JT McNamara: Paralysed jockey on life after Cheltenham fall

JT McNamara
JT McNamara spent 15 months in hospital following his accident at the Cheltenham Festival

Irish jockey JT McNamara has told of his determination to forge a new way of life after a fall at the Cheltenham Festival which left him paralysed.

Father-of-three McNamara, 39, was seriously injured at the 2013 meeting.

"I said this to myself, this isn't going to get me beat. I'll show 'em," he told the Racing Postexternal-link in his first interview since the accident.

His wife Caroline said: "Our lives have changed enormously but I can look beyond his disabilities."

John Thomas McNamara fractured two vertebrae in his neck after being thrown from his horse Galaxy Rock in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup on 14 March, 2013.

He is at home in Limerick after he was discharged from the North West Regional Spinal Injuries Centre in Southport, Merseyside, last year.

"Of course there have been low days and the worst were when I was in hospital in Dublin because they gave me no hope. That just made me more determined and I said to myself this is not going to get me beat. I'll show 'em," he said.

"The sheer number of visitors and the support from the public helped me keep going. All those people making the time to come to see me - it showed a few people liked me anyway.

"Not being able to play with the kids is the hardest thing. And it always will be."

McNamara's wife Caroline
"I see John as the same man I fell in love with and married. Exactly the same person he was before his injury, same personality and I treat him the way I did before the accident."

McNamara, who is immobile from the neck down, can spend up to four hours at a time - although often less - off a ventilator and is helped by two carers around the clock.

He moves around the family's stables in a wheelchair and retains his love for horses.

"He has amazed me the way he has dealt with his total surrender of privacy and dignity," added Caroline.

"John has accepted that this is the way it is. As long as he gets to the yard every morning and can immerse himself in his horses -- he leaves on the van at ten to eight in the morning on the dot - then he'll be all right."

The 19-time champion jump jockey AP McCoy said he planned to visit his friend more often following his own retirement at the end of the season.

"When you go to see him now he makes it easy for you, but I admit I find it's still so hard," said McCoy.

"I can recall every detail of that day at Cheltenham and one image in particular sticks with me. I can still see his clothes hanging on his peg with his shirt on top, and realising he would never be coming back into the weighing room. That memory will never leave me.

"And the next day at Cheltenham? Do you know, I just didn't want to be there. When I remember lads from the weighing room who have been killed, God rest them, and look at JT, of course it makes you think.

"But he has three young kids, which makes a huge difference to your life, and Caroline is an amazing girl who just gets on with it. She is beyond words."

McNamara's riding career
Leading Irish amateur rider, a winner four times at the Cheltenham Festival, including when guiding Teaforthree to victory in the 2012 National Hunt Chase
Won the same race in 2002 on Rith Dubh, was successful in the Cross-Country Chase with Spot Thedifference three years later and won the 2007 Fox Hunter Chase on Drombeag