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Switching from riding to training

Honest and True:

Blair Campbell (17) from Hawick was last year's winner of the Northern Area novice riders champion with three wins and a second in five point-to-points. He originally started out in pony races at flapping days in the Borders. It was through a friend who was looking for someone to ride out that he started working for Alistair Whillans. His first time racing was at Friars Haugh in 2012 with Morris Light. Laura's Light won at both the Buccleuch and Berwickshire meetings at Friars Haugh and was second at Lauderdale
Blair Campbell (17) from Hawick was last year's winner of the Northern Area novice riders champion with three wins and a second in five point-to-points. He originally started out in pony races at flapping days in the Borders. It was through a friend who was looking for someone to ride out that he started working for Alistair Whillans. His first time racing was at Friars Haugh in 2012 with Morris Light. Laura's Light won at both the Buccleuch and Berwickshire meetings at Friars Haugh and was second at Lauderdale

A six-year-old gelding owned by Tom Carruthers. "He had four seconds last season. This year he's much stronger and has improved," said Dan. He'll be aimed at a hunter chase at Musselburgh this weekend.

Drumgray:

An eight-year-old that Dan has high hopes for. "Two years ago he won a maiden point-to-point at Alnwick by 15-20 lengths," said Dan. "He's had a year off with leg problems but he's came back better than ever. There are reasonably priced shares available. I want to get people involved, point-to-pointing is a brilliant sport and a great day out," added Dan.

Amoree:

Previously raced with Nick Alexander and won a point-to-point last season with Nick's son Kit. The schoolmaster is giving Gemma Cochrane experience this year.

The Paddy Premium:

Is another schoolmaster for Gemma. The 12-year-old has retired from racing having previously been a good winner under rules for owner Mark Fleming.

Jimmy The

Jet Plane:

A four-year-old by Jimbo, owned in partnership with Peter Buchanan. "He's a nice sort that looks the part and was broken in the summer," adds Dan. "He'll go to the young horse maiden race at Overton next week.

Whose Laughing Now:

This is a six-year-old owned by Laura Newman. and this was the horse that Dan broke his collar bone after falling from. "He was bought last year at the sales and he's a big horse. He's real quality but we'll give him as long as it takes until he's ready," adds Dan.

Come On

Skinny Love:

This one is a seven-year-old that Dan owned with the late Campbell Gillies. Campbell's mum has taken on the shares, although the mare is for sale.

DAN Ockenden had previously showjumped to grand prix level but moved to point-to-pointing and hasn't looked back.

Originally he had showjumped for five years, riding for Jack McGeoch and latterly for John Grieve, but when the owner gave up, Dan was at a loose end and went travelling for a year. When he returned to his home of Fife, he was keen to stay in the area and started to work for leading National Hunt trainer, Lucinda Russell.

What started out as a job for a month lasted for three years. And, through his work in the NH yard, where he rode out daily, it was a natural progression to move into point-to-points and from there started riding under Rules.

Last year, in his first season as rider and trainer, he won the men's open at the Alnwick point-to-point on See You There. However, the next time out at the Dumfries-shire and Stewartry meeting, riding in the maiden race, his horse fell at the second fence and Dan broke his collar bone. It later needed plated and Dan was off for most of the rest of the season.

Steven Fox took over the rides for him and it proved a frustrating time for him.

This year, Dan has decided to train the pointers himself and has last year's novice point-to-point champion, Blair Campbell, working for him and he will ride Dan's horses.

This year, with Blair moving from Hawick to join the team, has allowed Dan to concentrate on training. He still rides out daily but feels it's good to have another opinion from the riders.

"Last year a lot of people asked me to train," said Dan "I'd always planned to ride this year but I was getting more and more horses, so it made sense to concentrate on training."

Dan has been lucky to receive support from CC Supplies and Mark Osborne Farriery and is quick to acknowlege the Cochrane family for the use of their facilities. The farm, with new integral stables, a recently built allweather arena and 80 acres for exercise, is based on the outskirts of Leslie, in Fife.

It is owned by Alastair and Sheena Cochrane, whose daughter, Gemma, will be making her point-to-point debut this year. They have been supportive of Dan and are currently putting a horse walker and Panama Spa into disused farm buildings to further complement the training set up.

This year Dan has a promising stable full of horses and also offers pretraining for trainers in the area. This is where Dan and his team will spend time with the horses, getting them fit so that when they return to the NH trainers are ready to go.

He is also trying a novel approach of working with horses that have been injured and hopes the horse walker, and spa unit will speed up their return to the racecourse.

Currently he, Blair and Gemma ride out for Nick Alexander each day, but they have their own horses to feed first. It then means after riding at Nick's they are back to the yard in the afternoon to start on their own horses – it's long hours, sometimes in the pouring rain and pitch dark.

The week before racing the horses are only given a little work. "I want them fresh and full of themselves," he says. "If they are not fit now then it's too late for next week."

With the first two point-to-points of the season victims of the weather, there should be Drumgray, Amoree and Whose Laughing Now heading to Alnwick, on Sunday. Jimmy The Jet Plane and Honest and True then head to the Dumfries-shire and Stewartry, at Overton, the following week.

The horses all have a varied workload, hacking out, gymnastic jumping work in the arena or over proper practice hurdle fences in the fields and once a week Dan likes to take the horses to St Andrews beach.

For fast work they'll gallop on the fields that rise steeply up from the River Leven, then onto a fairly level field where Dan has marked out an area for galloping, he works the horses in a figure of eight pattern over distances of up to three miles.

"It's really good to change direction, the figure of eight gets them used to steering and being balanced," explains Dan.

"There's no point working them when they are half fit, that's when problems start. It's a nice environment for them here, the horses learn manners and we can spend time with them and take extra care.

"I'm looking to get going, we're ready and raring to go and hopefully everything will pay off. I'm loving it, its been a career change but I've found a nice yard and owners – everything has fallen into place."

All Dan needs is for the weather to improve so they can start racing!