|Author||Shane Sellers and Tricia Psarreas|
|Publisher||Freedom's Rein LLC|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
Freedom’s Rein (2008, self-published) is the autobiography of American thoroughbred horseracing jockey Shane Sellers, co-authored by Tricia Psarreas. It chronicles his life before and during his 26-year-long career, and also exposes the increasing problem of eating disorders among jockeys, a problem he has tried to get the racing industry to confront for many years.
The book begins with Sellers’ early life in Louisiana, narrating how he fell in love with racing, but also an abusive childhood which continued to haunt him throughout his career. Sellers describes not only the best times of his career, but his many low points, including his attempts to fight anger issues, entering rehab after nearly overdosing, and his ultimate banishment from racing.
He also discusses his marriage to Kelli Sellers and the relationships with his children Shali, Saban, and Steiner.
Much of the book is devoted to Sellers' racing career. He raced thoroughbred horses professionally for 26 years, riding in 14 consecutive Kentucky Derbys and winning $122.2 million in purses. The book offers his personal recollections of highlights from a stellar career of interest to any racing fan.
Of particular interest are the descriptions of his placing third in the 1993 Kentucky Derby on Wild Gale, riding Skip Away to victory at Woodbine Million Stakes in 1996 and again at MassCap in 1997, as well as being a leader rider at the Arlington Park racecourse, Keeneland Race Course, and Churchill Downs. He also discusses his best year, 1996, when he set a record with 1,329 mounts, 287 wins, and $12,089,428 in purse earnings. Riding fans can see these seminal events from the personal perspective of a celebrated jockey who offers many anecdotes and behind-the-scenes insights into the professional side of horse racing.
Activism and Controversy
Beyond telling the story of a decorated champion rider, Freedom’s Rein discusses Sellers’ continued confrontation with the health problems and health-care issues of professional jockeys.
In the later part of his career, Sellers fought to increase jockey weight limits and reduce the increasing number of eating disorders. He also campaigned for the industry to allow jockeys to take endorsements in order to supplement the mere $50 per mount they received, and pushed for better insurance for the men and women who risk their lives in every race.
Especially in the later chapters, Sellers discusses his own personal fight with these problems, exposing the contradiction, for example, between an industry that did not publicly recognize the increasing problems of jockey health but installed special toilets (“heaving bowls”) to prevent vomit from backing up the pipes. He also discusses his and other jockeys’ extreme weight-control measures, including bulimia, intense saunas, and simply going without eating for long periods of time.
These issues culminate in Sellers’ ultimate banishment from the sport. Starting with his appearance in Jockey, a 2004 HBO documentary nominated for an Emmy Award, in which he spoke out about eating disorders, Sellers became a vocal advocate of increased health measures and better medial insurance for jockeys. His willingness to go on record with the industry’s “dirty secrets,” combined with his increasing activism pushing for the right for higher on-track insurance policies, led to a forced removal from Churchill Downs in 2004 and eventually to being blackballed from his sport.
Although Sellers obviously wants to make his case for racing’s reform, the book does not spark unwanted controversy. The authors are careful not to name names or assign blame on particular individuals, opting instead to criticism the industry’s trends in general and to point to possible solutions.
Freedom’s Rein has been featured in a number of print, online, and television reviews. It has received positive exposure from Thoroughbred Times, MSNBC, Fox Business Network, The Joey Reynolds Show, The New York Times blog page, The Metro Spirit, The New York Daily News, The American Perspective, and the Baltimore Sun. It will be featured on The Today Show in July, 2008.
Tricia Psarreas (b. July 25, 1983, Lynn, Massachusetts) is an author and owner of the freelance writing company The Brighter Writer, through which she was hired to work with Sellers. Freedom’s Rein is the first book to include her name, although she has ghostwritten over a dozen other books. She is currently writing her first solo book, a fantasy novel, while speaking to high schools and colleges around the country about the health issues raised in Freedom’s Rein.