John Shear may be 90 years old and still at jockey weight, but he didn’t hesitate when a horse got loose in the paddock before the third race at Santa Anita March 12.
When Shear saw that a young girl, perhaps 3 or 4, stood in harm’s way, he thrust himself between her and the horse. The horse collided with and injured Shear. The girl was reportedly unharmed.
When the horses came into the walking ring, Shear stood at his post, holding the rope at the west entrance. Sea and Sage, a 3-year-old gelding, wheeled and got away from his handler. He raced toward the west entrance on his way back to the barn area, which is when Shear moved to protect the girl.
Following the incident, Shear was taken by ambulance to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena for evaluation. There was no immediate word on his condition. The track reported that he remained conscious and responsive and he was moving when attended to by both first-aid personnel and members of the City of Arcadia Fire Department.
Gary Mandella, trainer of Sea and Sage, praised Shear’s actions, calling him a hero. Mandella said the incident happened so quickly that it was amazing Shear was able to jump in front of the child. Mandella reported that the horse, who was caught in the stable area, was fine.
Born in England, Shear initially wanted to be a jockey, but service in World War II derailed his plans when he his shoulder was injured by shrapnel. After the war, Shear worked as an exercise rider. He moved to California in 1955.
A trainer for three years, Shear was also the exercise rider and groom for Colonel Mack, who raced against and once defeated Swaps. Shear stopped riding in 1967 after he injured his back. He has worked as a paddock guard at Southern California racetracks since 1962.