Racing and riding the magnificent thoroughbred obviously comes with its many risks and dangers. It’s something that as a jockey we are very aware that accidents can happen, just like when you are driving a car, but is not something that you really think about.
However accidents do happen.
Over the years my injuries include:
- 2 broken collar-bones
- broken ankle twice
- broken tibia
- fractured shoulder/scapula
- dis-located shoulder
- 15 broken ribs (in multiple places)
- and suffered concussion
I would have to say the hardest to come back from was the rib injury; I had a lot of trouble training with breathing hurting! Honest to god – I don’t know how a footballer could possibly tape up a rib and go back on the field!
I have a great network of support around me, so whenever I suffer an injury, I’ve always managed to bounce back pretty well. I have worked closely with a personal trainer for 16 years, the best Chiropractor who also does NET work, my own Mother is a Bowen Therapist, not to mention a solid grounding in health and fitness as a child I competed in Gymnastics and I have my Gym Teacher to thank for this – Racheal Harris.
Handling any horse comes with its risks; they are an animal with a mind of their own and can be unpredictable. In a race we are travelling speeds of a cruising pace of 40km – to hitting our top speeds of 70km, without the luxury of being able to hit the brakes easily… racehorses are big animals, about 500-600 kilos and when we are in the throes of the race with the blood rushing an momentum carrying us, brakes are virtually non-existent…
That is why training and putting safety first is paramount.
Since I have been involved with horses safety measures across the board have increased ten-fold. The introduction of safety vets, riding helmets which are constantly being advanced with research, horse equipment, the upgrading of racetrack facilities (including female jockey’s rooms!) but I would have to say one of the most significant improvements has been the replacement of aluminium running rails with plastic and also ensuring that there is an outside guide rail at every track; and doing more to protect the safety of spectators too.
There is no doubt that horse racing is a dangerous sport. I personally have witnessed some very tragic incidents.
I went to Apprentice school with Mark Goring who passed away from a racing accident in 2003. Louise Cooper (nee Bant) and I were close competitors in Pony Club days, and also went to Apprentice School together; Louise was left a paraplegic from a fall. In 2003 Cheree Gask (nee Buchiw) had a fall at Cheltenham where her mount went through the inside running rail, she crashed through the rail and sustained a severe leg injury, causing her to lose the lower part of her leg.
I was close to the Montgomerie Family, and was deeply affected by Simone Montgomerie’s fall in 2013 when she passed away. A bad fall at Murray Bridge in 2014 was one of the most horrible days racing I have been involved with and sadly the young and talented Caitlin Forrest passed away due to injuries she sustained in this accident. Another friend Libby Hopwood was unable to gain a full clearance to race ride again as a result of a head injury in this fall.
I’ve certainly had my share of falls, but can honestly say I’m extremely lucky.
Some of My Riding Falls & Injuries
1996 Edenhope: My first real injury as a rider.
Behind the gates my horse reared up and flipped over landing on me. I was knocked unconscious and woke up in the Ambulance. I have very little memory of this accident.
27th December 1997 Warrnambool: “Top Star”
After jumping from barriers, my horse started to want to lay in away from the horses to his outside, we made heavy contact with the inside running rail, which caused my horse to become unbalanced. We went through the inside rail, and I came off as he tripped through the ditch. Landing feet first, I broke the “Navicular” bone in my foot. I had 10 weeks off work and was not back racing until April 1998.
22nd June 2002 Vic Park: “Lady Vicki”
Very sad about this accident. We just clipped heels coming around the home turn. I went to hospital for observation and very sore leg- corked thigh (!) I pulled up with no major injuries, but this is where I sustained a gash to the forehead requiring stitches, and I still have the scar today.
19th June 2004 Cheltenham: “Just Matty”
Unfortunately my horse collapsed at about the 800m mark in the race. He crashed through the inside running rail, and I was thrown forward. I sustained a broken collarbone and this finished my season and the chance for the Premiership.
17th March 2006 Narracoorte: “Delavanti”
Riding my horse on the way back to the Mounting Yard, after the race, I was dislodged, landing on my feet, but twisting on landing. I broke the top of my tibia and my ankle in 3 places. This was a nasty injury, with a moon boot required for 8 weeks. At the time of injury I was actually the leading rider in SA, and although I was back racing in July, again this injury put me out of the Premiership race.
March 2014 Morphetville: “Gambling Guru”
This was one of my worst falls, with my horse clipping heels with the horse in front of him, and falling head first. We hit the ground together with Gambling Guru rolling over me. Gambling Guru got to his feet and recovered 100% very quickly.
I sustained a fractured scapular, shoulder, and 15 broken ribs with some ribs broken in multiple places.