Paralyzed jockey Jacob Pritchard Webb on the day his life changed

Paralyzed horseman Jacob Pritchard Webb on the day his life changed – DAVID ROSE/TELEGRAPH

For a man whose life was turned upside down and his career halted in a split second during a paralyzed fall at Auteuil just over two years ago, ex-jumping jockey Jacob Pritchard Webb has a light-hearted and inspiring outlook on life. ; he is relentlessly optimistic.

On Thursday, in a bid to raise £25,000 each for the Injured Jockeys Fund and the Matt Hampson Foundation, the two charities that have helped him in his rehabilitation and to which he still regularly goes for the ‘MOTs’, he will leave the racecourse from Cheltenham, outside of which there is not a flat route, by handbike.

Accompanied on various stages by various people, including Sir Anthony McCoy, Luke Harvey and jockey Hugh Nugent, he must make it to the Newmarket July meeting in time for the three-day festival’s main race, the July Cup, on Saturday. Those 120 miles wouldn’t be a feat on a bike using your legs, let alone just your arms.

“I didn’t expect to be doing something like this so soon after the accident, but I think it’s a good advertisement for people with spinal cord injuries,” says Pritchard Webb.

“It is great to be able to show that it is not the end of the world and that life can be good because I can tell you now that when you are sitting in the hospital you think these things. Aside from the money, I hope it just raises awareness for charities and also inspires people.”

Jacob Pritchard Webb to travel 120 miles to Newmarket - DAVID ROSE/TELEGRAPH

Jacob Pritchard Webb to travel 120 miles to Newmarket – DAVID ROSE/TELEGRAPH

Pritchard Webb, 25, who harbored ambitions to make it as a show jumping jockey, had spells with Sir Mark Prescott and Fergal O’Brien in Britain but, confident that opportunities would be better across the Channel, he went to France in mid-2019.

Having come as an amateur, he turned professional, joining noted show jumping coach Emmanuel Clayeux in October. His career was beginning to move in the right direction and he had nine winners under his belt when, on July 23, disaster struck.

He was riding in a four-year-old £25,000 chase on the biggest jump track in France. Ironically, it was the smallest fence in the field. His horse overtook him and landed, but he couldn’t get his legs out from under him and fell heavily.

“I remember the fall, the pain and the instant loss of feeling in my legs,” he recalls. “The rest of that day I remember in pieces; them taking my clothes off, being in a scanner, trying to vomit when they injected me with dye but couldn’t because my neck was dislocated.”

In addition to the dislocation, he sustained fractures to the T3, T4, and T6 vertebrae, but it was at T4 that the damage, compression, to the spinal cord occurred. He left his specialist hospital in Paris 178 days later, the most recent but certainly not the last jockey to enter a racecourse and be released from hospital six months later.

One by one, a ‘club’ of jockeys who had suffered spinal injuries, JP McNamara, Robbie McNamara, Freddy Tylicki and Ed Barrett, got in touch with their advice.

Jacob Pritchard Webb in the hospital with his parents Kelly and Matt

Jacob Pritchard Webb in the hospital with his parents Kelly and Matt

“Everyone said ‘focus on rehab,’ so I made it my job; wake up, breakfast, physio, etc. I got into a strict routine which is best for the body in these circumstances. You have to get your bowels and bladder used to the routine, eating and drinking at the same time each day.

“Of course there are dark times. The boys would understand. For me it was when someone rides a winner who was at the same level as me but has progressed. Basically it’s envy because my opportunity was taken away. Everyone tells me it’s totally understandable.

“You have the strange s— day. Winter is definitely more of a struggle. I can’t control my body temperature very well, so if you go out and it’s cold and wet and rainy, the wheelchair handles get slippery and all of that builds up throughout the day to a mini mental meltdown in the one who could tell everyone to go away. -off, but they are quite few and far between.

“There was a day when I had to go to a Six Nations rugby match but it was raining, it was cold and I was already in a bit of pain and I couldn’t prepare.

“When I was in hospital, Sir Mark called. He told me that when he broke his back he couldn’t even blink. He had to get the nurse to open his eyes.

“It wasn’t really what I wanted to hear in 16 days but it was a Sunday when he religiously calls all his owners and I’m pretty sure it was his first call of the day which meant a lot and gave me this great advice ‘don’t be awful With your mother’. She was nice to the nurses but horrible to his mother when she came from Devon to see him and she still regrets it now.

“I think mom started accepting my injury about two months later, right when I was coming off painkillers. She was smiling and laughing some more and when she saw that in me, I think she saw that if I could accept it, it would be better for me if she accepted it.

“Dad took a lot longer, maybe that has something to do with a father’s protection. He is a pilot and due to confinement he did not fly. He needed to be busy. After three months he came home from Paris to start adapting the house and I think he was happier that he could do something constructive to help”.

McCoy calls Pritchard Webb an inspiration. “He’s a handsome young guy who had his whole life ahead of him before he suffered those life-changing injuries, but his attitude has been fantastic,” he said. “He has a great perspective on life because it can’t be easy. We all have bad days but, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not like that.”

Most jockeys have fairly weak arms due to weight issues with muscle mass, but prior to the challenge, Pritchard Webb now has arms like Popeye’s, adapted to training between his fledgling Sky Sports Racing careers. and as a blood agent. But if anyone is mentally depressed by this challenge, it’s unlikely to be Pritchard Webb.

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