How the IJF helped a former jockey and trainer who needed 14 operations to rebuild his skull

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  • Former jump jockey and trainer Chris Kinane's skull was smashed when a racehorse's hind hooves caught him on the right hand side of his head. H&H finds out how the Injured Jockeys Fund helps to make his life easier following the accident

    Former jump jockey and trainer, Chris Kinane, known as ‘Red’ because of his ginger hair, joined trainer Guy Harwood straight from school in 1973.

    In 1979 he moved on to Josh Gifford and life as a jump jockey. Fifty-six winners later, he returned to Guy’s as an assistant trainer alongside Jeff Hanson. With two small children, the Kinane family decided it made sense for Red to train rather than pilot the horses. Those were the days of Dancing Brave, winner of the 1986 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

    After Guy, a recommendation from Mark Tompkins led to Chris moving to Suffolk to train for jump stalwart Geoff Hubbard in 1996. It was a small yard, running 30 horses and he and his family loved it there. Those were the days of Strong Promise, who Chris trained to finish third in the Gold Cup.

    Cheltenham Festival-winning owner/trainer Geoff Hubbard died aged 82 after a long illness in 2000 and in turn, Chris and his family moved to Ian Williams’s Suffolk-based yard in 2001.

    One spring evening in 2005, Chris was saddling up Not Amused before the mile-and-a half handicap at Wolverhampton. Meanwhile, another horse called Saameq was becoming “unruly” and “up on his toes” nearby. Just as Chris was about to leg-up jockey Jamie Spencer, Saameq lashed out, double-barrelling Chris.

    ‘The quick thinking of the paramedics on site saved his life’

    Saameq’s hind hooves caught Chris on the right hand side of his head, just above the ear, smashing his skull and ricocheting his brain off the opposite side.

    The quick thinking of the paramedics on site saved his life, and he was taken to Wolverhampton hospital where he was stabilized. Unable to deal with the injury as it was so severe, he was then moved to the Queen Elizabeth in Birmingham, and placed under the expert care of neurosurgeon Mr Flint.

    Chris spent just under a year in hospital, and it took 14 operations to rebuild his skull. He has titanium plates where much of his skull had once been, and part of the right side of his brain had to be removed.

    Following three to four months in the Moseley Hall Hospital neurological rehabilitation unit in Birmingham, Chris was allowed home. It took him a year to learn how to talk again and walking was, and is, only possible with the assistance of two carers and a frame.

    The damage to his brain has left him suffering with severe seizures, epilepsy, mobility issues and poor short-term memory.

    The Injured Jockeys Fund contribute towards Chris’s two carers, which he needs to get out of bed, dress and wash himself. They also contribute towards his physiotherapy with Jayne Bradley three times a week. She gets his legs going and clears his chest. Once a week, his wife Tessa and a carer take him to the hydrotherapy pool in Fontwell so he can gently exercise.

    The IJF have also provided a great deal of invaluable emotional support to both Chris and his family.

    Chris is on Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit and Incapacity Benefit. Tessa admits they live from one bill to the next, but without the support of the IJF life would be a huge struggle.

    We’ve been dealt this card in life and we just get on with it. Of course life has changed, but we don’t look back or hold grudges — we look forward. We don’t dwell on what Red doesn’t have, we look at what he’s got and we’re grateful.”

    With the regular visits of his carers and physiotherapist, plus old friends and colleagues popping in, there is never a dull moment in the Chris household.

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    “It was touch and go for a long time, but I’m lucky enough to have got through the worst of it,” he says.

    Although Chris will not work in racing again, he admits he “still watches it everyday. I don’t miss the saddle bumps, but I do miss race riding terribly”.

    The Injured Jockeys Fund is Horse & Hound‘s charity for 2016. Donate now >>

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