse’s back.

Harriet with dad Robin and brother Chris

 

Which trainers have you worked for? In racing, I have only worked for Dad. I wish I had more time to work for other trainers but taking over from Dad so young meant that time was tight. I would love to go to France or Ireland and learn some more about different training methods.

I have, however, worked for eventers Laura Collett and Tina Cook. Tina taught me a huge amount and being from a racing background too, we had a lot in common. I lived in Ireland for a while with my event horses, which also showed me another part of the horse world.


How did you start training? In May 2022, we had to move from our base at Great Alne and it seemed a natural progression for me to take on the license. We did eighteen months at Bourton-on-the-Water but after a tricky time with little to no support from the landlord, we decided to move on. We have been in Bath now for four months and we are all very happy with the move.

 

Favourite racehorses: In the past, I loved Long Run and Restless Harry. In the present, I love Paisley Park.

 

Favourite racecourse: Market Rasen, which was the home of my first winner! But it would have to be Cheltenham. It’s a very special place.

Leading up Thomas Crapper, Restless Harry and Coyaba, owned by Liz Prowting, who was the first ever winner Harriet trained


Which racehorse do you wish you could train? Jonbon and Ahoy Senor.

 

Who are your biggest influences in becoming a trainer? My Dad. The only reason I became a trainer is because Dad trained. I really want to try to be kind and supportive to staff and other people within the industry. When I started, some people were so supportive and nice to me but some were not so, and that’s very sad for the sport.

 

Is there a trainer you admire? Henry De Bromhead, his way with horses and his kindness is amazing, and Jonjo O’Neill, my dad’s oldest friend!

Robin watches on as Claire and Harriet saddle a runner at Warwick


What is the best advice you were given about training racehorses? When things aren’t going right, don’t change one thing a 100%, change a hundred things 1%.

 

How do you mix training racehorses and riding eventers? They complement each other so well: the racehorses are all so strong and jump well and the event horses are all very fit! We have mainly National Hunt horses and eventing is a summer sport, so it works well. 


What are your dreams and aspirations for training racehorses? Obviously, to train big winners! But the two races I would love to win are the Gold Cup and the Supreme Novices’ at the Cheltenham Festival!

 

What are your dreams and aspirations in eventing? To win Badminton; it’s always been Badminton.

 

How has racing changed for the better? Internet entries! Haha…I remember Dad calling up every morning to do all his declarations and entries… ‘Hello, A0925 Robin Dickin…’ 

 

And, for the worst? Far too many people think they are going to be a jockey and have no pride in being a groom. I have met some of the most knowledgeable people I know grooming at events!


In the view of animal rights activism, in your opinion, how secure is the future of racing? It’s a scary thought. As we all know, racehorses are so well looked after. I think if we can keep opening our doors so more people see this, we can help to secure our own future.

 

Favourite meal: Roast Beef.

Favourite drink: Gin and tonic.

Favourite snack: Crisps.

Favourite holiday destination: The Maldives.

Other hobbies/interests: It’s hard to have time to do much else! I love going out for nice meals and seeing friends.




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