Two years ago Isabel Tompsett was looking forward to combining work in a veterinary practice with regular riding at the races. She had proved her worth as a jockey by winning the champion amateur ladies title in the 2009-10 season, and the future looked bright.
Then came a fall from Leopold in a hurdle race at Fakenham in May 2011, which left her with serious head injuries. She has recovered slowly, reflecting six months after the incident that “I feel lucky I'm alive... I did stop breathing twice after I fell. So they did have to revive me.” She had to learn to walk again, and for a long time her vision remained poor. Earlier this year, during a spell at Oaksey House, the Injured Jockeys’ Fund rehabilitation centre in Lambourn, she broke a leg whilst she was learning to ride a bike.
She eventually sat on a horse again in August last year, and on Saturday, all the trials of recovery and hours of physiotherapy brought their reward. Tompsett rode her mother’s hunter to win the veteran class at a show at the weekend. She was clearly delighted, telling the Racing Post, “It was the first show I’ve been in since my accident and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I ride Finbar every day and love it, he’s ever such a good horse.”
Tompsett knows that her racing career is over, she simply would not get insurance to ride, but she still has much to look forward to. Next year she hopes she’ll be able to renew her driving licence. She explained, “The DVLA apparently have a policy that when you’ve had a brain injury they won’t give you your licence back for a minimum of three years. When that time has elapsed next May, I’ll certainly be applying.”
In the meantime, Welsh stables, including those of her partner’s father, Bernard Llewellyn, Dai Burchell and David Evans are all drawing on her knowledge of horses. She went to Doncaster sales with Burchell, where the pair snapped up a nice horse, and to Newmarket with John Llewellyn.
Clearly the accident has limited what Tompsett can do in the equestrian field, but her determination and application show that she’s still a winner.