Jockey Alistair Rawlinson’s gruelling recovery after he nearly lost his ankle in fall


Alistair Rawlinson spent seven months on the sidelines after the heavy fall at Windsor races. He was told he might not run again, let alone ride racehorses, but proved doctors wrong

When Alistair Rawlinson was told his chances of riding again were slim, he was determined to have the final say.

The jockey shattered his ankle in a fall last summer, after his mount Diligent Lady sadly suffered a fatal injury.

It all happened within a flash, as one moment the 29-year-old was contesting a sprint race – and the next he was thrown to the floor.

Rival horse Centurion Song was hampered and unseated fellow rider George Buckell in the unfortunate incident.

Racing at Windsor was delayed while the medical staff worked to reduce Rawlinson’s dislocated ankle, which had four fractures.

Several broken ribs and a heavily bruised hip were also a result of the impact.

Conscious throughout, Rawlinson harboured hopes of leaving the track to head home.

“There was no real pain, it was the adrenaline and shock,” he said.

“I hit the ground so quickly. The horse rolled over me a couple of times.

“Looking back at it I was very lucky not to break anything in my neck and back.”

Rawlinson would later learn that the team on track had saved his foot – and consequently his race-riding career.

He had a five-and-a-half hour operation as surgeon Callum Clarke used plates, screws and wires to repair it.

“I was just half an hour from losing my ankle due to the circulation,” Rawlinson said.

“It shattered into pieces and the operation was very complex. That was the worst time, being in hospital for ten days and not being allowed to see anyone because of Covid.

“I had a cast on and then had to teach myself to walk again.”

Rawlinson, a talented footballer who played for Barnsley FC’s youth system, was supported through the tough time by his wife Emily.

Thoughts of kicking a ball about with his three-year-old son William and competing in the core Flat season spurred him on.

“There was a 90 per cent chanceI wouldn’t run again,” Rawlinson said.

“i never accepted what I was told. I think sportspeople just have that mentality.

“I pushed myself to get back.”

Rawlinson began his rehab on August 4 and two months later, had another operation to remove screws and wires from the left ankle.

He put in hours of work to bring muscle back to his leg, using a hydro pool, the gym and a racing simulator.

After seven months on the sidelines, with six of those at the IJF’s Peter O’Sullevan House, Rawlinson made his long-awaited racing return.

His sixth ride, on Zapper Cass at Southwell earlier this week, was the winner he craved.

“It’s like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it,” he said.

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“I’d not seen some of the lads in the weighing room since, they were all congratulating me so there was no time to be nervous.

“If circumstances hadn’t gone my way I might not have been riding, but in my mind there were no doubts.

“It was a lot to go through and I’m very proud to have come through the other side with my family.

“All we need now is to get some warm weather and get back racing on the turf!”