By Mike Valiante
Five hundred and thirteen days. That is the amount of days that passed in the life of Jenn Miller from November 25, 2017 when she suffered major injuries from a fall at Charles Town until April 22, 2018 when she returned to ride at Laurel Park. On May 18 of this year she cleared another hurdle when she won her first race since the accident.
I spoke with Jenn Miller a few days after that victory to see how she was doing in the first month of her comeback.
Q: How are you feeling physically overall in the first month?
A: I am feeling much better. After the first race back and a day of working horses the following day, I went home and slept for virtually 24-hours. I feel a lot stronger now and can ride a few days in a row with just the normal amount of tiredness.
Q: Was your first race back as exciting as your very first race in the business?
A: That first race back was more fun, more thrilling and for me a much bigger accomplishment than my very first race. Likewise the first victory after the injury was monumental because it was more difficult to make a comeback after the injury than it was to get into racing initially. I spent about as much time recovering from the injury and getting back into the game as I did when I first learned to gallop horses and become a jockey.
Q: I see you often ride for Wane Potts. Can you speak a little about his allegiance to you during your comeback?
A: Wayne and all of his owners were big supporters of mine before I got hurt. Even while I was in the hospital and all during my long comeback I would often hear from them on a fairly regular basis. Since I came back they have been so excited for me and huge supporters of me trying to make a comeback.
Q: How have you handled the potential fear factor of returning to the game following the accident?
A: The general consensus among jockeys is that when you start feeling fear it is time to hang up your irons. Having even just the slight bit of fear, it causes your brain to hesitate and that little bit of hesitation in horse racing can cause bad outcomes.
Q: Have your family members and friends offered any advice about staying in the game?
A: My family and friends have been very supportive. Particularly my mother. She feels she has raised a strong and independent daughter and she is happy that I am doing something that I love to do. Of course it might also be that my family and friends think that I am too stubborn to listen.
Q: What is your strongest skill set as a jockey?
A: I feel I am particularly good with young horses and getting them to relax. I have worked with show horses for older riders and it is key to get a horse to perform at their best but remain calm. Horses can sense through body language if you are nervous or agitated and they will often mirror that, so your disposition around them is key.
Q: Do you see a riding crop as a necessary tool to keep a jock safe?
A: I feel the crop is a necessary ingredient in helping to signal to a horse and keeping them out of harm.
Q: What are your short and long term goals?
A: Improve my game and establish myself in the area would be the immediate goal. Most every jock has the dream to win graded races and my long term goals are no different.
Q: If somebody said I want to be a jockey and asked you what was needed to be a good one, what would you advise them?
I found Jenn Miller’s last comment to be perfect advice for anyone at any profession but particularly for her given that she went through those five hundred and thirteen days of recovery. She is to be commended for sticking to her craft and although she may be too modest to say so, her courage.
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