I want to take some time to tell you all about a friend of mine who I met while I was living and working in Australia for Gai Waterhouse. Jasmine (Jay) Riley was 25 years old, and a phenomenal horsewoman. We worked together on the track, but over the last few years we both became advocates for retraining OTTBs. Two former racetrackers, on opposite ends of the world, retraining OTTBs and showing everyone what they are capable of. Her biggest success story was a horse named Somepin Anypin. He was a graded stakes winning gelding early on in his career, but as time went on he got a pretty bad reputation. Jasmine took to social media almost immediately after she took him home saying; "The people that worked with him said "dog him," the trainer said "sack him." I’ve always loved him. Man is this horse going to prove them all wrong; the puller, the rearer, the bucker. A little bit of training and he canters along on a loose rein. [I] Hate how people are so quick to write horses off. Everyday he develops more of an understanding. We’ve just broken the tip of the iceberg. It’s a long road ahead for me and this horse. This road was never about me it was about me helping him to prove to all of y'all that you're wrong. In racing I saw fear and stress and you saw nasty, highly strung and a bad horse 'dog food' the foreman called him. How can you be so blind not to see!”
Within a week she was riding him with a neck rope and no bridle at all. Jay had a local following for Somepin. It was mostly friends and family, but people in the racing world who knew Somepin, and then saw what she did with him were very impressed at his turnaround.
If it has not become obvious already due to referring to her in the past tense, Jay is no longer with us. Just last week Jay lost a long time battle to PTSD which was a result from a previous relationship involving Domestic Violence. Many of her close family and friends, myself included, had no idea she was suffering from such trauma under her strong and happy exterior. On March 25, 2016 Jay left a note on her Facebook page explaining how her PTSD had gotten to an unmanageable level. She said it was spilling into all aspects of her life, and therapy and medication were not working. She asked for understanding, said her goodbyes, and told her beloved Somepin, who had helped to keep her going for so long, to keep on proving the world wrong. In a frantic panic in the middle of the night, police, friends, and family went out searching for her. Knowing it was probably futile, but thinking any words could be the ones that talk her down, I messaged her. I called her, but I could not reach her. So I waited, hoping that someone would find her in time. A few hours later, her body, and that of her 2 year old son Braxton were found at the bottom of a cliff near Maroubra Beach in Sydney.
I was in shock. I sat on the ground on one of the first beautiful spring days of this year, and I cried. I cried for the pain she had been hiding. I cried for the fear she could not escape. I cried for her son. I cried for losing a friend that had impacted my life, and for all of the people and horses that will never get the chance be touched by her beautiful soul.
I tried to stay busy the rest of that day. I rode my long time personal horse, took my the two racehorse babies I have been starting to a local training track for their first track gallops, and my day ended on a very positive session with Disco. I know that she would have loved to hear about all of it, but a part of me thinks she knows without me being able to tell her in words.
When you lose someone so suddenly, and in such a tragic way, it rattles you. It makes you rethink things. For me, it made me remember why I was doing the Thoroughbred Makeover. Jay said it perfectly when she spoke about Somepin, and it applies directly to Disco and myself now... The road is not about me, it is about me helping Disco to prove everyone wrong. That they are wrong about the limitations of past injuries, and wrong about what an OTTB is capable of achieving.
But in addition to this journey being about helping Disco and other OTTBs; in the aftermath of this tragedy, I have decided to ride for Jay. My freestyle specifically will be a homage to her and Somepin. Disco has some pretty big shoes to fill to live up to Somepin, but I have a feeling he may have an extra guiding hand along the way. Next blog I will go into a bit more detail about how Disco's training is coming along, but for now....
"It's been a long day without you, my friend
And I'll tell you all about it when I see you again
We've come a long way from where we began
I'll tell you all about it when I see you again"
Jay, I hope your troubled soul is finally at peace, and may you be riding happily on the back of a great racehorse wherever you are.