Small frames, big hearts: Life on the edge

THE tragic death of former Toowoomba jockey Carly-Mae Pye was a stark reminder to Melody O'Brien of the risks she faces every day.

Ms O'Brien works with 500kg horses, running at speeds up to 60kmh. They are 10 times her weight.

It takes a special brand of courage. And it is something she has in spades.

The 29-year-old has broken her collar bone three times in a short period of time.

The last time was a nasty race fall in which she sustained only one broken bone.

But she always gets back on the horse.

The deaths of Ms Pye, who died from injuries she suffered in a fall at Rockhampton on Monday, and of South Australian jockey Caitlin Forrest, were a sombre reminder of the dangers of working in the industry.

Caitlin Forrest died from injuries sustained in a horrific four-horse fall at Murray Bridge, South Australia, on Wednesday.

Ms Pye was a highly decorated junior equestrian competitor before beginning an apprenticeship at Clifford Park in the 2006-2007 racing season.

Toowoomba jockey Melody O'Brien with her retired thoroughbred gelding Professor. She knows just how dangerous her job can be.
Toowoomba jockey Melody O'Brien with her retired thoroughbred gelding Professor. She knows just how dangerous her job can be. Bev Lacey

Ms O'Brien said: "It does worry you, you'd be crazy to say that you didn't think about it.

"Every jockey does, you just have to learn to switch off those worried thoughts and just ride carefully without hesitation.

"If you hesitate, that's when accidents happen. You have to be careful and ride fearlessly.

"It's important to think about your fellow riders and to be aware that your actions have consequences."

She admitted a lot of it was completely out of her control.

"You're relying on a horse and that's why you have to do the best you can, and the rest is up to God.

"Straight from the time you get on the horse in the mounting yard, anything can go wrong.

"I've been lucky that none of my close friends have been seriously injured.

"As a racing community we are all reasonably close and it's hard when someone is injured or killed."

Carly-Mae Pye.
Carly-Mae Pye. Chris Ison Rokcrace

Toowoomba jockey Ruby Ride said the deaths were upsetting for everyone.

"It's happening far too often.

"But we know the risks we take when we ride," she said.



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