Jockey Jonathan Thomas Is Back After Injury Threatened His Career
by KRISTEN ARMSTRONG, Staff Writer
|For many jockeys, a fall can
mean an end to their riding days.
But not for Jonathan Thomas.
Despite a very serious injury, Thomas is back in the saddle and competing again.
Thomas, who grew up in the Middleburg area, suffered from a compression fracture in his L1 vertebra after a fall in 2000. At the time, he was stable jockey for Jack Fisher, one of the leading trainers in the nation, and his career, which looked very promising, was in question.
“Everything was starting to take off,” Thomas said in a recent interview.
But after the accident, Thomas was paralyzed from the waist down for about six months.
And though he never lost his love for riding, living normally again was his main concern.
“I hoped [to ride again], but at the time, I was more concerned with functioning,” he said.
After time in rehabilitation centers, Thomas made significant progress and moved back to the Middleburg area. He rode Merlin, a friend's pony, for about seven months before starting to compete again in the spring of 2001. But he regretted starting so soon after the accident.
“I rushed it,” Thomas said. “I was very weak, and wasn't ready for it mentally.”
Until this year, he gave up racing and worked around the country for some of the country's top trainers including Christophe Clement and Dale Romans.
But after about five years away from racing, Thomas was ready to start again. Competing as an amateur, he has won six races along the east coast this year, and has even participated in competitions in France and Germany.
Even though he enjoys riding competetively, Thomas has other options in mind for a career. He wants to devote more of his time to promoting the sport rather than being in the thick of the action, he said.
Thomas' journey has not been an easy one, but keeping a positive attitude has served him well.
It's about being honest with yourself,” he said. “Do what feels right as long as you're having fun. Fun is the most important part.”