David’s life changed when he was hit by a van 12 years ago, leaving him in a coma with serious injuries including a skull fracture. The accident occurred whilst David was out cycling, a pastime he’d enjoyed for many years alongside working with some of Newmarket’s top equine stars including Shergar, Commander in Chief and Slip Anchor.
David recounts how the accident affected him: “That was the real life-changing moment for me. I was pretty badly injured – it was touch and go whether I was ever going to be ok again.”
David, whose dedication to racing was recognised with Racing Welfare’s Lifetime in Racing Award last year, said: “I’d worked in racing since the 60’s and until then I’d not needed any help from Racing Welfare. But after the accident I got in touch with the charity to see if they could help me whilst I recovered. The welfare team were very helpful for a prolonged period, as it took me around three years to start feeling ok again.
“I’m a very independent person, so when I couldn’t work or do any of the other things I’d usually do I did find it hard.”
David’s physical injuries were serious, though due to his active lifestyle and a high level of fitness the longer-term issue was more psychological than physical: “After the initial recovery period, it wasn’t really a physical problem I had, the biggest problem was my head injury. The specialist I was seeing told me not to give in, brain damage and skull fractures take so much longer to heal than a broken arm or a leg. It takes forever and a day, and for a time I believed I was never going to be ok again.”
Racing Welfare supported David as he recovered from his serious head injury, and eventually he was able to return to work for trainer Jeremy Noseda. He said: “Even though I was in the last years of my working life, I managed to recover and get back to work. I continued working for Mr Noseda until my retirement.”
Even though David has since retired from full-time work, he continues to ride three lots a morning for Chris Dwyer in Newmarket. He joked: “I’m the oldest apprentice in town! Sometimes if you just love something, you keep doing it. Chris made riding out fun again.”
And the seriousness of David’s cycling accident did not deter him from taking to two wheels again.
“Cycling is something I have always taken quite seriously. I was never a professional cyclist, but I competed at a fair level as an amateur. I probably used to spend more hours on my bike than on a horse! I still do around 300 miles a week, over about 12-14 hours, often going out for a ride once I have finished riding out in the mornings. On an easy day I’ll cover about 35 miles, but I try to do at least one day a week where I get to a ton [100 miles]!
“I’m considering taking on the Great Racing Welfare Cycle challenge this summer. If anyone needs a rest then I could cover off a good few laps of the route for them whilst they put their feet up!”
Although no longer in direct receipt of support, David keeps in touch with the Newmarket welfare officers as well as racing’s chaplain, Simon Bailey.
“Although I’m officially retired, I am busier than ever! I have popped down to the odd Racing Welfare Coffee Morning, and occasionally have a chat with members of the welfare team. I also see Simon Bailey for a cup of tea from time to time. They are all lovely and it’s good to know they are always there.”
To access support following a physical injury call Racing’s Support Line 24hours a day, seven days per week on 0800 6300 443.
Registrations for the Great Racing Welfare Cycle close on 31 May. To find out more about this epic challenge click here.