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Still Sidelined After Run-In with Gulfstream Geese, Sutherland Fears She’ll Never Ride Again

Chantal Sutherland | Coglianese

By Bill Finley

For Chantal Sutherland, it started out as a freakish accident. She rode Haruki (Karakontie {Jpn}) in the May 6 English Channel S. at Gulfstream and as the horses were pulling up she encountered a bunch of geese who were crossing over the turf course. Spooked by the birds, the horse stopped abruptly and sling shotted Sutherland to the ground.

The result was that she broke the humerus bone completely off from her shoulder. She said that her left arm snapped at the base of the shoulder and that it went up into her collarbone. She also broke her left pelvis.

Early estimates were that she would be out about three months. More than seven months later, the 47-year-old jockey has not ridden, there is no timetable for her return and she fears that she will never ride again.

“I’m working on my range of motion,” she said. “I feel like I’m at a certain point and it’s not getting better right now. My doctor said it will need time. Obviously, when you’re a jockey, time is not your friend. I would love to be able to ride again. That’s the dream. But the reality is I really don’t know.”

“I hope it doesn’t come to that, that I have to retire,” she said. “I’m not in any position to ride at a top level. There’s no way. It would be dangerous and I have to get to the point where I can use my left arm. I can’t. My arm won’t straighten and I have a three second delay from my brain to arm. It needs a lot more work. I’ve been working really hard at it. I dream of racing again, but I don’t know.

“It’s my range of motion,” she continued. “I can’t get my arm above my head. My shoulder only goes to a certain point with my muscles and my range motion. I can’t lift a two-pound weight above my head. I can’t get my arms above my head. I practice laying down, like a swimmer, my left arm low to the side. My right arm is perfectly strong. I could hold a horse if I wanted with reins with my right arm. But my left side is awkward. Nothing is in sync. I have no control of that.”

That the accident was so avoidable continues to haunt Sutherland. She said a trainer stabled near the clubhouse turn feeds the birds during the last break during morning training and again late in the day. The geese live in the infield lake and cross the racetracks to get fed, she said. She doesn’t understand why Gulfstream didn’t take steps to keep the geese off of the track.

“Am I really pissed off? Yes,” she said. “I’ve gone through a lot of anger with this. I was alone. I never got a phone call from the trainer. Never got a text. I heard from no one. I’m still emotional about it. I went through a lot of anger and I was really depressed. I wanted to give up. I think I am pretty stable, but talking about it is too hard. I had a good five, seven years left as a jockey. It hurts a lot.”

She is currently working as an assistant trainer to Jorge Delgado and recently took out her real estate license, but that’s not what Sutherland wants to do. She wants to ride again.

“It’s just that right now it doesn’t look good,” she said. “I am praying for a miracle.”

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