A jockey who broke his back after he was trampled on in a racing fall spoken openly about his remarkable comeback to the weighing room in less than six weeks.
Amateur jockey and serving soldier Corporal Nathan Rahman was on his second ride of the day at Clifton-on-Dunsmore on 16 December when he took his first ever racing fall.
“It was in the restricted, I was on a little horse bought last Easter from Doncaster and it was her first run with us,” he told H&H.
“We didn’t really know an awful lot of what to expect with her. She had been making headway and I was sitting in about fourth or fifth coming into the last fence when she went into the bottom of it and didn’t put her landing gear out in time.
“She’s only 15hh and I was just ejected over the fence. I had a split second when I hit the ground and I thought I had got away with it — I did my fall training at the British Racing School last year and that training kicked in.”
Unluckily, the mare was right behind Nathan and ran straight over the top of him — kicking him in the head and trampling on his back as she went over.
“It wasn’t so much like screaming out loud pain, it might sound silly but I wasn’t in as much pain as I have been for other breaks — it was a dull ache and the worrying part was I had shooting pain down my left leg and couldn’t move my left foot.”
The medical team were immediately on hand to help and the on-course ambulance took him off the course and he was transferred straight to Coventry University Hospital for X-rays and scans.
Scans showed he had broken the transverse processes (“wings”) of his L2, L3 and L4 vertebrae on the left side and Nathan was kept in for two nights.
“It is quite a rare injury, although it is seen more often in jockeys, as the vertebrae is surrounded by so much cartilage and muscle it takes a heavy blow directly to that area,” he explained, adding thankfully the feeling in his foot came back that night.
Back at the point-to-point course in Warwickshire, the other jockeys packed up his car and drove it to trainer Alex Hales’ yard, where it was collected by Nathan’s parents.
Two days after the accident, Nathan took himself off painkillers to ensure he was not masking any pain, which would risk damaging himself as he started his recovery.
“I’ve been a personal trainer for the past 11 years, so I knew as long as the pain wasn’t there, I could manage myself rather effectively in terms of rehab,” he said.
Nathan’s day job is as a section commander with the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh alongside his role as a personal trainer.
He hunted and showjumped as a child, but this is his only his second season racing — bar one ride as a 16-year-old in 2005, before taking an extended gap from the saddle while he focused on his career in the army.
“My eldest daughter has started riding and got me back into it,” he said.
The army has backed him and he has also had the support of several trainers, including Seamus Mullins, Robert Luke and Rob Varnham.
Last year he enjoyed a good first season both pointing and under Rules and his aims for this year include achieving his category B licence.
Two weeks after his fall, he went to Oaksey House for an assessment, where doctors were impressed with his progresss.
Nathan said his fitness before the injury was a big factor in his recovery, but despite feeling better, time is always needed for bones to heal.
On the fifth week, he passed the fitness assessment with flying colours and five weeks and six days later, he had his first race back at Chipley Park on 27 January aboard the Robert Luke-trained Majingilane in the open maiden.
“Chief medical officer Jerry Hill has told me that it is my job to make sure my core and lower back are as strong as possible now,” he added.
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“I was a bit apprehensive — I started thinking ‘what if it happens again and it is more serious?’
“We set off and I was upside Martin McIntyre to the first, who is a good friend of mine, and he told me to stay with him as his horse is a good jumper — the next thing I saw was his horse’s legs in the air.
“I thought ‘what on earth am I doing?’ and for a split second I didn’t know if I could do it. I looked round and saw a few loose horses and kicked on.
“As I started jumping, my confidence grew more and more and I knew this is was where I wanted to be — this is what it was all about and I couldn’t think about the fall.”
Although he had to pull up as the horse lost touch with the rest of the field, the ride was a success.
“I felt deflated to have to pull up, but over joyed because I had that first one out my system — it was really mixed emotions,” said Nathan.
“I’m glad it happened as it did as if I had just jumped round and had an easy run, I wouldn’t have thought much about why I was doing it — it brought me back to earth that it is going to happen and it happens to the best.”
Nathan rides Sentimentaljourney in Friday’s Royal Artillery Gold Cup at Sandown, as well as a number of pointing rides this weekend at Horseheath and Howick, and is aiming for his second Grand Military Gold Cup in March.
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