Every day is a new beginning. Treat it that way. Stay away from what might have been and look at what can be.”
Well-known Camlough born rider Jason McKeown had a very successful career as a jockey; he rode winners in France, Norway, USA, Germany, Sweden and was regarded as one of the finest jockeys on the Northern Irish horse racing circuit.
McKeown hit the front page headlines back in 2008 for a controversial success at Cheltenham racecourse; he lost his whip when his horse, Hoopy, trained by Gordon Elliott, made a mistake early on in the race, but armed with a replacement from another other jockey – who McKeown persuaded to borrow his whip when he was well out of contention at the time, McKeown conjured up a success when it seemed unlikely and gave the stewards plenty to talk about in the process.
The stewards took a real-world approach by giving McKeown an impartial two-day suspension. It was an incident that added an extra bit of colour to an action-packed day, and while one would not want this sort of thing to become a regularity; it was heartening to see there was no official overreaction by the powers that be.
It’s a notorious fact Irish horse racing would tame lions; the majority of the jockeys aren’t fortunate enough to be employed by a dominant stable; in other words have any job security – McKeown came to a decision a few years ago he wasn’t going to settle for the leftovers of others; hurtling in the vein wasn’t his thing; retirement from the saddle on his own terms was his choice.
Speaking recently in an interview with Irishracing.com McKeown insisted “I rode for a lot of small trainers but then the recession kicked in and affected them badly. Not being attached to a big yard left me vulnerable so I knew, rather than sitting on the fence, I had to take action. I was married to Linda Macken and building my first home – the time was right to move in a different direction”.
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end; rather than be down-beat about the situation of his precipitate departure from the saddle – McKeown kept positive about the possibility of starting a new chapter in his life; A good friend his spoke to him many years ago about chance of the equine dentistry profession kicking off in Ireland in the future and no one had really got involved with this niche trade; McKeown kept the business inkling in the back of his mind and rationally decided when his riding days were over he would explore that thought-provoking notion.
True to his word, McKeown finally got around to learning the skilled trade of Equine Dentistry; enrolling in the American School of Equine Dentistry in Virginia for an intense month-long course with Dr Raymond Hyde; a world-renowned vet specializing in dentistry and extractions. McKeown aspired to leave no stone unturned in learning everything in his new-found trade; he elected to staying on longer in America to guarantee he was fully equipped to start out on his own and able to bring this ground-breaking equine dentistry edification to Ireland.
Speaking of the overwhelming support that everyone has offered since he has become a fully qualified equine dentist, McKeown emphasised;
“Riding winners was great, but I have never been as contented in my life as I am now, doing what I do”.
I’ve found that as every month that has gone by, I’m getting busier; If I do a yard, they’ll tell their friends and you can get two or three clients out of one yard. To be in different yard every day, meeting different people and then have lads texting you after a few days that they can’t believe the massive difference in their horse, that gives me so much job gratification” added elated McKeown.
“No one can ever take your memories from you – each day is a new beginning, make good memories every day; Jason McKeown has proved the theory correct; You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you. The best of this diligent Camlough born man is yet to come.