A quick-thinking jockey showed a remarkable display of horsemanship by managing to avert disaster after her horse’s bit broke strides into a race.
Laura Cheshire was riding the six-year-old Secret Blend in a handicap at Murwillumbah racecourse in New South Wales, Australia, on 25 August.
Moments after the runners jumped out of the starting stalls, the horse’s bridle fell apart.
Laura told H&H that the pin on the side of the eggbut snaffle broke, causing the bit to fall out of his mouth, taking the bridle with it.
“The weight of it hanging there pulled it back over his head,” said Laura.
“The whole bridle was around his neck and the reins slipped down around his legs.”
She quickly grabbed hold of the reins and bridle to stop the tack from tripping him up.
As they approached the first turn, she asked the jockey on her outside to steer her around the corner.
She then tried to keep ‘Exo’ out of the way of the other runners and hoped that he would slow with the rest of the field once they passed the finish post.
Laura managed to steer the horse by putting pressure on the horse’s neck by pulling on the disintegrated bridle.
“He was listening to that,” said Laura. “When we passed the finish post, I thought he might pull up with the other horses — I could feel he was thinking about it.
“But because I couldn’t pull on the bit, he thought maybe we were going again, so set off on another lap.”
An outrider came out next to them to try to slow-up the horse, but with nothing to grab and Laura feeling Exo starting to speed up again, there was nothing they could do.
As they passed the start, she saw the gate was open back to let the runners on and off the track.
“I thought ‘he is going to try and go thought the gate’,” she added. “I used the bridle as a neck rein and asked him to come back towards the other fence, which he did.”
Some handlers had come out onto the track to try to catch the horse and Laura shouted at them to get out of the way as she feared he might spook or injure someone on the ground.
On their third lap the outrider caught up with them again, but one of the reins from the Exo’s broken bridle came free and wrapped itself around his leg, panicking him further.
Laura managed to re-catch it and realised she had to make a plan as Exo was not going to stop on his own.
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She decided to attempt to try to steer him into the “mile chute” — an enclosed space that doubled back from the racetrack.
As they turned she saw they were heading towards the rail and she willed him not to jump.
“He went into it at a good canter and I just tried to be really negative,” said Laura, who also rides showjumpers.
“He half picked himself up, then picked up on me saying ‘don’t do it’ and came back down.”
Laura was then able to slide off and fashioned the broken bridle into a headcollar to lead him safely back to the parade ring.
“The look on his face was relief — like ‘thank goodness you are back in charge’,” she said. “I don’t know who was more relieved!”
The jockey added riding difficult horses and ponies growing up definitely helped her keep her head.
“When everything went wrong I thought about what I could do and I didn’t panic,” she said.
“When I got off my legs were fine, it was my shoulders that were sore from struggling with the bridle trying to pull him up asking through his neck rather than his mouth.”
The horse was uninjured, but Laura had just minutes to catch her breath as she had another ride that day.
“It is definitely not something I want to do again — one to put in the experience book!” she said.
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