Brooke Stower was almost confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life after a freakish mounting yard accident aboard Ambridge at Grafton on August 31 of last year.
After suffering a burst fracture to her L3, where the vertebrate compressed her spinal column, the 27-year-old couldn’t move for 11 days, before spending another seven and a half weeks in a Risser Cast before another extended period in a TLSO brace.
“The horse just flipped over in the mounting yard, and I landed wrong, and I am really lucky to be walking,” Stower said.
“It was hard; I wasn’t allowed to lift anything; I couldn’t even lift a milk bottle up.”
After a gruelling recovery period, Stower will incredibly return to the saddle almost a year to the day after her Grafton injury when racing at Warren on Saturday.
“I am so excited to be back. I’m extremely thankful,” Stower said.
“I did a few trials in my jockey saddle and I will be stoked to see my name back down next to horses, plus I’m happy to be back in the jockey’s room, because we are like a family, and I’ve really missed that.”
It wasn’t an easy path back to the races, with Stower confronting many challenges along the way, but a sheer will to return to the sport she loved pushed her through the tough times.
“At the time I didn’t realise how serious it was. It wasn’t until I was in the spinal unit in Sydney, and they said if I move my legs wrong, I could be paralysed,” Stower said.
“I was quite lucky in the end. I flew out of Grafton and got to Sydney, and I saw Dr Andrew Cree two days later.
“My first questions were, will I ride again? And, how long? He said 12 months, but I would make a full recovery if it worked.”
Stower remained patient, and only returned to track work riding five weeks ago, and she admitted she felt ‘at home’ right away.
“I was lucky that I had family and support, and I got through it all,” Stower said.
“I started back riding about five weeks ago. Dr Cree said my back had healed fully and was 100% strong and I was right to get back to everything I loved doing.
“When I got on my first horse, I felt like I was at home again and it was finally good to be sore for a reason rather than doing nothing.
“To be honest, it was the best time of my life getting back on the horse.”
Stower, who works for Craig Martin and Cody Morgan from her Tamworth base, had a breakout year in 2019/20, riding 63 winners and before her incident, she was aiming to ride 80 winners in 2020/21.
“I’m so chomping at the bit to get back into it,” Stower laughed.
“I went to Scone yesterday (Friday) and jumped about seven out and galloped a few extra.
“I plan to get right back into it – obviously 80 winners would be a big reach, but I’d be happy to get 50 or the same numbers I had the year before.”
With a rejuvenated love of the sport, Stower cannot wait to showcase her work, with the young jockey getting her weight back down and her mind right before kick-starting the season at Warren.
“I did nothing for quite a bit and put on some weight. Megan Roberts from Jockey Nutrition has helped me a lot, and I’ve had so much support,” Stower said.
“I think I will come back better; my mindset is a lot better; I’ve had a break and now I’m ready to get back into it.”
Stower will be available for rides across country and provincial meetings in NSW – for bookings please call her manager Nathan Daniels on 0408 693 372.