Apprentice jockey rides the ups and downs of horse racing
LEARNING your trade can be hard - as Kirk Matheson can testify.
The 20-year-old from Casino is completing his second year as an apprentice jockey on the horse racing circuit.
He was unable to secure some festive cheer at Monday's Lismore meeting, going winless from four races.
Matheson, who rides out of trainer Kelso Wood's stables in Brisbane, said he was still adapting to the sport's rough-and-tumble life.
"With horse racing, the highs are high, but the lows are pretty low as well," he said.
"It's been hard this year as there's been a lot of ups and downs.
"That is racing."
The former Casino High School student said there was more to the job than riding horses.
"You have got to be dedicated," he said.
"It's not easy waking up at 3am every morning.
"Driving two hours to a meeting and not getting a winner can be hard mentally.
"Cleaning the muck out of the stables takes the glamour out of the job.
"You cannot go out a lot because you are so tired and you are going to be in bed at 7.30pm."
Although it has been a rollercoaster year, Matheson did achieve a memorable victory on home soil at August's Casino Cup with After Baron.
The four-year-old, which is owned by a local syndicate and carried plenty of emotional money from punters, took the $25,000 race amid joyful scenes at the Casino track.
Matheson said the victory had been an "enormous" moment in his budding career.
"Even though it's not the pinnacle for other people, for me to win on my own home track meant so much," he said.
"The adrenalin rush when you get a winner is the best thing. There is nothing that can match that feeling.
"This is all I ever wanted to do, so to have the chance now is great."
Matheson also said he was adapting to the ultra-competitive life in the jockeys' room.
"It's quite friendly, but once you get out on the track it's fairly competitive," he said.
"There's definitely tensions in the locker room (between jockeys) if things don't go according to plan."
Matheson said the year had provided him with plenty to reflect on ahead of 2015.
"I guess I've learned that if you don't put in the hard work (as a jockey), you will fall behind the other guys out there," he said.
"Every apprentice wants to become the leading apprentice.
"Hopefully I can do that next year."