In November, Betfair launched its one-of-a-kind charity initiative, the ‘Rachael Blackmore - Serial Winners Fund’, to benefit both the Injured Jockeys Fund and Irish Injured Jockeys. The fund currently stands at £180,000 and is expected to reach £250,000 by Grand National Day, Saturday, April 13th, when the fund will draw to a close. This weekly column seeks to shed some light on how jockeys have, and will continue to benefit from, the work the IIJ and the IJF do, and some of the services this contribution will support.

Tell us about an experience where mental strength played a crucial role in overcoming a challenging situation in your career to date.

When I was about 19, I had a bad string of concussions in the first six months after I turned professional.

I got four concussions in six months and broke my collarbone twice. After my final concussion I was made to take three months off after meeting with a specialist.

During this time, I was really wondering if it would be possible to make a career out of being a jockey. I found it really hard to stay focussed and to believe that the three-month break from riding was going to fix the problem.

How do you maintain focus and stay resilient amid all the highs and lows?

It comes with experience. Racing is swings and roundabouts; it’s so important to stay positive and know that the highs will come back your way soon enough.

Similarly when you’re on a high, it’s important to always think back to where you started, which will help to keep you level-headed.

What techniques do you use to manage stress and pressure before and during a race?

Before a race, I’d do my homework by studying the form and by knowing what pace there will be in the race. I like to watch replays and to learn from the mistakes I’ve made before, in order to prevent myself from making them again. When I get up on the horse with the homework done, I always back my own ability.

How has the ability to bounce back from disappointments contributed to your overall success as a jockey?

To be positive and to move on from the bad days. You should always be looking forward to next week. You can’t afford to continue dwelling on the bad that has happened. Especially after a really bad spell, it’s even more important to not be too hard on yourself, not to beat yourself and to go again.

Are there specific mental exercises or routines you practice to enhance your mental strength?

I have my routines. I like to get to the races, get ready in the same fashion and do some stretching, helps to keep the stress at a minimum and to get the body ready for a race.

For bigger races, I often visualise them in my head. I like to consider the different scenarios that could happen.

Can you recall a race where maintaining a positive mindset was pivotal to winning?

I can’t really pick out a specific example, but you always have to remain positive in every race. I think the horse can feed off your positive energy. If you get caught out of position, you have to stick to your guns and perform as best as you can with the opportunities presented as the race unfolds.

How do you handle the weight of expectations, both from yourself and others?

I’d put myself under a lot of pressure. When you put yourself under pressure you have to believe in yourself. Sometimes it’s important to relieve the pressure on yourself by saying ‘if the horse is good enough he’ll win.’

You can only do the best in the role you have. When you get racing it’s just you and the horse and a lot of different things can happen. When a trainer or an owner has picked you to ride their horse, it helps to give me confidence and I try to use that to my advantage.

Are you a naturally confident person or is that something you have to work hard at?

I definitely have to work on it. Horses and racing have really helped with my confidence and it feels natural when I’m speaking about it.

I have full confidence in myself as a jockey, more so than if I had to walk into a room full of people you don’t know.

What do you do to switch off?

I have some horses of my own, a retired racehorse and a dog with my partner, which definitely keeps you busy. In the evenings I unwind by watching any live sport at all. In the break in June I absolutely love to get away. The month off has been a great addition to the calendar as it gives us time to completely switch off.

What message would you give to someone who is struggling to cope with pressure or disappointment in their professional life?

You have to stay positive, always be thinking ahead and not dwelling on the past. Always have belief in yourself and remember that good things don’t come quickly; they never happen straight away.

Have you ever availed of support from the Injured Jockeys Fund or Irish Injured Jockeys?

I’ve been injured for the last month and I’ve been up in RACE. I’ve been up in the gym there with Wayne Middleton and with the physio Gavin Egan, who are helping me recover and get back riding. The new initiative to employ Gavin Egan, a full-time physio, has been a great help to me and to all other injured jockeys, as we try to get fit again. Irish Injured Jockeys really are a fantastic asset to all jockeys.