WHEN jockey Shiralee Maher was told her riding career was over due to an eye injury she was devastated.
Maher suffered a fracture to the orbital floor of her left eye that produces double vision in the eye when she looks sideways to the left and upward and the damage has been diagnosed as permanent.
Having worked so hard to finally be doing what she always dreamed of, then to have it snatched from her grasp, left her to ponder her future in terms of earning a living.
This week Maher joins Tasracing, the racing industry’s controlling body, as an Administration Assistant and while it is part-time and for an initial three-month contract she feels it has given her an opportunity to return to the workforce.
“This Return to Work program gives you an avenue to progress from being a jockey into something completely different,” Maher said.
“When all of a sudden the riding career is cut short there aren’t too many options.
“I contacted Tasracing last week to discuss the possibilities of me being a part of the Return to Work program and thankfully I was told that there was a position that could possibly suit me.
“I worked in an office 14 years ago but left the office environment to be outside so going back to that life is something I never really thought about while riding but I’m open-minded and prepared to give anything a go.
“I’ve been forced into this because the eye injury I sustained prevents me working with horses on a full-time basis so I have to focus on something I can do and at Tasracing I am still working within the industry and it will keep me in touch with what I love to do.”
Maher, 38, is a former Victorian who moved to Tasmania two years ago with her husband, former thoroughbred trainer Paul Maher, and their three children.
Paul has recently given up training and taken on a career as a steward with the Office of Racing Integrity.
Tasracing has developed a Return to Work program which it sees as a pivotal opportunity to provide alternative return to work pathways for jockeys who have suffered injuries to find a meaningful way to return to the workforce in a capacity that is in line with their rehabilitation program and skill set.
Maher’s term at Tasracing is for three months that could turn to permanent but if not it will act as a solid launching pad for her to pursue office administrative work elsewhere.