Conor Shoemark: Life After Racing

On the 22nd of October 2020, after eight years in the saddle, Conor Shoemark rode in his last ever race, finishing second with Dan Skelton’s Monsieur D’arque. He had decided he wanted to pursue his greater passion, his love for all kinds of sports. Now training to become a personal trainer, we spoke to Conor about his decision and the fitness of jockeys.  

“The goal was always to be a jockey when I was younger, but I have always enjoyed other sports as well, like running and cycling, so I wanted to get more involved in that. I’m now training to become a personal trainer, but I still work for and ride out for Dan Skelton.

“I’ve always enjoyed the training and keeping fit side of things so while everything was quiet because of COVID, it was something I could get my teeth stuck into.”

But it wasn’t purely the love of other sports that made Conor decide to quit race riding. His lack of top-quality bookings was also a factor, holding his big victories from earlier in his career close to his heart.

“Last year, with COVID and the lockdowns, I made the decision that I was going to look for the change of career. It was just a progressive step, I wasn’t getting the rides that I did before. As any sportsman, I like being competitive and I’m a competitive person so that’s what I’ll miss.

“You appreciate every winner you ride. I was lucky enough to ride some winners at Cheltenham and I enjoyed that as I grew up around there. I suppose any winner I had at Cheltenham is held in my memories.”

In the future, Conor aspires to work with athletes and help them improve their performances. After years in and amongst the best jockeys in the UK, he would also like to work alongside them too.

“I’d love to work with sportsmen like jockeys, people that want to prove themselves in the future. I think jockeys can always be fitter and stronger and healthier. There is advice out there, obviously, for jockeys. They’ve got nutritionists, personal trainers, strength and conditioning coaches and physios. I think it would be nice to see more jockeys taking that approach into it and using what’s available, which they are and it’s becoming more and more common. But we’re still a bit behind other sports as well, that’s the way it is but it is improving.

“I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and say that I could have done so much more when I was riding. I definitely could’ve been fitter, stronger and eaten better, and it would have affected my career positively. If I knew what I know now, three or four years ago, it would have helped me a lot more.”

Jockeying runs in the family for the Shoemark’s. Conor’s grandfather, Bill, and father, Ian, were both successful in the National Hunt sphere, and his brother, Kieran, is a flat jockey. When asked for what advice he would give to the next generation of aspiring riders, Conor said, “At the end of the day, if you’re a jockey then you’re a professional athlete. You need to be as fit and as strong as possible and make weight safely too, doing that will only enhance your career. You only have to look at the top jockeys now to see that they’re all into keeping themselves in great shape and trying to get fitter and stronger, keeping themselves lighter and living a healthier lifestyle, which will increase the length of their career.”