The Long Road Back
Krone underwent two operations in nine days to repair the broken fibula and shattered tibia. A three-week hospital stay and an eight-month recovery followed. But Krone was lucky: had she not been wearing an equestrian safety vest that day, her doctor reported, the blow to her chest from the horse's hoof would likely have killed her. During Julie's recovery, Judi Krone rallied to her daughter's side.
But even as her body began to heal, Krone faced a new adversary: fear. The child who grew up on the back of a galloping horse for the first time gained a sense of the danger inherent in her sport. Nightmares, insomnia, depression, and pain plagued her; "there was even a time when Krone wondered whether she would ever make it back," wrote Nack. But the thirty-year-old was determined to return to the saddle. "Getting used to living with the pain. That's been the hardest thing so far," Krone told Dean Chang in a Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service wire story. "It only hurts when I walk. And sleep. And skip and run. But not when I'm riding."
Krone made her comeback in 1994 and on May 26 that year rode her first post-accident winner. But in January 1995, just days after the pins in her still-healing ankle were removed, she fell again during a race at Florida's Gulfstream Park, this time breaking both hands. This crash, though physically less devastating than the Saratoga incident, seemed to be the final straw for Krone. "That was too much," she was quoted by Mark Beech in a Sports Illustrated article. "I had always been like, 'I can't wait!' But I just didn't want to ride anymore. It was miserable." Krone did stay in the sport for four more years, even riding another Kentucky Derby. She announced her retirement in April, 1999.
The racing community was quick to recognize Krone's contribution to the sport. In 2000, a year after Judi Krone's death from cancer, Julie was elected to the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York, the first woman jockey to be so named. Married twice, Krone has admitted her intentions on starting a family; she also became a spokesperson on behalf of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an illness that affects one in thirteen Americans.
Krone realizes that the numbers attached to her name—20,000 mounts, 3,500 winners, and $81 million in purses—are the stuff of record books. What matters more, Krone said in a Knight-Ridder/Tribune New Service wire story by Gil LeBreton, is the fact that she was able to provide an example. "Athletes tend to be known for their success," she said. "But I would rather have some little girl say, 'Oh, Julie Krone fell down but she came back. She wasn't afraid.'"