After retiring from horse racing, I joined Greater Manchester Police in 1992 and was the first-ever former jockey to join the police. My plan was to eventually become a Mounted Officer (MO). In the early days at training school, I would often draw for other students in my spare time. It was my main hobby outside of work but I never thought at that stage that it would turn into any kind of career.
I loved my life in the police and was a very proactive officer. I have always liked helping anybody and was never afraid to go into a challenging situation. I qualified as a mounted officer and covered searches for missing persons, sports events and protests. It was a busy period. To be a successful mounted officer, you have to confidently lead your horse into often-volatile environments. It’s a very different type of riding to that of a jockey.
In February 1999 that suddenly came to an end. I was part of a team going to patrol a particularly notorious area when I was kicked in the leg by my horse. When you think of nearly a ton of meat kicking you in the knee, you can imagine just how serious the injury was. I suffered a severely broken leg and was off sick for over a year. In that time, I saw different specialists and had several operations. Most crushing of all though, my time as a mounted officer was over.
I tried looking back to what I had done previously as a police officer and thought about going into undercover work, the CID or communications. However, it was decided that I was not fit for service, and in March 2000 I was ill-health retired – something that I really didn’t want.
For a long time after that I was very depressed and got put on medication. I’d not only lost a job I loved but my wife and I split up and I lost my home. Basically, I’d lost my life.
In that time, one thing that helped a lot was being able to disappear into my art. To be honest that’s something I can still do. If I’m feeling lonely, I can start drawing and five hours would go by before I know it.
I moved to Blackpool six years ago and that was when I first took art up seriously. I was walking past the university when I saw an advert for an art group. After showing the tutor some of my work, he said “why don’t you do a degree? Your work is that good”. I was absolutely thrilled.
I’m now a BA in Fine Art Professional Practice with Hons and will start a Master’s after Christmas.
I first approached Police Care UK about nine years ago when they helped me get a flat. Now, you are helping me with my Master’s and I wouldn’t have been able to afford the fees otherwise.
I want others to know that just because you may have lost your dream job, it doesn’t mean you can’t do something else you care about. There is help and support out there from the likes of Police Care UK, but you must take the first step.
I still miss the police terribly. I miss the camaraderie, the lifestyle and the horses. But I’m now doing something else that I love and getting noticed for it.
As I say in the video (below), there are those that want things to happen, there are those who wish for things to happen and there are those who make things happen.
Blackpool College video:
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