Gemma Tutty started riding as an Amateur in 2009 and has since had 32 winners, all but one of these being on the Flat. Many of these were for her mother, trainer Karen Tutty. In 2015 Gemma applied for a JETS scholarship to study for a Psychology and Counselling degree at Teesside University. Currently in her first year, Gemma is juggling her coursework as she continues her career as a jockey, having had 10 rides so far this season.
What made you decide to go back into education?
I plan my retirement as a jockey annually but never seem to get round to it but my career has reached a plateau and whilst I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, I felt ready to take on a new challenge. I’ve always been fascinated by psychology since studying it at A-level and I would really like to learn more about the subject and pursue a successful career from it.
How are you finding the course so far?
It’s really good to be doing something different and learning new things, it’s really interesting. It’s frustrating when you spend hours on a piece of work and the feedback is not as positive as I'd expected but it's all part of the learning curve. The course is flying by and I’m working on three end of term assignments and have got exams in June.
How have you combined your life as a student and a jockey?
If I wasn’t riding it would be easy to get all the work done but I’m often riding out in the mornings. This can affect my concentration levels when I sit down to work in the afternoon as my brain seems to work best in the mornings. I do need to keep riding and earning money from that so it’s just a case of finding the right balance. I have built an office at home where I work which has really helped me focus (no TV distractions) and go into Uni four or five days a week for my lectures and seminars. My studies will always take priority because I don’t see the point of doing a degree if you’re not going to do it properly. I’m very competitive when grades come out, I always want to get a higher mark than my peers and get frustrated with myself if I haven't managed to do so.
What are your long term ambitions?
I’m definitely keen to go down the counselling route presently but this will mean completing post-graduate studies (another 3 years) once I’ve done this degree. I would like to train to become a Chartered Psychological Counsellor eventually. I have seen a number of eating disorders and other mental health problems in the weighing room due to jockeys dealing with a lot of pressure. It would be great to offer some sort of counselling service to jockeys and hope that they would feel more confident about coming forward.
What has been the reaction within the weighing room to your new career path?
They all laughed at first and said, “You’re the one that needs counselling!” I often have to correct people on their definition of psychology as most people think it's about mind reading. I was asked the other day by one of the lads, "What am I thinking?!". They don’t seem to understand the course but when I explain what I’m studying they’re really taken aback. It’s nice to be able to share my knowledge and have intelligent conversations. I felt like I had lost my brainpower upon leaving sixth form but it has come back to me so easily, it is nice to feel clever again.