Carly-Mae's protege getting back on the horse
THE courage and determination displayed by a teenage Rockhampton schoolgirl, a protégé of fatal accident victim Carly-Mae Pye has become the talking point and catalyst for inspiration at early morning Callaghan Park track work.
Hardened trainers and jockeys, trying to come to grips with the tragic death of Carly-Mae Pye earlier this week, acknowledge young Zoe's resolve to keep on riding has indeed inspired them.
Zoe White, 16, was tutored, drilled and introduced to the rigours of riding thoroughbreds in track work as a result of a work experience session with Carly-Mae.
Taking just a few minutes off before taking Mojo around the track for premier trainer Lyle Rowe, quietly spoken but albeit confidently so, Zoe told her must-tell story.
"I always really wanted to be a jockey as I had my first pony ride when two years of age. I was badly pigeon-toed and this affected my hip muscles. The medical advice was for me to ride a bike constantly or a horse to strengthen and help overcome the problem. I didn't like bikes, but loved horses so the choice was easy," Zoe said.
Last year the South Rockhampton High School arranged for horse and racing-mad Zoe to do work experience at jockey Carly-Mae Pye's Alton Downs property.
"I knew Carly from pony club and she was just so inspirational to me. I loved my time with her on the horses. She taught me how to ride in a pad (small exercise saddle) on a few quite horses. She talked me into chasing my dream of being a jockey and provided the opportunity. Carly-Mae gave so much of her time in helping me and then introduced me to track work here (Callaghan Park) in February," Zoe said.
For weeks Carly-Mae Pye was like a mother-duck to Zoe, as the two worked horses together around the helter skelter of the Callaghan Park tracks.
Not surprisingly Zoe, despite the odd spill or two, took to track work riding like a duck to water.
"Carly-Mae arranged for me to become indentured as an apprentice to her partner Tim Cook. She just took me under her wing and I miss her so much," Zoe said.
Zoe was at Callaghan Park last Monday assisting Tim Cook, only to be devastated by seeing the accident which claimed the life of her mentor Carly-Mae.
"It still doesn't seem real. It's like a bad dream that I can't wake from. It won't go away," she said.
Resolute and from the inner strength she attributed to Carly-Mae, young Zoe said she never gave a thought to not following her dreams.
"No, I knew Carly-Mae would be kicking me from above to continue riding on. She has pushed me this far so I won't let her down.''
Admitting after an absence of two days from not riding track work on a horse, it was "tough getting back on one on Thursday"; Zoe said she knew she just had to do it.
She said her Gracemere parents Allan and Janet White had been very supportive.
'"Dad has been all for me riding but naturally Mum has been a bit nervous about it and I can't blame her but I want to make it as a jockey."
Zoe, a year 11 student, plans to finish Year 12 in 2015 when she hopes to be also riding in races.
Conscious that Rowe had her next mount Mojo saddled and ready to be ridden, Zoe started to head off, but left her choicest words until last.
"I really want to succeed as a jockey as I owe it and want to dedicate my career to Carly-Mae," she said.
As she climbed aboard, trainer Lyle Rowe, a man of few words chose them well.
"That kid has got guts. She could have easily walked away after what happened to Carly-Mae. She has surprised and inspired a lot of people here. Good luck to her and I reckon she is going to make it," Rowe a former Group 1 winning jockey said.
True as after all, it is hard to beat a person that never gives up. In Zoe White's case, inspiration has become a two-way ride.