New Mexico-based teen Bryce Bourdieu is determined to return to the saddle and win wearing a prosthetic leg. This dream keeps him going despite being tramped by a horse during starting-gate practice and being amputated below the knee.
Brought up in a racing family, the 19-year-old dreams of following in his father, Martin Bourdieu's footsteps. Martin was one of the racing stars in New Mexico known for successfully racing with Thoroughbreds, a horse breed best known for racing, and Quarter Horses, a breed known for its speed. By the time he retired in 2020, Martin had ridden 751 Quarter Horse winners and 1,597 Thoroughbred winners. Meanwhile, Bryce's mother, Julie Farr, is a horse racing broadcaster and paddock hostess.
In June 2022, Bryce took the first step toward being a jockey. He headed to a farm in Elgin, Texas, to work as a groom and an assistant starter while learning to ride at the same time. However, his life changed in August when he encountered a horrific accident while exercising a three-year-old unraced Quarter Horse filly.
Bryce was wearing a helmet and a body protector, but the accident fractured the L4 and L5 in his spine. He also fractured his S2 down the sacrum. To stabilize the spine, Bryce underwent two surgeries. But after the second surgery, which lasted for 11 hours, he developed compartment syndrome in his left leg. The complication led to 14 operations—12 on the leg and two on his back. Unfortunately, they had to amputate his left leg below the knee.
Bryce spent seven weeks in the hospital and another three weeks at the Central Texas Rehabilitation Hospital. As of this publication, he moves in a wheelchair and is about to start outpatient therapy for his right leg, which was affected by the spinal injury. He needs to strengthen both legs before getting fitted for a prosthetic leg, which costs about $75,000 and is not covered by his insurance.
According to the doctors, Bryce's case is a miracle, as the injuries he attained should have led to paralysis. Although the road to returning to horseback is going to be lengthy and arduous, Bryce remains optimistic about his situation. "You can be positive and get through it, or you can be negative and make the whole situation harder," he said.
Bryce is taking things one step at a time. And the progress he sees with every therapy session is encouraging him. One thing's for sure: Bryce's love for horse racing will see him through this.If you'd like to donate to the Sam Thompson Memorial Foundation fundraising campaign for Bryce, please visit SamThompsonFoundation.org.