Accepting reality is a lot more difficult when you’re on your back in a hospital bed. When your whole world has crashed. When you realize the rest of your life will be spent in a wheelchair.
Asked when he was able to wrap his mind around that, Dennis Collins, a 53-year-old jockey with 2,287 victories who was paralyzed in an accident at The Downs at Albuquerque in 2016, said, “The third day. I said, ‘This is the way it’s going to be. Why bitch and moan about it? I’m not going to walk again. But I’ll always have my own chair in a restaurant.’”
Collins, who recently began training horses with his fiancée Heather Brock – his lifeline, his saint, and his best buddy – has already scored a victory by not letting an accident take him out of racing and away from his passion, one begun whenever his parents, who had no connections to racing, took him out for a drive from their home in Gloucester City, New Jersey. “When I was a kid, every time we’d drive by a farm, if I saw a horse, I’d scream and cry,” Collins said. “We’d stop, and I’d go pet him. They’re beautiful animals. I’ve always loved horses. It was in my blood. I knew if I was short enough” – and at five-feet tall, he was – “I wanted to get into horse racing.”
Brock is so glad he did.