National Hunt jockey Joe Tizzard talks horse racing and game shooting.
So, Joe Tizzard, you’re a National Hunt jockey who has ridden hundreds of winners, including some at various Cheltenham Festivals, but what was the highlight of your shooting season just gone?
“I had a lovely day at Wrackleford, near Dorchester. I went as the guest of a great friend, a local guy. It wasn’t my first experience of high birds in Dorset, though – I’ve shot down in the Piddle Valley a couple of times before. There are some serious birds down there. Wrackleford was probably the best shoot I have been on in the area. The Popes are really good hosts.”
Do many other jump jockeys shoot?
“Yes, we’ve had Sam Thomas down here shooting with us, he’s mad keen. We’ve also had Colin Bolger down. He enjoyed himself.”
When did you really discover driven shooting?
“When I was 20 or so; up until then it was all walked-up stuff around the farm. We’ve always had a little shoot at home. I would beat as a boy and loved that, and then shoot the odd day. I would nick the old man’s gun, as I never had my own until I got this one. Then we bought some land that had originally had a shoot on it, about three years ago, and started to shoot there. When we are picking our dates we look at the racing calendar first, then look where the hunt is and then we pick our shoot dates. Hunting comes first but we do enjoy the shooting. It is a nice little break for Dad (trainer Colin Tizzard) as it gives him something else to do, and it keeps him off my back.”
You said that with a smile; you’re close, clearly…
“We’re very close. The whole family is. We have our moments, don’t get me wrong, but we are close. When I came home from Paul Nicholls’ yard, aged 25, I was old enough to realise and learn the value of the farm; Dad’s settled down a lot, so we work together really well.”
What sort of acreage do you shoot over?
“We shoot over the whole farm, so about 500 acres, although mainly over a couple of hundred. It’s long and narrow, so they only have to go two fields either way and they are off our land, which is annoying. It’s lovely for our owners who shoot too, having some sport with us at home. They’re lovely days and great fun.
“My best man, Glen Hodges, he’s a local game dealer so we get the birds through him.We had some ringnecks and then a bit of a mixture but my they are wandering buggers. Glen comes shooting with us or picks-up; he does get a lot of abuse over the birds, poor chap.”
You ride professionally, milk almost 300 cows, hunt, shoot and train 70-odd horses; I bet you sleep well?
“Part of farming is the lifestyle – you work hard but the pay-off is that you can keep a couple of hunters and go hunting once a week and shoot a bit.”
How many days did you shoot last season?
“Eight or so walked-up, and three driven days. There’s a group of boys local to me, and we always try and get out. We have been down to Devon the past few years for some high ones and try to do that once a year.”
I can’t really see you getting technical and choking up with huge cartridges…
“No, I use the same gun I use around the farm – a little 16 bore. I love it. There was a lovely old boy called John Wood who used to come racing with me. When I turned pro, he used to come racing with me three or four days a week, driving hundreds of miles all around the country. He used to shoot a lot and now he says he is too old for it, so he gave me his beautiful little gun.”
And it’ll do the business for higher driven stuff too?
“Providing I’m actually on target, it’ll bring them down all right. It’s a Venables & Sons, from Oxford, with 28” barrels. On a walked-up day it is lovely and light. Woody used it a lot in his time and then he got to the stage where, sadly, he couldn’t shoot any more. It was Woody who really gave me the bug. I got on well with his old gun and now it’s mine. I’m lucky; I’ve never had to buy one. There’s no downside to it at all really, although you don’t want to run out of cartridges. I did run out once… once.”
Aside from Joe Tizzard, other Robert Cuthbert interviewees for Shooting Stars include: