A potentially life-threatening situation at last weekend's Te Rapa race meeting was narrowly avoided thanks to the quick thinking and bravery of one of the raceday staff on duty that day.
Andrew "Ledge" Leadbeater was the man seen on television screens across the country last Saturday rescuing apprentice rider Tayla Wenn from the Te Rapa starting gates after her mount became agitated before race seven.
Leadbeater is a member of the Northern Raceday Services starting gates crew who attend all racedays, trial meetings and official jump-outs from Taupo to Ruakaka. He was on duty when the incident unfolded.
Wenn was briefly knocked unconscious when three-year-old filly Marzemino reared in her stall causing the rider to strike her head against the gate. Having fallen underneath the horse, Wenn was incapacitated and in danger of being severely trampled as the horse struggled to regain its feet.
In a split second Leadbeater, a 12-year veteran of the gate crew, had reached the rider and swiftly dragged her to safety away from the barrier stall and clear of any danger.
"Just out of the corner of my eye I saw some white colours getting flung backwards," Leadbeater said.
"You knew straight away there was going to be a problem and I could see the horse in an awkward position. I just managed to get across there before the horse came down on her and pulled her out underneath the gate.
"At that stage she was in a bit of shock and quite dizzy from such a heavy blow, so it was a matter of getting her away from the trouble. She came to a little then and was sort of saying about her neck hurting so I had to stop in mid-stride and keep her as still as possible until the paramedics could get to her."
Wenn has little recollection of the incident but knows she has Leadbeater to thank for saving her from serious injury.
"I haven't seen any footage of what happened but I am so thankful to Andrew and the people who helped me. It could have been really nasty and I feel very lucky to get away with only some minor bumps and a really stiff neck."
Leadbeater was quick to downplay his role in the incident as just another day in a job that sees his team working with the local thoroughbred horse pool on a regular basis.
"This time of the year it's a bit quiet with a couple of meetings a week whereas in the summer there are three to four racedays along with trial meetings and jump-outs each week so you are working with a large number of horses," he said.
Senior rider Michael Coleman had a first-hand view of proceedings as he was in the barrier next to Wenn as the drama unfolded. He praised the work of the gate crew.
"It happened quickly on Saturday, as it usually does, and I think Tayla was very lucky it wasn't far worse," he said. "Those barrier boys are pretty quick on their feet and they had her out of harm's way in a flash."
As a result of the incident, Wenn has been stood down from riding pending a doctor's clearance. She will then need to pass a further head assessment before resuming riding.
- NZ Racing Desk