Monday, November 12, 2012

Seabiscuit's Jockey Was a Type 1 Diabetic

I don't know how many of you read the book Seabiscuit, about a famous racing horse, or watched the movie, when they came out in 2002/2003. I read the book a couple years after it came out, which was a couple of years before I was diagnosed with diabetes, and diabetes wasn't much on my radar. I was particularly interested in the part of the book that talked about horse jockeys, and how they'd starve and purge themselves to be lower weights for their horses. I was especially interested because, due to my size and middle name, my nickname is Jockey (it was on all of my schoolwork from my middle school/high school years and the first couple years of college).

What I don't remember being in the book is that one of the jockeys who rode Seabiscuit didn't swing his weight with diets and purges. It was too dangerous- he was an insulin dependent diabetic.

George Woolf (1910-1946) rode and won the first horse race in which the stakes were $100,000. He won 721 races, in fact. He died after falling off a horse during a race- the only time he ever fell off of a horse during a race. It is speculated that he may have fallen off because of hypoglycemia, but whether that's true or not, who knows. He was known to have hypoglycemia unawareness. Horse racing is not the safest of sports, and blood sugar meters didn't exist in 1946. Woolf rode multiple horses and Seabiscuit had multiple jockeys, but Seabiscuit was Woolf's favorite, and Woolf is the jockey on Seabiscuit in the statue at the Remington Carriage Musuem.

P.S. I went and checked Seabiscuit out of the library again, and looked up Woolf in the index. The book does talk about him and his diabetes, although I think it has some facts wrong. It says he was diagnosed in 1931 (age 21?) which I would guess is correct. But it also says that he used canine insulin, which I doubt is correct.

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