Paraplegic jockey back in the saddle

Kristy Banks thought she would never ride competitively again after suffering a devastating fall in a race which left her paralysed from the waist down.

The jockey was involved in a fall at Toowoomba on New Year’s Eve which left the 31-year-old with a broken T12 vertebra and a rod inserted in her back.

“When I had the accident it really devastated me,” Banks told AAP.

“Not the fact of walking – that’s something that I will do again one day, hopefully – but I just didn’t think I would be able to (ride) again.”

But less than a year after the accident, Banks is preparing for her return to the racing arena to take on a new frontier – barrel racing.

She’s got her eyes on her first official race at the Warwick Rodeo on October 26.

Aboard her specially-trained horse Bob and using a custom-made saddle, Banks will weave a clover-leaf pattern around a circuit of three barrels, before bounding back to the scoreline.

Not that she’s too concerned about breaking records or winning.

“It’s just to get out on my horse and have a run, that would be really, really nice,” she says.

Barrell racing isn’t something Banks has been far removed from.

As a kid, the jockey hopeful loved the sport so much she thought it was something she would do one day.

But her real motivation, post-accident, came far from her Queensland roots.

“I just thought as a paraplegic you could only ride dressage and all that, barrel racing wasn’t really something you could do.

“Someone told me about a (paraplegic) girl barrel racing in America.

“When I saw her (Amberley Snyder), I thought, ‘oh wow, I might be able to do it too'”.

Banks now has her own circuit at home thanks to a team of 20 volunteers who recently picked up their tools and transformed part of her property into a dedicated sand arena.

Among the project team – brought together by Sky Racing and the Brisbane Racing Club – was champion jockey Corey Brown.

“He had blisters on his hands from working (so hard),” says Banks.

“He’s really super.”

Banks is grateful for the “really flash” circuit, which is intended to help springboard her new-found career.

For now though, Banks is taking it slowly.

“My ultimate goal would be just to improve and get better and better, and hopefully one day be competitive at the rodeo.”

“I’m just the sort of a person to better myself.”