05/28/2014 12:40PM

Hovdey: Larry Jones getting used to being in neutral

Barbara D. Livingston
Larry Jones, shown with his Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, is still recovering from a training accident on April 19.

Dial the number of the guy who just five weeks earlier had his bell run big time after being thrown by a goofy 2-year-old colt and you’re not sure what to expect. Head injuries are the deep, dark waters of physical trauma. No one can predict how the victim will emerge.

It was a relief, therefore, to hear Larry Jones yammering away on the other end of the line like the same drawling cowboy he’s always been. Or at least since the racing world started noticing him because of horses like Hard Spun, Eight Belles, Proud Spell, Believe You Can, and Havre de Grace.

Jones was asked about the accident, which occurred the morning of April 19 at Delaware Park, with his wife and assistant Cindy on the pony alongside.

“I remember getting on the horse in the stall, but that’s all,” Jones said last weekend from his home near Delaware Park. “I guess I’d already galloped him and was on my way back to the barn when all crap broke loose.”

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That was a Saturday. Sunday was a write-off.

“I don’t remember anything until one of the nurses shined their flashlight in my eyes at three o’clock on Monday morning,” Jones said. “He wanted to know if I knew where I was. I looked around and said, ‘Well, it looks like I’m in a hospital. What time is it?’”

Jones was discharged the following day with orders to go slow. This would be like telling Bobby Flay to cook only custard.

“This is the first time in my life they didn’t have to tell me not to overdo it,” Jones said. “I was complaining how sore my chest is. Turns out when I was in the MRI, I quit breathing. They had to do chest compresses on me to get me back to breathing before they could put the ventilator in. All kinds of neat stuff happened, I guess, though I can’t be held accountable for it.”

Trainers are not supposed to get hurt, except for their feelings. Del Carroll, an eight-goal polo star and trainer of 1972 Preakness winner Bee Bee Bee, was killed in a training accident in 1982. Wayne Lukas, John Shirreffs, Richard Mandella, Ron McAnally, and others can show you the scars and X-rays from violent horse encounters.

Jones, 57, increased his chances of harm by galloping his horses daily. He insisted it gave him an edge, and his success made the point hard to argue. Now it will be a while before he can resume anything close to his regular routines.

“There’s people like me who all you ever think about is riding,” he said. “I’ll be honest, though. There was I time in these past few weeks I felt I’d never ride another horse again. And I really didn’t care if I did.

“Now, it’s coming back. I checked over that old pony at the barn today and thought, ‘You sumbitch, I’ll ride you here pretty quick.’ I may not get on a Thoroughbred for a long time, but I will get on a horse.”

In the meantime, Jones is learning to appreciate each baby step.

“I had mowed my yard for the last two weeks, so I still knew how to turn a steering wheel and work the pedals,” he said. “Then we practiced driving my truck a little bit just around here. It felt pretty good. At least you know if you decide to run away from home you don’t have to walk.”

Jones is a talker. At least half of everything he’s ever said in public has been either self-deprecating or homespun funny. He was asked about the last time he was hurt this bad.

“In Iowa one morning I came off a horse and broke my collarbone, three ribs, punctured a lung, and broke a foot, and I was on a horse the next night, ponying one to the gate,” Jones said. “So I’m used to nothing really stopping me. But by George, this one put the brakes on me.”

As far as the fear of any lasting cognitive damage, Jones had another one ready.

“I’ve gone through my life pretty much with no mental work,” he said. “I just never used my brain, so it doesn’t take me long to get back to normal. And I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of improvement.”

But seriously…

“I just never know when I’m going to get tired, and feel like I’ve got to lay down,” Jones said. “Even keeping a line of thought on what I’m watching on TV is tough.

“Cindy’s noticed I can get real frustrated now,” Jones went on. “Needless to say, in the game we’re in, and growing up around cowboys like I did, I know a lot of people who’ve been in my situation. They all tell me, ‘Larry, be careful. You’ll get mad over nothing. And you’ll never know what it might be. Just accept it, and hope the loved ones around you will accept it and understand.’ ”

Jones was asked if he has made peace with the colt who put him in the hospital.

“I saw him at the barn today,” Jones replied. “He come up to the door, and I didn’t know if he wanted to bite me or what. I said, ‘You and I are going to get along, but right now I’m leaving. I will discuss this with you some other time.’”


Steve Burton More than 1 year ago
Hello Liberty
Steve Burton More than 1 year ago
Had a killer run a good 2nd at Belmont, maybe it was the Acorn? American Liberty?
Steve Burton More than 1 year ago
Wildcat Betty B, Gasia, Dontcountusout, I'm sure there were others before the betting public caught on?
ctgreyhound More than 1 year ago
Great article. Love Larry's outlook on life & his halfhearted acceptance of the way things are. Best of all he peers into the future: nothing is going to keep him down.
Jack Armstead More than 1 year ago
Thanks DRF for the update on Larry Jones. His humor is actually very good. It is always best for us to be able to laugh at ourselves first... at least this prevents me from making a fool of myself by saying something hurtful to another human being. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Mr. Jones and best wishes to all of you who post on these articles.
Juan Perez More than 1 year ago
Hi Jeff! In the trainers scars list you forgot to mention another important incident, when Jeff Lucas, D Wayne´s son, got kicked in the head by the horse that later went on to win the Preakness Stake: Tabasco Cat. I thought it was worth to mention it! Thanks. See you at the cashier´s window
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
prose More than 1 year ago
LOL. You're going to catch a lot of flap for this comment but it made me laugh.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
I heard Robby Albarado tell that same joke.
Rosemarie Cola More than 1 year ago
Mr Jones is a great guy and a great horseman. I wouldn't worry about that colt. Very glad things worked out. Take your time Mr. Jones, we're the same age, and we got alot of living to do.
Laura More than 1 year ago
it's not the colt's fault, and if Mr. Jones is as good a horseman as everyone says, he knows that, too
mikeg More than 1 year ago
Of course he knows that.
AzHorsePlayer More than 1 year ago
Love the article about Larry...this guy would be a joy to be around, continue healing sir!