It’ll be a while before Ryan Treacy forgets cresting the second fence at the Galway Plate on Foildubh last July.
The Donagh rider tumbled in a fall which did for the unfortunate horse and left him suffering catastrophic injuries.
His collarbone was torn right off his shoulder and he broke pelvis to such an extent it required a plate to repair the damage.
His father Sean puts it starkly.
“I brought him home in a wheelchair. They told him he probably wouldn’t race for 12 months.”
Then aged just 21, and still making his way in the sport he loves, spending a year kicking his heels wasn’t exactly an appetising prospect for Treacy.
“I was in the wheelchair for 12 weeks then on crutches for eight weeks,” said the jockey. “It was a depressing time. It took a lot of work from my mother, father and sister and friends keeping me active and able to do things. I was like a child again, they had to lift me in and out of bed.”
Abiding by doctor’s orders is not exactly a Treacy forte though. The call of racing was too strong and as soon as he was off the crutches he bought a quad.
“I was out following the Fermanagh Harriers hunt at the weekends. I’d watch the horses out hunting just to do something social, just to keep the mind at peace because you’re depressed just doing nothing. Everyone is trying to do things for you and you’re annoyed that you can’t do it yourself.
“It took a long time, a lot of physio and a lot of work to get back into the way of walking again. I couldn’t have done that without a lot of help and support from a lot of people.”
However, watching from afar just wasn’t enough. It came to the point where he just needed to get into the saddle, whether the medics advised it or not.
“I bought a horse off a friend of mine at auction, he happened to pass away later, Alex Presho. I had no horses at home because I haven’t been living at home for this last couple of years.
“A lock of weeks later I took the notion I’d get on the horse. It was a struggle getting on to it, I struggled a long time to get my leg over, but I got going anyway. It was great to get on. It wasn’t really riding, but it was just nice to get back sitting on a horse again.
“My father was coming out of the shower and he looked out the window and I was lying up on the horse walking around the yard. That really didn’t go down too well.”
Then in the last week of February, seven months after the tumble at Ballybrit, Treacy was mounting in competitive action again. It was a cold Friday evening at Kilbeggan when the Donagh man got back on the physical and metaphorical horse. A week later he was giving it everything at the Punchestown Festival. A truly remarkable return.
And now the winners have started coming. Treacy has steered Fleurys Fort of Leslie Young’s yard in Templemore to two wins in the past few weeks. The first came at Down Royal a fortnight ago. The second in Limerick last Saturday was a display which showed the Fermanagh riders fighting qualities to the full.
“I got a bit of a nudge as I came over the second last, but it was grand and as I came up to the last I gave him a squeeze to get up and whatever way I had my toe in the iron my foot just slipped out. I put my foot back to try and get it back into the iron as soon as we landed, but the iron wasn’t there so I just started driving on for home.
“I put my stick from right hand the left hand and had my leg welded to the horses side and in the last few strides to the line the horse ducked to the left a wee bit and unseated me but lucky enough we were past the line when I landed off him. My pride was a bit hurt when it happened, but thank God the race was won.”
Racing is famously unforgiving, but Treacy loves the sport warts and all.
“It’s a tough game. If you get a horse that has a chance in a race you give it everything to make that count. I’ve had plenty of placed horses recently and got two wins. Hopefully I’ve a few rides coming up, but you just have to put the head down and keep proving yourself.
“I’m riding for Leslie Young, Patrick Neville, Enda Bolger, Eric McNamara, Jessica Harrington at the minute and the afternoons I’m schooling horses as well. I’m busy, but I’d like to be busier.
“This game is a tough game and you have to work as hard as you can, because you can be dropped like a stone in a second. There’s so many jockeys out there. If you’re not making the grade you’re replaced the next day.
“I’m just hoping for a clean, injury free year and, with a bit of luck, a few winners.”
He’s just 22, but Treacy has already had an eventful career. But he’s got guts to burn and he’ll be hoping the wins keep coming this Friday evening when he is at Down Royal.