The leading racehorse trainer highlights the importance of keeping busy and active, especially in a pandemic

If you’re looking for a good example of how to stay positive and healthy in the times we’re living in, follow Jessica Harrington’s lead.

The renowned racehorse trainer, like the rest of the world, saw her industry impacted dramtically last March when Covid-19 restrictions came into force. In recent months, races have been able to go ahead, without spectators, but of course no one knows when things will get back to normal.

But rather than rest on her laurels, Jessica found that keeping focused was beneficial for her and her whole team as everyone adjusts to the new normal.

“It was the one thing we had to keep doing, keeping the people working here enthused. That isn’t easy, when you have no goal to work towards and no light at the end of the tunnel. You have to keep yourself and them interested and happy to keep coming in everyday,” Jessica says.

“It has been strange times. When everything closed down in March, we were all thinking, ‘this can’t go on, we’ll be back to normal soon’. So the hardest thing was realising that it wasn’t going to be next week or just a couple of months.

“So we were actually lucky, because when you’re training racehorses, life has to carry on. We were just coming into the flat season so all the flat horses had to be conditioned and everything else, because whenever racing did start they had to be ready to rock and roll.”

Jessica is in her 70s and shows no sign of stopping. Before becoming a horse trainer, she represented Ireland on the world stage as a three-day event rider. Now she is known as the most successful female trainer ever at Cheltenham. She credits a healthy diet and lots of exercise as the key to ageing well.

“This year has been so hard on everyone, and I feel very sorry for people living in towns and apartments, who couldn’t get out to the countryside for a walk. I am lucky I can get out for lots of walks,” Jessica says.

“It has been hard on older people, and it can be easy to get a bit down, and I would say getting out for fresh air and a walk is a great thing. It really does clear your mind, and physically you’re using all your muscles and you’re using your lungs.”

The National Dairy Council, in association with Cappagh Hospital Foundation, has teamed up with Jessica  to raise awareness about bone health ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on 20 October.

“I’m very conscious of my diet, eating lots of fruit, vegetables and dairy products like cheese, yogurt and milk. They all help the health of your bones, with calcium, protein, phosphorus and Vitamin D,” Jessica says.

“I also think prevention is better than cure. People suddenly become conscious of their bone health when they get to their 60s, when the idea of falling and breaking a hip becomes more real. I think awareness should start as early as possible. People should go for bone density scans, as if you are aware of it you can then do something about it. Putting it on the backburner because you think you are too young, isn’t the right way to go about it.”

There is a comprehensive website at mindyourbones.ie which includes useful information on bones and the musculoskeletal system, details on other common bone conditions such as Arthritis, Scoliosis and Sarcopenia, and a section on dispelling the myths associated with these conditions. It also includes tips and advice from the expert surgeons at Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital.