THE father of a York college student and promising horse rider who has died suddenly, aged 17, has launched a campaign to improve mental health in the racing world.

Simon Jones says his son Tim, who had been studying agriculture and land management at Askham Bryan College, took his own life last month.

He said: “Tim had a worry that no-one knew about and he couldn’t tell anyone about.”

Now he has launched a fundraising drive in Tim’s memory, to help the charity Racing Welfare build up its mental health wellbeing programme.

He said he wants to build on the charity’s programme of developing mental health awareness amongst its own staff, with his goal being to have a mental health first aider in every stable yard in the country.

He said the money raised would fund special training in mental health issues for volunteers from yards, so they might be able to spot signs of problems amongst staff, talk to them and persuade them to seek professional help.

Mr Jones said he was staggered by the support which had poured in for the appeal, which had led to him hitting his £5,000 target within just two days.

He said his son, a former student at Queen Ethelburga’s College at Thorpe Underwood, west of York, had been involved in racing since he was 10, mucking out, riding out, leading up and schooling young horses.

“He had competed in pony racing and had successfully completed his amateur jockey licence course,” he said.

“He was also a talented eventer competing in the British Eventing series and even qualified for Badminton this year.”

He said Tim was attached to Micky Hammond’s Middleham yard, spending all his school holidays there building up his dream of being a trainer, and Micky had described him as "an unbelievably talented rider".

“He loved the sport, the people and of course, the horses,” he said.

He understood young people were reluctant to talk about their problems, and the only sign that something might be wrong with Tim was that he had been unusually irritable and short-tempered.

He felt that if mental health first aiders were in stable yards, such problems might be picked up and help provided to prevent further tragedies.

Tim Whitaker, acting CEO and Principal at Askham Bryan College, said: “We were all deeply saddened by the loss of Tim. He was a popular and highly regarded member of our community and is very much missed.

“A promising event rider, he was a member of our Riding Academy as well as studying agriculture. The fact that he recently qualified for Badminton is evidence of his talent and ability.

“As a parent myself, I am very aware of the importance of young people’s mental health and commend the courage of Tim’s father in setting up this appeal. It’s an incredibly brave thing to do and hopefully it will help prevent others experiencing such emotional turmoil and trauma.

“The loss of Tim has affected us all and we continue to support his fellow students and staff members through what is a very sad and difficult time.”

l To support the appeal, go to