Dominique Hamblin will return to the saddle at her local course Newbury this month – having overcome two hip replacements and a broken back, during her lifetime in racing.
Hamblin, 41, is set to ride in the Greatwood Charity Race on February 29 after years of battling a congenital defect called femoroacetabular impingement – which first arose when she was 19.
Since then, she has undergone five operations on both hip joints – eventually leading to two full hip replacements on the right-hand side.
“It first flared up in 1998 when I was working in racing,” said Hamblin, who is a raceday manager for PA Media, a role that involves collating and distributing data from tracks to betting shops around the nation.
“Back then, doctors were only really looking at arthritis – they didn’t know what to do. When I did get a diagnosis they said ‘there’s nothing we can do, the joint has gone’.”
Although a hip replacement procedure succeeded in alleviating the pain of the condition, Hamblin then broke two vertebrae in a fall just nine months afterwards.
“I broke my back in two places when I was bucked off,” she said.
“But because it was stable, I didn’t get it diagnosed for about three months. I just thought it was bruised, and I was taking painkillers for my hip, so that masked the pain.”
Hamblin, who is based in Uffington near Newbury, sought the help of the Injured Jockeys Fund to aid her healing by attending physiotherapy sessions at Oaksey House in Lambourn.
She added: “Oaksey House was absolutely brilliant to me – they got me back in such good form.
“I think that’s part of me wanting to do it (the race), wanting to get fit and stay fit because of them. It’s a challenge.”
Having taken up her first role in racing after leaving school, Hamblin has been riding out for Lambourn-based trainer Joseph Tuite in preparation for the race.
Tuite and Hamblin first met at the yard of former trainer Charles Egerton, where the Irishman worked as assistant and Hamblin was a member of stable staff.
It was during the era of Egerton’s high-class National Hunt performers – such as Decoupage, Triumph Hurdle winner Mysilv and Supreme Novice Hurdle winner Shadow Leader.
“He’s been fantastic,” Hamblin said of the Ebor-winning trainer.
“Everyone there is brilliant. The support from him and the whole team has been really nice. I’ve been riding there for about a year, but I’ve known Joe for 20 years from when we used to work together.
“I was at Charles’ with Joe for about three years – those were the days when he had some really nice horses. Horses like Mysilv, Shadow Leader and Decoupage.
“He was my horse, Decoupage. He was the sweetest horse – I rode him everyday.”
This time Hamblin is set to partner Conkering Hero in the one-mile-four-furlong contest, with the six-year-old gelding having won three times over similar distances on the all-weather.
“He’s a dude – he’s the yard legend,” she said.
The fundraising target for race riders is £2,500 each, and Hamblin has collected £925 in donations so far for the charity Greatwood – who rehabilitate ex-racehorses and use them in the support and therapy of those with special educational needs.
“It will be so nice to give back,” she said.
“Greatwood are an amazing charity – the things they do are brilliant.
“It’s two-fold – they not only help ex-racehorses; they also help disadvantaged children. It really is amazing.
“I’ve not had the chance to visit them – but I’d really like to, to see what they do and see if I can help. Horses are so therapeutic, they can really draw out another side in people and heal them.”
With the cause so significant to her after so long working in racing, Hamblin is determined to rise to the occasion at the end of this month.
“I’d love to win it,” she said.
“But mainly I’d just like to ride well and not look too embarrassing in the saddle!
“Whether it’s a winning performance or not, I don’t want to let anyone down. Joe, the team, Conks (Conkering Hero), people who have sponsored me – I just want to do them proud.”
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