For Blaike McDougall, racing didn't stick right away.
Though he's currently among Australia's top jockeys, Blaike, who grew up in Wallerawang and spent plenty of time in Portland too, wasn't sure the jockey life was for him when he first gave it a crack when he was at school.
It's 2010, Blaike was 16 and life was pretty aimless for the young teen who was attending Portland Central School at the time. Blaike said the school librarian suggested he do his required work experience with horse trainer Ronnie Quinton at Randwick which is where Blaike says it all started.
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"It was that time of the year where you had to do work experience and I didn't want to do anything, I didn't have an interest in anything but they said 'why don't you do this?'," Blaike said.
"So I went down there for a couple of weeks and got a taste of it. I didn't mind it. But I didn't start it straight away. I went back home and knocked around, doing whatever it was we were doing back in the day."
It wasn't long however before Blaike felt like he needed to make a move.
I had to work very hard to get here. I remember when I was an apprentice I used to travel from Sydney to Dubbo for one ride. Five hours for just one ride.Blaike McDougall
"Later on, it got to the stage where all of a sudden people grow up a bit, your mates are starting to work and I wasn't really doing much. It was one of those jobs you can pretty much walk right into - I got a place to stay and a wage right away," Blaike said.
Blaike, who was about 17 by then moved out of home and made tracks for Sydney.
Blaike worked as a trainer at Rosehill, but after 18 months of hard work without a single race he said he grew weary and later met with trainer David Payne who he began working for. A studious decision, as Blaike was soon running races and completed his trials, things were good.
But, over time Blaike fell out of love with the profession and the lifestyle and decided to pack it in and head back to stay with family in Portland and Wallerawang for a couple of years.
"I was on my own the whole time. And I just was a bit burned out, I was working hard and not really getting where I wanted to get to. And then when I did start to get to where I wanted to and ride and that, I sort of got over it, I was probably a bit homesick," Blaike said.
"So I moved back home to Portland, I was probably about 18 and I went to live with my nan, and my dad. And then my aunts and uncles, just wherever I could get somewhere to sleep at the time."
This period was a few years long, but eventually Blaike realised there wasn't much on offer in Portland for a young lad and so he packed up moved back to Sydney again to give it another go. With a renewed sense of purpose, Blaike put in the hard yards, shovelling manure and working at his goal of racing success. It hasn't been easy, but in the five years since he returned Blaike has seen his success go from dream to reality.
"People say 'oh, you ride all the winners. But it wasn't always like that, I had to work very hard to get there. I remember when I was an apprentice, I used to travel from Sydney to Dubbo for one ride. Five hours, one ride," Blaike said.
So far this racing season, Blaike has ridden 89 winners and ranks second nationally, a hair below fellow jockey Chris Parnham who has ridden 90.
Now based in Albury, Blaike has settled down with his wife and two children, a far cry from Wallerawang and Portland where he spent his youth. He offered a piece of advice to anyone reading this who feels stuck or undecided on what to do next.
"All I can say is the world's a big place. Get out of your area, go and travel, go see something. Australia is huge, there's so much opportunity, places to see and things to do. You don't just have to sit around. You know, [Portland and Wallerawang] it's a lovely place, but the world has so much to offer."