Our Region: Born to Ride

Madison Lloyd knows she made the right choice to embark on a career as an apprentice jockey when she walks through the gates of Flemington.

The hallowed racecourse is the home of Racing Victoria's (RV) Apprentice Jockey Training Program (AJTP).

Sisters Madison, Ally and Zoe Lloyd are a key part of the Nathan Hobson stable in Swan Hill. Madison, 17, is in the first year of her jockey apprenticeship. Picture: COHEN MORTIMER

Sisters Madison, Ally and Zoe Lloyd are a key part of the Nathan Hobson stable in Swan Hill. Madison, 17, is in the first year of her jockey apprenticeship. Picture: COHEN MORTIMER

Swan Hill's Madison, 17, last month joined four other aspiring jockeys as this year's program intake, following in the footsteps of Regan Bayliss and Katelyn Mallyon, who have gone onto achieve Group One success.

As part of her trade, Madison spends two days each month at the home of the Melbourne Cup and spoke of her delight at being part of the program.

"It's all very exciting,” Madison said.

“I go down to Racing Victoria at Flemington and we do a lot of riding on the mechanical horses.

“I also learn a lot about the rules of being a jockey and all media stuff such as talking in front of the cameras — there is a lot more to it than people think."

Apprenticed to trainer Nathan Hobson in the Heart of the Murray, Madison hopes to one day achieve a feat conquered by her idol, Michelle Payne.

"My dream is to win the Melbourne Cup," she said.

"I think that every jockey's dream and Michelle has shown that female jockeys can do it."

The more immediate ambition is to achieve success for Hobson, who trains a team of around 20 horses, headlined by Don't Get Excited, Free Willy, He's The Sheriff and recent Balranald Cup winner Reine De Tout.

"I'd also just like to win big races and hopefully a lot of races for Nathan," Madison said.

The Lloyd family has a long association with the Hobsons.

Madison's oldest sister Ally, 25, transferred from Helen Burns to the Hobson yard a few years ago and Madison soon followed.

"My older sister Ally, she started working for Helen a very long time ago," Madison said.

"She used to bring me into the track and help out when I was pretty young, and I would watch the horses go past.

"I just loved watching it and wanted to try it myself.

"I would always go down with her every school holidays."

Madison was never far away from horses either, with her grandmother owning a hobby farm on 21 acres with 15 horses just two kilometres away from her father's vineyard in Nyah.

"I fell in love with it from when I was born. It's great fun," she said.

"I've never liked other sports like netball, it's always been horses — I have ridden my whole life."

Madison has been working with Hobson for the past 18 months, where she has become a favourite among many of the other local stables, ensuring a hectic schedule.

"I started working for him (Hobson) and now I ride for Helen Burns and Joe Kelly as well," she said.

"I come here six days a week. I get up at 4am, arrive here at 4.30am and as soon as I get here I saddle a few horses, get on and start riding.

"I ride about 12 a morning for all three trainers.

"When I finish up at work, quickly go home, have a shower, eat breakfast and go straight to school, then I go home."

The horses are not the only interest for Madison at Swan Hill Racecourse, with boyfriend Mitch Makepeace, 20, the assistant to track manager Josh Woolhouse.

"We met through the races here. She was pretty interested in me and we were just working around each other and basically our love of the same passion brought us together," Makepeace said.

"I've been working with Austy since I was about a 16-year-old and I got a job after school working helping with the track."

Madison also works alongside another one of her sisters in Zoe, 19, and the youngest of the family, Taylor, 13, is not too far from joining her sisters at the stables as well.

"At work it's different. We don't actually work like sisters, we actually work like workers," she said.

"But we do argue a fair bit actually sometimes."

But for all that, Madison knows she would have made it this far without the support of Ally, as well as her boss.

"I would like to thank everyone for supporting me, especially Ally. She's helped me through most of it because she's the one who started me off and definitely Nathan for taking me on as an apprentice," she said.

Hobson has been more than happy to help Madison realise her riding ambition.

"She's a great kid and an excellent rider, so hopefully she'll have a good career out of it," Hobson said.

"She wants to pursue that career (as a jockey) and we will always do our best to try and help them — the rest is up to her now."

Ally knows Madison has what is required to forge a career in the jockey ranks.

"She's very determined and she just has the confidence just to excel," she said.

"She's always focused on her career and schooling and anything to do with horses, she'll do it. "When she heard that she could be a jockey her ears were pricked and off she went."

Lloyd's contemporaries in the AJTP program include Logan McNeil, the brother of Jye, and son of Kerang trainer Darryl, Tayla Childs, Tatum Bull and Alana Kelly, with the quintet spending the next four years harnessing their budding riding skills under the watchful gaze of RV's Apprentice Jockey Coaches, Darren Gauci and Matt Pumpa.

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