Terry Houghton - The Road to Recovery - Part I

Horse Racing Radar
Shawn Drupp
Shawn Drupp is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Monday, May 10, 2021

Terry TD Houghton is one of the most successful jockeys to ever live.  He began riding in 1987 and has compiled 6,066 career wins. Terry became just the 20th jockey to win 6,000 races in North America on 9/15/2020 at Thistledown.  He has won leading rider titles at Tampa Bay Downs, Mountaineer, Pinnacle, and Mahoning Valley.

We always think of different athletes who are the toughest in sports. We usually start with the big ones like football, hockey, boxing, and now UFC.  Jockeys are always forgotten about as part of that conversation and honestly in my opinion they are hands down the toughest athlete around. 

As with all jockeys, Terry has suffered his fair share of injuries. "My first bad accident was right after I graduated from high school. I went down in a spill. The horse I was on got his legs tangled up in the reins. From hitting the ground I was knocked out and broke my collarbone, but the worse thing was when my horse fell back on my chest with his knees. This broke a lot of ribs and bruised my heart. I had to stay in the hospital for two weeks. They wouldn't let me leave until my heart was ok. If I would have only broken my collarbone and ribs I would have went home on the day that I went in", wrote Terry.

"In September of 2000 at Great Lakes Downs, I went down in a spill and broke my left ankle and some ribs. My foot was pointing in the wrong direction. August 25th 2002 is when I had the traumatic brain injury. It was at Great Lakes Downs also. March 1st 2014 at Mountaineer is when I broke my back and shattered my right collarbone. That same year a couple months after getting back to riding I went down again at Mountaineer. I fractured 2 vertebrae in my neck and broke my nose. There was another injury at Mountaineer before I broke my back. I can't remember what year it was but I went down in a spill breaking a bunch of ribs and puncturing my left lung with a two inch tear. One time I broke my left foot. But I kept riding. I had a stakes race coming up for a horse that had a good chance to win it. I had to borrow a left boot from another jockey that had bigger feet than me. I would wrap my foot with sponge and vet wrap. This would give my foot some padding and support. I won the stakes race so it was worth all the pain, "explained Terry.

On Saturday April 10th of 2021, disaster struck.  It was a typical day at work for Terry at the race track. They were on race 6 at Mahoning Valley which was his 37,781st start when just past the five-sixteenths pole, horse Startdfromdabottom fell and collected 2 other horses in the process. One of them was Terry's horse named Hakman. Unfortunately Hakman had to be euthanized as a result. Jockey Luan Machado aboard the first horse to fall Startdfromdabottom was also injured but not to the extent of Terry's injuries.

Luan's latest update from his girlfriend Raissa Lioi's Facebook on 4/20/21 wrote  "Luan is feeling much better. He needed to have surgery and he got it last Thursday. They had to put a plate to fix the clavicle in its place. He was in a lot of pain right after surgery, but right now he's feeling much better. He was able to come home yesterday and everything is good. He has a follow up consult with the doctor in a few days." Neither Raissa nor Luan could be reached for further comments.

Terry's account of that day was "I don't remember much of the accident. I remember getting close to the turn and a horse in front of me falling. I was too close behind to miss running into him. The last thing I remember was my horse trying to jump the horse that fell. The next thing I remember was being in the ambulance. I remember the people in the ambulance saying something about all the blood on my face. When the ambulance that was taking me to the hospital got there, the paramedics from that ambulance said they must put a neck brace on. With all the face injuries they were worried I could have fractured vertebrae in my neck. Amazingly I didn't. When I got to the hospital they put me in an ICU room and started running a bunch of tests. They took x-rays, a cat scan, MRI and blood work."

Terry continued, "The doctor who was going to do the surgery on my face and nose said that I broke almost every bone in my face. He wouldn't be able to do the surgery until some of the swelling came down. They scheduled the surgery for Wednesday morning April 14th, 2021. While waiting for that I found out that I broke my left tibia and tore the MCL in the same leg. I was in so much pain. Mostly my face and head as this was the most painful injury that I have ever had."

Meanwhile, Terry's youngest daughter Alyssa who is 20 years old and lives in Florence Kentucky, was alerted as to what had happened. Alyssa wrote, "I remember being at the library when I got the text "Let us know how your dad is!" and my heart instantly dropped. Typically, I find out from my mom, "He's okay but..." and that's how I'm told. This accident was different. I was the first one in our family to find out. I had to be the one to call everyone and let them know before social media or someone else told them. I didn't have any information besides "he has blood everywhere and he's being rushed to the hospital."

"I had to call my sister and let her know our dad was in a spill and I didn't even know if his injuries were minor or fatal. That was such a horrible feeling. I tried calling the hospital a few times but every time they would tell me to call back in an hour when they would know more. Finally, I got to talk to his nurse, and he told me that my dad was in ICU and he broke almost every bone in his face. The nurse said if he was us, he would drive up to be with him during this. I think that's when it finally set in that he was hurt pretty badly. My sister and I immediately dropped everything, called our bosses and let them know what was going on, got someone to watch our animals, and then we drove 4 ½ hours to be with him," Alyssa said.

"We've seen him hurt before, this wasn't new to us, but this accident wasn't like anything he's gone through before. This was the worst amount of pain I've ever seen a person in. My dad has a high pain tolerance as is, so when he was yelling out in pain and begging for it to stop, I knew it was bad. I felt so helpless just watching him in the hospital and knowing I couldn't do a single thing to help him," she continued.

"Thankfully, on the first day my sister and I were allowed to be in the room together with him, but unfortunately after that we had to take turns. I was only allowed to see him for 3 hours a day and the rest of the time I was in the waiting room or the house just waiting to go back. The restrictions made this so much harder on us. All we wanted to do was be by his side and make sure he was okay," wrote Alyssa.

"The first three days were filled with ups and downs. He would make tremendous progress and then decline out of nowhere. I really couldn't comprehend why.  I think this accident has been the worst accident he has had. This has been not only hard on him but us as well," she continued.

Terry's oldest daughter Ashley who is 24 years old and lives in Lexington, Kentucky was alerted from her sister Alyssa. Ashley writes "I was in Lexington getting ready to go to my bartending job when my sister called me. At first I thought she was just calling me to talk my ear off like she normally does so I hit ignore. Then she texted me to answer and called me immediately right back. So i knew it was something important. Then she told me that dad got hurt and she didn't have any information because the hospital said they needed time before they could tell us anything. We couldn't get ahold of anyone that knew anything for sure so we decided to get ready in case we had to drive there. So i packed a bag and made my bosses aware of the situation. They have been so supportive and have worked with me so much during this time. The owner of my company even donated money to my dads Gofundme."

Ashley continued, "Once the nurse told us we should go and be with him I packed up my car drove an hour to Florence to pick my sister up and then drove another 4 1/2 hours to Austintown. We didn't make it there until after midnight. We both were so eager to see him and make sure he was okay so we didn't sleep at all. It was heart breaking seeing him in so much pain, knowing how high of a pain tolerance he has seeing him complaining killed me." be continued tomorrow in Part II