A TOP woman jockey quit her promising career in the saddle to become a firefighter tackling blazes in London.
Kylie Manser-Baines won a race at Ascot and was given a stunning diamond De Beers necklace worth around £3,000 as a prize.
But she was, in her own words, 'too heavy' to make it to the very top of the sport despite her obvious talent.
Kylie, who had 49 winners quit riding for good in 2012 and soon after set up a centre for the rehoming of and rehabilitation of vulnerable former racehorses.
But in 2020 her life changed completely when she started training to become a firefighter.
Speaking of her incredible career change, Kylie said: "I was really keen on the idea of being a firefighter when I was a teenager.
"I find it very rewarding helping others, having a hands-on job and being in a disciplined profession. However, horses took over when I was younger.
"But I am now a full-time firefighter with the London Fire Brigade.
"After a lengthy application process, I started training in January 2020 and was posted to Forest Hill Fire Station last April.
"When I started seriously considering this way of life in 2019, I was worried that you’d need to be big and strong but actually it’s not always about that.
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"The other day I had to get a fox out of someone’s house where it had spent the night sleeping on the spare bed.
"Another time, I had to rescue a Chihuahua from a burning house and you didn’t need to be big and strong for those jobs!
"It is a very difficult job to get into with a lengthy and demanding application process, not to mention a long and intensive initial training period so I am very pleased I was successful."
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Kylie has managed to combine her dual careers well, working shifts as a firefighter when she is not caring for horses.
Racing is one of the worst sports out there for broken bones and falls.
As AP McCoy used to say, where else do you have an ambulance follow you round as you do your day job?
Kylie opened up on some of the horrors she has seen in the fire service.
She said: "I always knew that I would see some quite horrific things, but you can’t prepare yourself for acid attacks, burns victims and people who have jumped in front of trains.
"Those are few and far between, though.
"More often we find ourselves dealing with automatic fire alarms, flooding, gaining entry to houses and small domestic fires.
"Working in a male-dominated environment in racing has helped me settle in well in the Fire Brigade.
"As a jockey you have to be a good team player to stay safe and get on with people, and that really helps in my new job.
"You have to be brave to ride horses and to go into fires."
What happened to that luxury De Beers necklace, though?
Did she keep it as a reminder of her success in the saddle? Not quite…
Kylie told racing365.com: "The necklace was beautiful, but I have to admit I did sell it to buy a car.
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"I kept the car for years and years and it got me around the country when I was riding.
"It was a beautiful necklace, but I couldn’t wear it every day as I didn’t dare and I really needed a car!"
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