HORSHAM'S Holly McKechnie made a solid start to her career as a horse trainer on Saturday.
The former jockey saddled up her first runner Chat Up at Donald, where the six-year-old finished fourth in race one.
McKechnie made the transition to be a trainer after two serious injuries ended her illustrious career as a jockey.
At Penshurt's Boxing Day races in 2017, McKechnie broke several bones in her left foot after being thrown from a horse at the starting gate.
Less than a year later, at the stables of her partner and renown Horsham trainer Paul Preusker, an unraced three-year-old stood on her other foot.
"I shattered my left foot, then my right one about a year later, so my hand was forced (to retire)," McKechnie said.
"During the layoff, a good friend of mine, Des O'Keefe (the Australian Jockeys Association president) suggested I try the jockey trainers course.
"So I did that in my spare time and got my training license."
It is now a family affair for McKechnie, as she trains two horses with her son Colton Preusker.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm still heavily involved in Paul's yard, doing owner updates, track work, things like that," she said.
"I own a property across the road from Paul so I use all of his facilities and things like that as well.
"This just feels like a natural progression for me."
Paul passed Chat Up to McKechnie after several unsuccessful years with the "immature" gelding.
"Paul purchased him off an online auction as a three year old or so, so he's been in the system a long time," McKechnie said.
"But he's got shin sore a countless amount of times. He's been very immature.
"Paul still actually owns him, but I said I may as well muck around with him with my son Colton.
"It's a long slow process. You really have to manage him.
"It was just good to see him do everything right and hit the line well (on Saturday)."
McKechnie said her foray into the world of training had given her newfound respect for the profession.
"It's certainly, in most respects, a lot harder than being a jockey," she said.
"I think a rider, although they can be self-critical, once they get home, they can switch off.
"As a trainer, you still have to take them home and think about it when the day's over.
"You have to keep thinking almost 24/7."
McKechnie said she also felt a different kind of tension on race day.
"The pressure is really on once you put your name beside something," she said.
"As a trainer, it feels like the pressure and the attention is on you. It's your name being criticised by the punters if things don't work out."
But McKechnie was not putting too much pressure on herself.
With only Chat Up and one other unnamed horse currently in her stable, she said horse training was more of a pursuit of passion.
"I've been with Paul for 15 years, so I am aware that it's a very tough industry to make a living out of," she said.
"Paul still owns (Chat Up) ... and Colton has done a lot of work with him too.
"He does all the groundwork pretty much and I ride him. So it's a real family horse.
"It would be really wonderful if we could get a win with him as a family."
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox twice weekly from the Wimmera Mail-Times. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Wimmera, sign up below.