A horrific fall tore her liver and split her pancreas in two, but Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne says she still has the fire in her belly to ride in one more spring carnival.
Payne suffered life-threatening injuries when she was thrown off her mount Dutch Courage and dragged along the Mildura track during a race in May.
She was airlifted to Melbourne for emergency surgery and spent more than two weeks in hospital recovering from three fractured vertebrae, a lacerated liver and a split pancreas.
“The first three or four days, I had the worst pain of my life. I didn’t think I could keep going at one stage,” Payne told The Australian Women’s Weekly.
Doctors advised her to take it easy, but Payne couldn’t keep away from the track – she was back riding her gelding Woody after only six weeks.
“I couldn’t wait to get back on Woody and as soon as I was on him, I knew everything would be okay,” she said.
“I still have a massive fire in the belly to saddle up for one more Spring racing carnival, I love competing and feel I’ve got more to give.”
The youngest of 10 children in a racing family, Payne created history when she became the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup last November aboard the Darren Weir-trained Prince Of Penzance.
She has resisted previous attempts to convince her to give up riding after sustaining serious injuries on the track and has no intention of retiring after this latest fall, despite having a Cup win under her belt.
“Like any other sportsperson, it’s about the competition and the challenge. If a tennis player wins a Grand Slam, they don’t just retire,” Payne said.
She says she wants to make sure she retires from racing when she’s ready, not when people tell her to.
“I get frustrated with people telling me I shouldn’t ride anymore, so now I just ignore it,” she said.