Why jockeys continue to risk everything for the perfect ride
At 32, jockey Jason Benbow could easily have walked away.
He has enjoyed an excellent career, winning 675 races, including a Group 1 triumph in the 2004 Emirates Stakes.
So when he “woke up in hospital with a broken back” earlier this year after a horror trackwork fall at Caulfield in March, he knew he would be asked the question: maybe it is time to give it up?
After all, it was the third serious fall of Benbow’s career, following a broken shoulder in 2008 and a shattered ankle in 2010.
“It’s an obvious question that people ask, saying ‘how can you put yourself through it?’,” Benbow told The New Daily.
“Breaking your back … it’s an extremely bad injury … but I still feel I have a lot more to achieve in riding.
“It’s something that I’ve done my whole life and I feel very confident in doing it.”
Benbow’s passion for riding still burns bright and he made his return at Sale in September, with three winners since only sharpening his focus.
Fellow jockey Dylan Dunn says the buzz and adrenalin that horse riding gives him means the risks are worth it.
“Obviously it’s a dangerous sport and you’re putting your body at risk,” Dunn told The New Daily.
“But you could die just walking across the street.
“I totally get why people ask if it is worth it and we’re human - we do realise there are the possibilities of injuries.
“But as soon as those gates open, you’ve got to focus on getting the job done.”
Benbow said while being injured is difficult for a jockey, the National Jockeys Trust, in partnership with LUCRF Super, give great support.
“You go from flat out to absolutely nothing … you’ve got to keep yourself away from sitting on the couch and slipping into a bit of depression,” he said.
“We’re lucky in Victoria, we have a very good support group, but it’s still a challenge.”
And what about the thought process on board a 500kg horse moving at fast speeds?
Do jockeys ever think that they might get thrown off, or get concerned for their safety like most people would?
“If you do have those thoughts, you shouldn’t be out there,” Dunn said.
“You’re going too quick and if something was to happen, you can’t stop it anyway.
“Plus there’s really no time to think about it … a race might go for a minute and in that minute there’s been 50 different things that have happened, that you’ve had to think about.”
Benbow added: “I think the best little saying that I’ve picked up a long the way is that the risks and the dangers are always at the back of your mind.
"You understand the risks involved and you’re naive if you don’t think there are any.
“It’s the day that they’re at the front of your mind … that is the day you give up.”