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Homeister Remains Upbeat Despite Challenging Season

| Churchill Downs Communications | 09/13/2013 #
  • Rosemary Homeister Jr.

At the start of racing on June 19, jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. was having another fine meet at Arlington International, entering the day just six wins off the lead in the rider standings and sitting fifth in overall earnings. She wasted little time adding another tally, scoring an easy victory aboard the Jimmy DiVito-trained O T B Bob in the day's second race.

“I was feeling so great at that point in the meet. Things were going well and I was going to get on another horse for trainer Ingrid Mason, and I felt really good about it.”

That runner from the Mason barn was Rahab Your Soul, a 4-year-old Perfect Soul filly who had just run a close second in her previous start. Sent to post as the 7-2 second choice from the inside post position, she soon found herself in a tight spot along the rail leaving the first turn.  “I was sitting in the pocket in second coming out of the first turn,” Homeister recalled, “and I was trying to get her to relax. The horse who took the lead right in front of me really backed up to slow down the pace once we hit the backstretch, and I was quickly in a bad spot. I would try to get her to relax, but every time I'd ask her to settle, she'd get on the bit even more and she didn't like me trying to fight with her.”

Homeister and Rahab Your Soul soon lacked enough room to keep running. “I had nowhere to go in front anymore because the leader was going so slowly, and I had no room to get out to the right. We ran out of options, and I knew I was going to go down. It was like the horse finally said, “I’m out of here, we can't get out this way, and we can't go forward, so we'll go to the left.’”

Rahab Your Soul ducked in toward the inside rail, bouncing Homeister out of the saddle before breaking through the inner rail and galloping along with the field from the infield.

“I don't remember falling, just everything leading up to it,” said Homeister, “and I woke up in the hospital without much pain. I just had a little headache from the concussion, but otherwise I felt good and they thought I'd be out about a month.”

For jockeys, injuries are part of the game. The frequent refrain from riders when discussing injuries is that it isn't if they'll get hurt, but when. A winner of more than 2,600 career races, Homeister is no stranger to the realities of her profession.

“I've been doing this for 21 years, and I used to panic after I'd get hurt and try to figure out the quickest way back to work, because I'd be so worried about losing business,” said Homeister, “but my priorities have changed. I'm a single mom now, and now when I get hurt, I'm just so thankful that I wasn't seriously injured. I got home from the hospital and was so happy to see my daughter Victoria Rose and so grateful to still be there and able to provide for her.”

After three weeks, Homeister began feeling better and was given clearance to gallop horses in the morning. “The doctor told me that if I was ready to come back, I'd know I was ready to come back. If my head hurt or if I got a migraine, then I'd need to give it more time. I got a leg up in the morning on a very nice, kind Tom Proctor filly who would be easy to get along with, and I felt so good I ended up working four that morning and could feel myself getting stronger. I was ready.”

Homeister won a race shortly after her return, but a little more than a week later she was involved in another spill on the grass when put in tight quarters turning for home aboard a Dale Bennett trainee named Between Dreams. “I was on the horse with such a big stride, and turning for home the horse in front of me wasn't going fast enough for me to go anywhere. The horses inside of me were starting to come out a bit and look for room, and the horse coming on the outside of me was flying and just came over a bit. I remember it all. ‘Here we go,’ I thought, and I went up in the air.”

Homeister added, “The ambulance crew was so great to me and a couple of doctors were down on the turf course with me. I don't usually cry, and I really was okay and thankful for that, but I just started to cry after the second one. Injuries that close together really messed with my head. I had just come back and felt like things were going really well and like I was getting back in the swing of things. I couldn't help but think ‘Why did this happen to me again?’”

The second injury again put Homeister on the sidelines with another break from riding to think about her future. “It all comes back to my daughter for me now, and I know how racing can be, so I've always got a backup plan. I'm an independent consultant for a wellness company called Arbonne, and just briefly I kind of wondered: Do I even want to go back? Is it worth it?

“In the end, though, I was just frustrated. I had no fear of getting back on a horse at all, and I've always said that if I ever get scared, I'll walk away and stop riding. In the downtime, I was doing some outside work and I was happy and spending time with my daughter, but there was still a void in my heart. Something was missing.” Homeister said.

“When I got back the second time and got that first leg up on a horse, I knew it was the right decision. I'm 41 years old and have been doing this long enough to know that horses are in my blood. I love these horses so much – you know how lots of people have comfort food? My comfort is these horses and being in the saddle with them. It really washed over me again that first day back – I was home.”