PUBLISHED: 11:56 11 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:51 20 February 2013
Why has Alan Daly swapped his jockey silks for a firefighter's uniform? Sandy Thwaites finds out
Why has Alan Daly swapped his jockey silks for a firefighters uniform?"Sandy Thwaites finds out
Race rider Alan Daly is a man who never seems to draw breath, but thats part of his charm. He has so much positive energy you want to bottle it. And its that enthusiasm for life coupled with a determination to win that has made him so successful at everything hes turned his hand to. He fell in love with Wiltshire when based with the late Mikey Heaton-Ellis who trained at Barbury Castle, and the county has been his home for the past eight years.
A friend asked me to ride his pony, which actually turned out to be a racehorse. It ran away with me up the gallops, jumped a 6-foot gate and I got buried but I was hooked!
Having ridden over 200 winners on the flat, against legends like Lester Piggott (in his latter years of riding) and Frankie Dettori, Alan still found time to win the Stable Lads Boxing Championship four years running in the mid 1990s. But Alan retired from race riding in March 2009, and making a successful switch to becoming a firefighter with Surrey Fire and Rescue is his latest achievement, which, when you consider that the training is rigorous and that there is just one place for every 2,000 applicants, is some feat.
The initiative, forethought and effort that Alan put into building himself a second career after race riding were recognised at the end of last year when he won the Griffins Richard Davis Achievement Award. Its an award which is made by the Jockeys Employment and Training Scheme (jets.uk.org), and has been sponsored by Griffins, local accountants to the horseracing and bloodstock industry for 15 years.
Theres nothing like sitting on a galloping racehorse for that adrenalin rush!"
Alan epitomises everything JETS is about, explains Kevin Darley, PJA Chief Executive and one of the Award judges. He sensibly planned well ahead for life after race riding, setting his heart on becoming a firefighter. He took advantage of training in IT, lorry driving and media skills whilst still a jockey, and subsequently added security and first aid qualifications to his CV. He has shown incredible focus on his new ambitions. Despite a very challenging application process and training, and a long wait for a vacancy to come up, he has never once wavered from his choice. He was going to become a firefighter no matter what!
The training was by far the hardest thing Ive ever had to do, both physically and mentally, adds Alan, but I love every second of my new job. You get a huge sense of achievement and Ive always loved to win.
With firefighting, I guess you win against the incident. You have your training, your tools and equipment, and you have to think quickly, so its not unlike race riding. Things dont always go to plan, but when they do, its a great, great feeling.
Getting to know... Alan Daly
How long have you lived in Wiltshire?
Five years in Marlborough, and three years before that in Chiseldon.
How did you first become involved with horses ?
I grew up in Navan, Ireland, and I first started out at the age of six riding donkeys before inheriting a rogue of a pony, which always buried the kids. Eight kids down and we took it over, managing (in the end ) to convince it that wed stay on no matter what, and finally it gave up. Then a friend asked me to ride his pony, which actually turned out to be a racehorse. It ran away with me up the gallops, jumped a 6-foot gate and I got buried but I was hooked! Soon after, my father met someone in a pub who suggested I go to RACE, the Irish Racing School at The Curragh... the rest is history.
What was the attraction?
The speed and the excitement. Theres nothing like sitting on a galloping racehorse for that adrenalin rush. It gets the hairs standing up on the back of your neck.
What has been your biggest achievement?
Theyre all big for me from winning the Apprentice Derby at Epsom on Derby Day, to riding over 200 winners in the UK, to becoming a firefighter. And then theres running the Marathon; my time was 3hrs 1min and 20s I need to put that 1min 20s right next time!
Probably one day when I was riding at Wolverhampton. Somebody appeared to have put shoe polish in one of the racecourse policemens helmets, and for some inexplicable reason I was the main suspect. The policeman went mad at me, but all his colleagues and everyone on the track found it highly amusing. He wanted to arrest me for criminal damage but there was a distinct absence of proof!
I love playing all sports, anything competitive really, but if pushed for one, it would have to be going hunting, back home in Ireland.
Favourite place in Wiltshire?
I love Marlborough the shops, the wine bars, the market, everything. Its a very friendly, sociable place. I open my curtains in the morning and I can see right over the Downs.
Best and worst things about living in Wiltshire?
Its a great area to live in and its convenient for the M4, which means I can carry on living here and working in Surrey. Its a long journey, but I get up early (which Im used to, having been a jockey) and make sure I avoid the rush hours, which I can do fairly easily with my shifts.