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Inspiration: A Bi-Polar Jockey’s Success Story…

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“Keep your determination, no matter what. It’s not going to happen overnight. It may not happen when you want it to, but who are we to tell each other when our dreams should come true?” Sylvia Harris

Inspiration: A Bi-Polar Jockey's Journey to Success...

Sylvia Harris’ story is an inspirational tale of one woman’s journey from manic depression/bi-polar disorder, custodial loss of her children, homelessness, and finding her center in horse-racing, to becoming the second female, African American jockey to win a major horse race and … she did it at age 40. Tomorrow, she debuts a new book; Long Shot: My Bipolar Life and the Horses Who Saved Me.

Sylvia grew up in Santa Rosa, California. While she grew up in a home with an alcoholic father and a mother with a severe medical condition, her childhood included music and dance lessons as well as starring roles in track and field; all the way through her high school years. Her first bout with manic depression occurred at 19 when her parents divorced. As the years went by, it got progressively worse so that, by 1995, she had to be hospitalized at a psychiatric facility in Virginia. During this time, she lost custody of her three children and found herself in desperate need of medical care.

By 1999, with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and the help of medication, Sylvia enrolled in school and found a job. But an unfortunate series of events led to her car being stolen, quitting her job, and getting evicted from her apartment. Homeless and depressed, she wandered the streets of Orlando till help came her way through a minister who, on inquiring about her interests at a homeless shelter, found out that Sylvia loved animals; particularly horses. Do animals have healing qualities? Read on. 🙂

A referral led her to Canada and then to Chicago where she finally found work as an apprentice; gradually working her way up to a chance to ride in a race as a jockey. By sheer determination and lots of grace, Sylvia found her footing in a profession that is dominated by male jockeys and almost no black female jockeys. But the kindness of a few trainers, her determined journey and her love for horses helped Sylvia find her way.

The horses, she says, helped her push past her bi-polar condition and build a successful career as a jockey. Recently, she spoke extensively about her journey on NPR and she has a book that debuts tomorrow. In her memoir;  Long Shot: My Bipolar Life and the Horses Who Saved Me, Sylvia Harris describes her love for racing and how the horses have helped her heal her life, let go of the past, and renew her belief in the power of the human spirit.  It is National Women’s History Month and I invite you to applaud Sylvia Harris and her inspirational story. Do you think animals have healing qualities? What are your thoughts?

Positive Motivation Tip: For every sunset, there is a sunrise. Do the work and don’t give up on your dreams.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: Photo of female Jockey, Sylvia Harris, at a race by Peter Wynn Thompson for The New York Times

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

17 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/03/2011 12:02 am

    Jockey Sylvia Harris is one person whom I now look up to. It is amazing how one person can endure such heartache and Pain and Loss and become the person she wanted to be.

    • 08/03/2011 2:55 am

      Yes Jackie, I was very impressed by her story and when I heard it on the radio yesterday, I knew I would feature her. I loved her quote too… Our success comes in its own time; there is no deadline. TY! 🙂

  2. 08/03/2011 2:45 am

    An inspiring story indeed. It just goes to show how we can turn our life around from any given set of circumstances. I look forward to learning more about this courageous lady. Juls 🙂

    • 08/03/2011 2:59 am

      Hey lady Juls, we miss you!
      But yes, it is truly a compelling story. I was shocked and then uplifted by her story and, you know, there is so much more in the book. I didn’t want to add too many spoilers. We all need encouragement — at any age! TY again for stopping by! 🙂

  3. 08/03/2011 5:01 am

    great story related to the International Women’s Day, March 8th!

    • 09/03/2011 12:51 am

      Yes, I was touched by the story and how it shows the resilient spirit we all possess as human beings… When I looked further, I found several articles, including one from the NY Times in 2008. It is National Women’s History Month and a great time to celebrate all women, from all walks of life. 🙂

  4. 08/03/2011 7:49 am

    Always great to hear an inspiring story. Good things happen to good people, but sometimes it takes patience and time. I will plan to add her book to my summer reading list.
    Thanks for the post!

    • 09/03/2011 12:53 am

      So true Barbara and I loved the quote from her at the top of the post… We can achieve success at any age, in our own divine time, against all odds. Others don’t’ decide on our success and that I believe wholeheartedly. 🙂

  5. 08/03/2011 2:51 pm

    Loved this post, Eliz!

    I think that animals help us heal by knocking down the barriers and making us step into the present moment. Once there, they help us unearth the healing powers locked within us all.

    The horses helped her CHOOSE to let go of the past so she could more fully embrace her future.

    Thanks for a wonderful feature.

    • 09/03/2011 12:55 am

      Excellent points Nancy, I was touched by the powerful role the horses played in grounding and healing her from the inside out. She’ a woman who has seen a lot of pain and yet her spirit wasn’t broken by it. The animals did their part for sure… 🙂

  6. 08/03/2011 6:36 pm

    Inspiring story-having been around horses in my lifetime, the experience and the memories are still very fresh in my mind. Horses are very smart, with special instincts, as they develop a very unique closeness to their owner. I difinitly believe horses have the ability to heal.

    • 09/03/2011 12:58 am

      I haven’t spent as much time around horses but when I’ve been around them, I have sensed a keen and powerful spirit; willful in some cases. Horses are remarkable animals so I can imagine the strength she got from their presence and strength. 😉

  7. Bree permalink
    08/03/2011 7:04 pm

    It’s good to read that she is doing well and has finally put her experiences in a book.
    Sylvia’s journey is one of courage and hope and overcoming.
    Thank you for adding her to your blog; its an inspirational story against all odds.
    Today is also International Women’s Day so the timing is perfect.
    Now all we need is women making genuine effort to support other women.

    • 09/03/2011 1:01 am

      Yes, it is International Women’s Day and it is perfect timing for the release of Sylvia’s book. It is a pity that there are many areas where women still need to offer each other support and my prayer is that we find the answers inside and overcome the barriers outside. 🙂

  8. 09/03/2011 4:12 pm

    Simply amazing…!! Happy Women’s Day to all the Lovely Women out there…!!

    • 10/03/2011 5:54 am

      Happy International Women’s Day to you too Arva! Glad to see you here and hope to read a new post from you soon… Sending blessings your way. I hope all is well with you and your loved ones. 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. 22/03/2011 5:03 am

    Thank you Sylvia for stopping by… I will reach out to you and hopefully we can chat about your story some more and get some advice . 🙂

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