Jockeys Shouldn’t Complain

A frank chat with a former jockey who misses his days in the saddle

Piet Botha

Piet Botha – jockeys should appreciate the perks of their careers

Piet Botha suffered a career ending injury while riding work at Summerveld in 2010. Five years down the line, he is a happily married father of two boys resident in the relative upmarket suburban bliss of Durbanville. He also has business interests – but very little to do with horseracing these days.

The 38 year old was riding work at Summerveld  in 2010 when he fell off and injured himself.

He explained that a broken rib, which was never diagnosed as such, led to years of agony and pain that culminated in him being medically boarded at the end of 2013.

“The doctor never picked up that my rib was broken and I was treated incorrectly. My shoulder kept swelling and I was in pain. A second medical opinion determined a different prognosis. But by then there was permanent nerve damage, and that was the end of my riding career.”

Piet landed up finding a ‘nine to five’ job as a coffee salesman and after repeated suggestions of how he believed things could be done differently, he was offered the opportunity to buy in to the business.

Today he dons corporate garb every morning, has a son at college and in junior school, and is a shareholder in Illy Coffee.

Challenges

He is thriving on his new found challenges in the corporate world.

“Business anywhere is not a walk in the park.Take my game.There are 250 coffee distributors in SA and 205 are in the Cape Town area. While race-riding is competitive and tough in itself – so is the coffee business!”

Illy“And after knowing little else and riding for years, one tends to accept the jockey’s lifestyle of relative freedom and days off as a reality. Things like sitting in rush-hour traffic, business meetings, budgets and cash-flows don’t really matter,” he reflected.

Piet says that jockeys somehow ‘love to complain.’

“I was one of those moaners. You are always looking for something. You think that you can do better. You whinge about sweating and starving yourself, and getting up early. We seldom think about the upside of being a professional jockey. The decent money. The free time. The healthy lifestyle. With all of its problems, racing is a great game and race riding is one of the best parts of it.”

He said that it had taken him some time to get over the depression and anger that followed the end of his riding career.

These days Piet looks at what happened with a philosophical attitude.

“One has to move on and accept that everything happens in life for a reason.”.

Rugger Bugger

The young Petrus Albertus Wilhelmus Botha had aspirations of playing senior level rugby at fly-half or flank as a high school pupil in Kempton Park,  when his father initiated his pursuing a career in the saddle.

“My Dad was small but not a jockey himself. His good friend Nicky Terblanche was a jock and that is how I landed up at the academy. I enjoyed it and grew to love the game.”

He graduated from the SA Jockey Academy in the class of 1998 with the likes of Barend Vorster, Brandon Morgenrood and Derryl Daniels, and completed his apprenticeship with Glen Puller.

Piet Botha Academy

Carefree SA Jockey Academy days – Piet is in the back row – number 6 from the left. (It would be nice to put names to all the faces – Ed)

He says that he can’t recall how many winners he actually rode – but mentioned some top horses like Sevillano and Great Rhythm.

While he drops  in now and again to chat to trainer Darryl Hodgson in Milnerton, he has little contact with horseracing – but was quick to make a point about that aspect of his life.

“Hell, I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss racing. I think about it every day. And I just want to tell my former colleagues that are fit and able to earn a living as a jockey that they must appreciate what they have. I know race riding has its inherent dangers and it is human nature to think that the grass is greener on the other side. But jockeys just don’t know how good they have it. And I can say that sincerely, having been on both sides of the fence!” he said.

“It is a fact of life that we only truly appreciate something when we have lost it forever.”

 

Piet said that he would love to maintain his business interests and get involved in horseracing at some level again.

He admits  that he did write to the National Horseracing Authority enquiring about a possible position as a Stipe. He has not heard anything.

“I would love to put something back into the game, while satisfying my personal yearning to be involved again. I have a fair amount of experience and plenty of knowledge to offer. Being in business has also given me a new perspective on life.”

Piet can be contacted via email at [email protected]

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