A mother of two who has had cancer twice and whose spine is held together with titanium rods is preparing to tackle a charity Flat race at York racecourse this summer.
Jo Ford (pictured) has pledged to raise £3,000 for MacMillan Cancer Support by signing up for Ride of Their Lives, on 17 June, but hopes her total will be £15,000 or more.
Mrs Ford, one of 12 riders who are all training hard for the charity challenge, was told some years ago that her riding days were over, as a result of an accident 20 years ago in which she shattered one disc and slipped two more.
“I had a discectomy at the time and did ride again afterwards but not like I used to, no hunting or competing,” she told H&H.
“But my back finally gave way and the doctors said no more riding.
“Then, about six years ago, I met a surgeon who said he could fix it. I had three ‘cages’ made, to the same depth as the discs, and I’ve got some prosthetic bone and two titanium rods at the bottom of my spine.
“He bolted me back together and I’ve been hunting again, competing and keeping horses fit for my daughter who’s just started competing with British Eventing.
“I’ve always been a rider, but I’m certainly no jockey – and I took it on myself to enter this race.”
Mrs Ford found out she had been accepted just before Christmas and has been training this month, riding out two lots every day, with North Yorkshire-based trainer Phil Kirby.
“I had no idea, I’m in awe of jockeys,” she said. “I didn’t know how difficult it is and just how fit you have to be to ride a racehorse, and how much it hurts!
“You think they just sit there and the horse goes but it is so not like that; the strength they need is unbelievable.
“Now I know why the organisers were so adamant about the six months of intensive fitness training.”
Mrs Ford wants to raise awareness of the race, which attracted some 27,000 spectators last year, and has raised more than £7m in total for good causes since it was first held in 1971.
“It’s a big thing, the amount it’s raised is astronomical, but I’m not sure everyone knows about it,” she said.
“I didn’t really know about it till last year, but I think it’s MacMillan’s biggest fundraiser.”
Mrs Ford says her two children are proud of her and she is enjoying the challenge so far.
“I’m trying not to think about the 27,000 people watching; I’m just clinging on for dear life at 6am every day!” she said.
“I’m petrified, if I’m honest, but it’s exhilarating too, the feeling you get on a racehorse on the gallops is second to none.
“I think it’ll be one of those once in a lifetime moments, something you always remember.”
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“I had cervical cancer twice, at the age of 22, which is my main reason for doing this,” she added. “My children are proud and I think it’s a case of God forbid you’ll ever need MacMillan but hopefully they’ll realise Mummy’s done this, and it’s huge.”
Mrs Ford is accepting donations on a JustGiving page but is also looking for sponsors, who can email email@example.com