For more than just a fleeting moment Scott Pollard wondered if he would ever ride again.
The veteran jockey had been sidelined by injuries before, but an ugly fall in January this year had him questioning if he would ever fully recover.
Pollard hit the deck hard while riding at Moruya after Andsoitiswritten found trouble in the straight of the Narooma Town Plate (1200m).
While Terry Robinson’s mare walked away from the incident relatively unscathed, Pollard wasn’t quite so lucky.
He would require reconstructive surgery on a ruptured AC joint in his shoulder. He also sustained serious spinal injuries with substantial damage to his C2-3, C5, C6, C7, C5-6 and C6-7 vertebrae.
A long and difficult recovery process followed, which at times had Pollard fearing his career might be over.
“There was definitely a point where I didn’t think I would be able to [ride again],” he said.
“After the neck seized up on the third time and I had the MRI scans and it refused to heal up, I was actually questioning if I would ever ride a horse again.
“It was only for the neurosurgeon, Michael Davies, and his magic. He got me going again and gave me hope. We got going from there.”
Eleven months on, Pollard still has to manage the injury but has now been given the green light to resume riding.
He returned to track work more than six weeks ago as he attempted to work his way back into race fitness.
On Saturday afternoon, he rejoined the jockeys room at Kembla Grange.
Coincidentally the meeting was exactly 11 months to the day since his horrific fall.
Pollard rode Gwenda Markwell’s Starfruit in the Wongawilli Maiden Plate (1200m) before linking up with Bidgee Ribbon in the Illawarra Turf Club Maiden Handicap (1400m).
Both horses finished outside the placings, but Pollard did have to a avoid a fall right in front of him in the home straight while riding Starfruit.
“When she was just starting to go good, a horse dragged her down from behind, but she picked herself back up again and then the jockey fell in front of it,” Pollard said.
“I was right behind it too, so talk about a welcome back.”
Pollard’s return to the saddle after an extended break isn’t his first in the past two years.
He has been forced to endure a torrid recent run with injury.
He was sidelined for 10 months during 2016 after tearing his ACL in an incident at Moruya in February of that year.
“From when I started I basically went 12 years without a serious injury and now I have had a couple in succession,” Pollard said.
“Last year was the knee, it was the wrist six years before that.
“I certainly don’t need any more now.”
Pollard narrowly missed out on securing his first win back at the Sapphire Coast on Monday.
He finished a close second on Richard Clarke trained Elegant Ellen in the final event of the afternoon.