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Bay Cockburn, ex-MFH, Race Rider, Huntsman

bay cockburn.leesDouglas Lees photoBay Cockburn, ex-MFH, hard-riding huntsman, and former winning steeplechase jockey and trainer, died of complications from melanoma on December 25, 2013.

Confined to a wheelchair for the last fifteen years of his life as the result of a riding accident, Bay was an aggressive race rider and had been referred to as the Evel Knievel of all huntsmen. He represented the epitome of invincibility in the saddle until one fateful day, while exercising a hunter over a straightforward coop that he had jumped countless times, he fell and was left paralyzed from the chest down.

He stayed in the game as best he could, training steeplechase horses, and despite the wheelchair, he continued to live the only way he knew how: full speed forward. I saw him at the races one day propelling his motorized chair, rocking perilously over the lumpy ground across a hillside until it finally toppled over. Friends rushed to right him and rearrange him in his chair, and he continued his hurried progress to get a glimpse of his horse at the next fence. Just another of many falls to ignore. Bay maintained his training license and remained active through 2013.

Bay rode in sanctioned races and point-to-points from 1991 to 1997 with twelve sanctioned wins to his credit. I saw him steal a race down the stretch at the Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point one year. He was lying second trying to overtake the leader. He anticipated just when the jock in first place would turn around to check on him. His body went quiet as if he had resigned himself to second place. The jock in front checked on Bay, was satisfied he had the race won, turned back to the wire and went to sleep. Bay got into his horse like a whirling dervish and passed his victim just before the wire.

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