Over the stable door: Yearning for freedom

Country Week columnist Jo Foster. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Country Week columnist Jo Foster. Picture by Tony Johnson.
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Being contained inside for months can be mentally destructive. I can understand why caged wild animals lose their sanity. The times I yearn for space and freedom, craving to regain some control and independence in my life. I look out of the window and dream of endless horizons, to feel driving moorland rain against my face. Rural life in its harsh reality.

I have come to conclude a day’s hunting should be prescribed for anyone suffering mental turmoil. The sense of freedom I feel following hounds is a drug to melt away the mind’s foes. It might even stop me wallowing indignantly in self-pity.

While in hospital I met a nurse, Danielle, who, every Christmas Eve, walks the streets of Leeds handing out bags of gifts to the homeless. She collects toiletries, blankets, clothes and food, all of which has been donated or bought. Danielle was an excellent nurse to me at a time I needed cheering up, with her wild red hair and entertaining stories. There was genuine concern in her actions and, for one so young, a glint of worldliness to her character. She is an unlikely Angel.

My son Felix listened to her stories in wonder and decided he wanted to give something to help the homeless. As we couldn’t join her on the Christmas Eve vigil, he set about making a donation jar and tapped up my parents’ customers when they came to buy Christmas trees.He amassed £30 which provided a little bit of comfort to a few less fortunate souls. Children see things so clearly, if we could only save that into adulthood the world would be a kinder place.

I am just on my way to Jack Berry House in Malton. It will be my second stay at the rehabilitation centre and what a place it is. I have never had so much personal attention from trainers, physios, doctors and specialists who have been working to get every muscle in my body prepared for the day I am allowed to walk. My days there revolve around hydrotherapy, Pilates, electrode muscle stimulation, gym training and physio – along with catching up on some of my Malton mates.

The racing industry really knows how to look after those who have made it a career. Those employed within its boundaries are supported through injury, mental illness, financial hardship, there are strictly regulated wage gradings, specialist training colleges, overseas placements, even training towards a new career for jockeys forced to retire early. In no other line of work would you be so well cared for. I just wish the racing industry would push that message with greater vigour when proficient staff are in such desperately short supply.