Introduced by Tom Burlinson, the story of Leigh Woodgate is amazing. To come back from such an insane setback while doing the thing you love is incredible. An episode to watch and use for inspiration. From the press release:
Cattleman Grub Woodgate envisioned he would raise a strapping son to ride alongside him and inherit the family farm in Buchan in far East Gippsland, Victoria.
Confounding everyone’s expectations, it was his daughter Leigh Woodgate who became his ‘right hand man’, having the talent and tenacity to become a multi-skilled horsewoman.
In 1990 Leigh became the first woman to win the Great Mountain Race, a grueling fast-paced riding competition across rough terrain, “like you’re catching a mob of brumbies” in The Man from Snowy River film.
Driven by the dream to ride in England’s premier steeplechase the Grand National, made famous by the film National Velvet, Leigh took up the notoriously dangerous sport of jumps racing. Grub Woodgate was horrified.
“First ride, win. Second ride, win. Third ride, win. How good’s that?” recalls racing commentator Bryan Martin of Leigh’s headline-making jumps debut.
“I thought I was invincible,” says Leigh, who was fast becoming a star on and off the track, being the poster girl of racing when she featured in a high profile TV advertisement.
But during her ninth race, Leigh was up near the lead when she fell after a jump and was pummelled by galloping horses, leaving her in a coma for 17 days. Doctors predicted her severe brain injury would keep her as a wheelchair bound ‘vegetable’, if she survived at all.
Grub Woodgate was devastated by his daughter’s plight and saw little hope for her, having warned her against the dangers.
“You were my favourite, Leigh till the accident. Now you’re the biggest disappointment in my
life,” he informed her at the hospital. “That drove me to work even harder to get as good as I can get and I didn’t get bitter because bitterness would eat me up. I had to think how lucky am I to have this accident happen to me?
To have everything taken away, and to have had to work on absolutely everything … I had to
put in all that hard work to change myself to a person that I would like,” says Leigh.
Now Leigh calls herself “the million dollar girl” after all the operations and treatments she has tried. Getting back into horse work has driven Leigh for the past 18 years, confounding medical experts, friends and family. Her next goal? To conquer her greatest fear and ride a horse over a jump.
The Woman from Snowy River follows Leigh Woodgate’s journey from young mountain girl to shining racing star, through the dark days of hospital and recovery to capture the triumphant joy of Leigh riding a horse for early morning track ride.
Australian Story: The Woman From Snowy River – Mon 8pm, ABC1.