In the last two weeks, we’ve seen three separate tragedies at our Australian racecourses. And all three have involved female jockeys.
The first was Carly-Mae Pye, a 26-year-old jockey who died during a training race at Callaghan Park in Rockhampton, Queensland. The horse Pye was riding broke both his front legs, throwing Pye headfirst into the track.
The second was Caitlin Forrest, a 19-year-old apprentice jockey who died when her horse fell on a track at Murray Bridge race course, close to Adelaide. Forrest was air-lifted to hospital but later died from serious head injuries.
The third was Desiree Tagg, a 25-year-old who fell off a horse at Wyong Race Club. According to the Daily Telegraph, she was taken to hospital with suspected spinal and chest injuries.
The string of deaths and injuries have seen a lot of talk about horse racing over the last few weeks. About how dangerous it is. About whether or not the risks are worth it. And in particular, there’s been a lot of talk around female jockeys.
Why do they do the sport if there are so many risks involved? Is it worth it? And what happens if something goes wrong?
I wanted to talk to someone who knows all the ins and outs of the racing world. So I had a chat to Clare Lindop, a 35-year-old professional jockey who is based in Adelaide.
Clare has managed some remarkable achievements – she’s ridden some big-name horses in some big races, including the Melbourne Cup, which she first raced in 2003. She’s been trained by some big people in the industry, including Leon Macdonald, Byron Cozamanis and the late Jack Barling.
But it hasn’t all been a smooth ride. Clare has had plenty of falls along the way, and has suffered from a broken collar bone, wrist, ankle, leg, dislocated shoulder as well as several concussions. Earlier this year, she broke 15 ribs after a big fall at the Adelaide cup, and had to take 12 weeks off.
I had a chat to her about everything – the horse racing world, the recent spate of injuries, and all the debate around just how morally sound the race industry is…
Nat: How did you get into horse racing?
Claire: I used to live in a property in the country and just got into riding ponies at the local pony farm where they do trail rides. I got my own pony when I was about twelve, a beautiful grey pony named Annie. I joined a pony club and started competing in shows. From there, I started working in a racing stable and then at about 15 I left school to do an apprenticeship with a trainer, Frank Byrne. I had a successful apprenticeship with lots of rides and it took 6 months to ride my first winner. His name was Opinions Differ.