Kentucky Horse | High Stakes in the Bluegrass, National Geographic: Muddy Faced Jockey Portrait

A mud-splattered face alludes to the hardships of a jockey’s life. Smeared goggles tossed aside from being in the back of the pack, Rene Douglas had just completed a race at Lexington’s Keeneland Race Course on a rainy race day. A jockeys life is not easy—this elite club of professional athletes maintain a near inhuman weight restriction that most Americans would never even attempt.

Jockeys face unpredicted dangers riding a 1,000-pound animal at high speeds competing for a win. Racing injuries often mean costly and uninsured medical expenses, the end of a career, or worse. Still, horse racing lures die-hard talent. “I’ve got three herniated discs in the neck,” says Rene Douglas. “I love the sport because I ride good horses and I’m good at it.”  Douglas endured injuries to his spinal cord from an unfortunate accident in a race that his mount did not survive. He is paralyzed from the waist down.


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