Mark Coumbe (35) rode on and off as a Flat jockey from 2001 however he had numerous injury spells away from the saddle. He had 88 winners and enjoyed his best years as a 3lb Claimer for Tony Carroll. His career was starting to take off and he had just got the ride on subsequent Group performer Caspian Prince when he suffered a career ending fall in 2014. He quickly realised that he needed to focus on what to do next. As well as riding out for Graeme McPherson, Mark is now working as a retained firefighter and is currently working on his City & Guilds Level 3 Plumbing Diploma at Warwickshire College.
How did you decide what direction to go in once you realised you couldn't carry on riding?
It was really hard, I loved racing and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew about JETS and the work they did and had had a couple of chats with Lisa when I was off injured but it was only really when push came to shove and my PRIS money stopped that I realised that I needed to think of something quickly. I actually saw a sign recruiting for retained firefighters whilst out walking the dogs and thought I had nothing to lose by applying for that. Then, when I decided that a trade job would be a good option as there is always work in that field, Lisa helped me find the right course and JETS gave me funding to complete both a Domestic Plumbing and an Electrical Installation Course and then a Level 2 Plumbing part-time evening course. I am now combining the two careers with the riding out.
How hard was it to adjust to studying after riding?
It has been really hard I have to be honest. I did ok at school and got my GCSEs but just having to adapt to something completely new wasn’t easy but once I got into the swing of things I actually enjoyed it. I am doing my course two evenings a week and am in the fire station for drill practice every Monday which means I can continue to ride out, earn money and be involved in racing so it suits me well.
What do you most enjoy about your new career?
I hadn’t realised that the career opened up so many different options. I’m now doing my Level 3 and I’m learning about so many different aspects including the environmental side of the industry. The firefighting role now means I have to be on call for 50 hours a week and I get paid a monthly retainer. I really like the camaraderie and being part of a team which reminds me of racing but the main thing is it gives me a real adrenalin buzz which is the thing I miss most about race riding.
What skills as a jockey are helping you in your new career?
I was effectively self-employed towards the end of my riding career so I’m used to having to promote myself which is useful in the plumbing business and also you have to do a lot of learning on the job which you have to do as a jockey too. I also feel that jockeys have good communications skills which definitely help in both roles plus we are used to working hard and anti-social hours.
What advice would you give to current jockeys about second careers?
I was 31 when I stopped riding and all I’d say is you’re better off working towards a second career sooner rather than later. The longer you leave it the harder it is to move on. I’ve also realised that I missed a lot of my older children growing up when I was so focused on being a jockey. I now have two young children and I am spending a lot more time with them so I can’t really complain.
What ambitions do you have for the future?
I am just about to start shadowing a fully qualified plumber and I am hoping that through that I might be able to get my NVQ qualification after my Level 3 diploma. Eventually I would like to work for one of the big firms or set up on my own.