This article appears in the March 2011 issue of LouisvilleMagazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com .
As told by 41-year-old Jockey Kent Desormeaux . . .
I’ve fallen off so many horses, probably two a year. It’s not a matter of if I’m going to fall off again; it’s a matter of when. And I’ve broken everything — arms, legs, ribs, skull. The X-ray of my skull looked like a spider web, dude. I lost the hearing in my right ear in that spill.
You think I know when I’m going to fall off a horse? No, sir, you’re absolutely wrong. If I knew it was coming, then I’d prevent it from happening. When I’m falling, the first thing that happens is a feeling of shock. Then your instincts kick in. You’re like a cat — your claws come out and you do whatever it takes to hold on. When I know I’m falling, I think about one word: roll. I want to roll to the rail as fast as I possibly can. You don’t even think about hitting the ground. Every spin you make in the air, you’re trying to keep your eyes behind you, looking at the other horses.
Horses weigh more than a thousand pounds and are charging at about 40 mph. The goal is to make sure I don’t get run over.
— As told to Josh Moss