‘A five-year battle’: jockey’s long journey back to race-riding after horrific injuries

Five years is a relatively long time for any of us, but for point-to-point rider, George Henderson, the past five years have been frustratingly slow as he battled to get back in the saddle following a “silly accident”.

Rewind the clock to 2014 and George had just graduated from the University of Reading and, with 21 pointing wins already under his belt, he was an aspiring jockey too.

In June that year, George slipped from a roof and sustained horrific injuries, including a broken lower back and pelvis, which could have been catastrophically worse.

“I spent a month in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, before having intense rehabilitation at the Injured Jockeys Fund’s [IJF] Oaksey House in Lambourn — I was lucky it wasn’t worse,” said George, who now works full-time in London and rides out racehorses at the weekend.

With the help of the IJF, George got back into the saddle but it was then that his battle to make a race-riding comeback began. With his injuries affecting his balance, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) would not pass him fit to ride in point-to-points, and he spent the next few years fighting his cause to get back riding between the flags.

“It has been a very long process, but I kept fit by doing plenty of team chasing and hunt rides. I had to watch my brother, Fred, pick up rides while I was sat on the sidelines — it was frustrating,” said the 26-year-old.

After four-and-a-half years, George went for extensive tests at the British Racing School in Newmarket with senior jockey coach Richard Perham.

“Fortunately, the tests showed my balance was much better and Richard was happy enough, so the BHA let me have my licence back,” added George.

His comeback ride was in a hunter chase at Taunton in January aboard Newsworthy for his father and trainer James, where the pair finished second.

George hit the winning jackpot on only his second ride back since May 2014, winning on 12/1 shot The Caller for trainer Dougie Gittins at Cocklebarrow point-to-point (27 January).

“It meant a lot to have a win on just my second ride back — Fred and I now squabble over who rides what and I was lucky I picked up the phone to this one! Dougie is an old university friend of mine and was supposed to ride the horse himself but had an injury setback,” he said.

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