Being a jockey can be an unforgiving job.
Regardless of whether you are a group and city class hoop, or an amateur at the picnics; punters, owners and even trainers can be quick to criticise.
For Wagga based jockey, Belinda Wright; injuries and a battle within herself forced her to call it quits on the industry.
The former professional, who was regarded by many as one of the best apprentices in the south east and southern district region, battled with her demons before last weekend travelling to Forbes as an amateur hoop for just one ride; winning aboard the Darryl Rolfe trained Waldo Walforf in the 1400m Open Picnic Trophy.
“I had a few injuries while I was in Canberra and wasn’t in the best frame of mind, so I moved back to Wagga and decided to give myself a break from racing,” Wright said.
“The stewards told me to get an approved riders license, so when I was ready; I could still ride trials and at the picnics until I wanted to come back as an apprentice.”
These injuries nearly ended Wright’s riding career, causing irreversible damage to one of her hands.
“In April, a horse I was riding stumbled and fell to the ground on the concrete leaving the stable. As the horse stood up, she stood on my hand,” Wright said.
“I had to have one finger stitched up and two months of rehab to get movement back in two fingers. There was three weeks where I had no feeling in two fingers and one of them, I’ll never have full movement in again.”
Despite the injuries and mental challenges, Wright was soon enough back in the saddle and Rolfe had sourced her services, which has in turn given the young jockey a lot of confidence as she works hard to become a professional once again.
“Darryl Rolfe rang me the Sunday prior and asked if I would ride Waldo (Waldorf) and I said yes,” Wright said.
“It was a really great day and to get a win was really good. I’m in the process of coming back as an apprentice but needed to have some fun and enjoy the industry again.”
Wright wasn’t afraid to admit it was hard being a jockey, and hoped this little bump in the road would help guide her through the rest of her professional riding career.
“I think mental health is something that isn’t always thought about when it comes to jockeys and apprentices, but I definitely realised that it is important to look after yourself,” Wright said.
“I’m definitely more excited to come back now that I’ve had a break, and the jockeys at the picnics are a fantastic bunch of people.”
The 28-year-old said the biggest thing she needed to address, was keeping in a good frame of mind and not poring over bad rides, or things that have gone wrong; instead trying to focus on the positives.
“I have learnt a lot about the industry in the last 12 months and the ups and downs of it, and I think the most important thing I learned is to understand that you cannot progress if you are always concentrating on the negatives; It’s ok to recognise them, but don’t let them get you down,” Wright said.
Going forward, Wright will continue to work in Wagga, whilst pushing forward in her bid to become a successful jockey.
“I’m riding trackwork for Wayne Carroll, Russell Steiner and Andrew Sheahan. I’m doing a couple of afternoons for Wayne at the stables (and) I worked with the sports psychologist with Racing NSW for the mental side of things,” Wright said.
“He gave me a lot of help (and) Wayne has been helping me with looking at the things I need to improve with my riding, but also recognising the things that I’m good at.
“I also have a coach based in Melbourne who helps with diet and training to stay in good physical health. Andrew Sheahan has also been really good, supporting me with the move back to Wagga and he has really made the process a lot easier. He has always made me feel like I’m a part of his family here.”
With no picnic meetings scheduled until early next year, Wright will continue to ride trackwork and build up her confidence, before the eventual return to the professionals.