John Shear

John Shear

Benoit Photography

Heroic Paddock Guard, 90, Out of Hospital

John Shear was injured as he saved a girl from a runaway horse at Santa Anita.

John Shear, Santa Anita’s 90-year-old paddock guard who was gravely injured while protecting a 6-year-old girl from a runaway horse last month, was released from Huntington Memorial Hospital April 16.

Shear, whose wife Diane celebrated her 68th birthday on the day of his hospital release, was transferred to his home in Sierra Madre to continue his recuperation.

He was interviewed by the local NBC affiliate television channel a day before his release, saying  “I can’t wait to return to work at Santa Anita.”

Shear was injured when a loose 3-year-old horse charged toward panicked members of the crowd at the track walking ring prior to the third race March 12. He shielded a little girl standing next to him from the onrushing horse and pushed her out of harm’s way. But the horse hit him on his side. He sustained a fractured pelvis and other severe injuries. Paramedics said he lost so much blood they didn’t think he would survive.

Shear will continue physical therapy and plans to play poker in Las Vegas while he recuperates.

“My dad wishes to thank you all for your prayers, generosity, and well wishes,” said his son, Michael Shear. “It has been a tremendous strength to him over these past difficult weeks.

“His doctors are amazed at the progress he’s made. He was badly injured and he was in very, very bad shape the first few days following the accident. He lost quite a bit of blood internally and his blood pressure got very low. My dad has always prided himself on eating well and staying physically fit and there’s no doubt this has helped him immensely.”

Shear, a former rider, has been employed seasonally at Santa Anita since Dec. 23, 1961.

He was in his customary position, holding a perimeter rope on the east end of the track’s walking ring. As the field of 10 horses were readying for the upcoming race, Sea and Sage freed himself from his handler and in a 180 degree about-face, the gelding sprinted toward the opening Shear was guarding.

As seen on live television, Shear threw himself in front of the young girl, in an act of selfless heroism that could well have saved her life. She was uninjured.

“By any accounting, John Shear is a hero,” said Santa Anita President George Haines. “He is an amazing human being and we are elated that he is going to be going home much sooner than was originally thought. Through all of these years, John has been a great employee, a man that his peers looked up to."