I’m watching video of a horse race, although it isn’t the kind we see here in Acadiana.
Steeplechase racing in England from the early 1990s, and the man on the horse named ‘Triple Top’ was Lafayette physical therapist Tony Quinn. “It’s just the thrill of racing at speed; you’re on such an edge, and it’s difficult to explain.”
Growing up in Lincolnshire, England, Quinn was exposed to the sport by his father, who felt ‘jump jockeys’ were the bravest men in the world. So there came a time in Quinn’s life –the age of 17 -- when he felt he could both please himself and please his father.
“So, I made my mind up fairly early that school was a waste of time for me and I just needed to graduate and be a jockey,” laughs Quinn.
For the next 10 years, Quinn raced: won some, lost some. “Oh, riding a winner was incredible,” he smiles. And there was the perpetual awareness that each race might be his last.
“About one in twelve races you’re going to hit the floor at about 35-miles an hour,” explains Quinn, “and jumping a fence from a height of about 15-feet doesn’t feel great.”
But still--- just thinking that danger could cause even more trouble. “You can’t. You start thinking about that, I think it’s time to retire.”
Realizing that being a jump jockey wasn’t a way to get rich (“It’s intermittent wealth and fairly consistent poverty,” he says), Tony Quinn retired from the sport at the age of 27 and began studying physiotherapy. And you know what? He’s still in the winner’s circle.
“Every patient you get is a gift and a challenge, and you’ve got a unique opportunity to change their lives, sometimes in a very profound way,” says proudly.
There will be no steeplechasing comeback at the age of 54, but the jump jockey turned therapist is happy where is, now in the business of providing… hope.
“And improve their quality of life and get them back to living, and active is wonderful,” Quinn adds. “It’s a wonderful position to be in, to be able to help people in that way.”
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