When former Manawatu jockey Leanne Isherwood climbs aboard a little known galloper at Rotorua tomorrow she will feel she has completed her comeback from the drugs hell that wrecked her career and life.
Isherwood was once the darling of the New Zealand turf. She was attractive, outgoing and a very good rider. Two Wellington Cup wins is testament to that.
But several years ago her life spiralled out of control. She got in with the wrong crowd and began using P. In the following two years she estimated she spent $100,000 on the Class A drug.
In June 2007 she was arrested in an armed police raid on a P lab in Otaki. Police found four grams of the drug, worth about $4000, in her car. Her boyfriend was sentenced to 2 years' jail for manufacturing P.
Instead of riding winners at the track, she appeared in Palmerston North District Court where she pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine for supply, possession of a P pipe and possession of cannabis. She was given home detention and had to attend meetings with drug experts who helped her kick the habit.
"It's been an eye-opener," Isherwood said of her spectacular fall from grace at the time. "I've wasted everything I've ever had."
She stopped socialising with the racing fraternity in favour of her new druggie friends and her weight plummeted to a skeletal 41 kilograms fully clothed. "You forget to eat or drink when you're on P . . . You don't realise what it's doing.
"It makes you think you're doing a lot but really, you just sit around for hours smoking it and talking a lot of s... and getting nothing done. You'd just forget about what you have to do." Now aged 40 and with a 15-month-old daughter, Indy, under her wing, Isherwood is making a comeback she must have only hoped would happen.
She lives in Rotorua with trainer Bill Pomare and his wife.
Isherwood and Pomare became friends when she turned up at the track looking for horses to ride.
Pomare was only too happy to give her a second chance and will leg her up on to his horse at Rotorua. "She's a very good rider. It took some doing but we got her licence back and she's keen to make a real go of it," said Pomare.
Isherwood wants to return to Palmerston North one day - several trainers are keen to see her back - but she's happy to take baby steps for now.
She's overjoyed to be back riding - "and I'm very light" - but is sworn off drugs for life. "I know if I went back to see that crowd they'd still be the same. Nothing would have changed," said Isherwood.
From tomorrow, Isherwood will be getting her kicks out of a sport she once threw away.
- © Fairfax NZ News