“My horse racing career is well and truly over,” says former apprentice jockey Kate Brooks. “It took me a long time to come to terms with that.”
Graphic: A young woman wearing horse racing silks and a brightly coloured helmet is sat atop a brown horse.
It was just over two years ago that Kate had a terrifying accident whilst racing in the Alice Springs Carnival.
She was on the home straight when her horse fell, breaking its leg. Whilst miraculously Kate didn’t break any bones herself, she suffered a serious head injury and was rushed to Alice Springs Hospital, where she was placed in an induced coma.
Five days later, the RFDS airlifted Kate some 1,500 kilometres to the Royal Adelaide Hospital where she spent the next two weeks in its Intensive Care Unit before being transferred to the Hampstead Rehabilitation Hospital to continue her recovery.
“There’s a huge blank in my memory,” says Kate. “I remember the day before the race and then nothing... until I woke up in the rehab centre a month later. “I was surrounded by photos of my loved ones but I had no idea where I was – or why. It was really scary.”
Kate’s brain injury resulted in lasting weakness in her left side, requiring her to undergo extensive physiotherapy.
“I continue to experience weakness in the left side of my body and I have permanent vision loss in my left eye,” Kate says.
“I also struggle with memory loss, but I’m aware I’m very lucky compared to many people.”
Riding has been part of Kate’s life as long as she can remember, and she was back in the saddle of her beloved Pookie just three months after her accident.
Today, Kate is continuing to embrace her love for all things equine by working at a race stables. She also volunteers at a nursing home.
“The accident made me completely re-evaluate my life. I get very frustrated when I remember the rider I used to be and I do miss the ‘old Kate’ – however I know I’m fortunate to be able to ride at all,” she says