Long Shot: My Bipolar Life and the Horses Who Saved Me

Overview

Alcohol. Lithium. Buddhist chanting. To quiet the voices in her mind, Sylvia Harris tried all of them. Her bipolar depression brought on bouts of erratic behavior and unsettling delusions. It led her to look for love in all the wrong places and to create a family she had difficulty caring for. But it was at the nadir of her twenty-year battle with this devastating illness that Harris found redemption in the least likely of places—an equine ranch outside Orlando, Florida.

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Long Shot: My Bipolar Life and the Horses Who Saved Me

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Overview

Alcohol. Lithium. Buddhist chanting. To quiet the voices in her mind, Sylvia Harris tried all of them. Her bipolar depression brought on bouts of erratic behavior and unsettling delusions. It led her to look for love in all the wrong places and to create a family she had difficulty caring for. But it was at the nadir of her twenty-year battle with this devastating illness that Harris found redemption in the least likely of places—an equine ranch outside Orlando, Florida.

Written with an unflinching eye toward her weaknesses and a reverent wonder at the healing power of horses, Long Shot is Harris's tale of perseverance in which an underdog in life becomes a champion on the track and her Thoroughbred becomes a beacon of hope.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“[A] truly compelling tale of the havoc mental illness can wreak and how a passion can lead to healing.”
Lowell Sun
“Terrifically insightful [and] beautifully crafted, this book pulls no punches. . . . Each page of Long Shot reminds us once again of the adage that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a person.”
BlackVoices.com
“Heart-wrenching. . . . Highly recommended for people struggling with [bipolar disorder] and anyone who loves them. . . . [Harris’s] fighting spirit emanates from the page.”
The Economist
“An edgy, unapologetic account of [Harris’s] race to outrun the illness that consumed her. . . . A tribute to the power of the horse to calm, contain and inspire.”
Essence
“Even if you don’t love horses you will still cheer for Sylvia Harris after reading her memoir. . . . After reading Long Shot, you’ll feel there’s little that you can’t accomplish.”
Philadelphia Tribune
“Inspiring. . . . One of the more interesting sports book that you will find.”
Publishers Weekly
Harris struggled for decades with bipolar disorder, which surfaced shortly after she left high school. Her love of horses became her salvation. She first owned a horse at age 12 when her family "was living the American dream on a cul-de-sac in Santa Rosa," but hard times followed for Harris, along with wild manic episodes. Her illness led to bizarre behavior; at a party she hurled handfuls of chocolate pudding at the walls "as if I were Jackson Pollock (another manic-depressive) throwing paint onto a huge canvas." Buddhism and medications helped, but her personal life was in disarray until she transitioned from homelessness to horse grooming in Ocala, Fla. Working with horses, riding, and training, she got a jockey's license, overcoming the problems of being a woman in a male-dominated sport. "Against all odds," she writes, "at forty years old, I became the first African American woman in Chicago racing history to win a race and only the second in U.S. history." As the book goes into the homestretch, Harris details how she discovered the healing power of horses and got her life back on track. (Mar.)
Library Journal - BookSmack!
Harris grew up with an alcoholic father who abused her seriously ill mother, while Harris developed a bipolar disorder that overtook her life. Bouncing from place to place, unable to keep a home or a job, Harris never stayed anchored long enough to raise her two eldest children, who eventually moved to Ireland with their father. Through her efforts to bring up her third child in a stable environment, she discovered a quieting connection with horses. At 37, she found her calling as a jockey late and continues to struggle with human connections.What I'm Telling My Friends Despite the charged subject matter, this book just isn't a stellar read, though the animal-therapy crowd might go for it. — "Memoir Short Takes," Booksmack! 1/6/11
Kirkus Reviews

In her debut memoir, jockey Harris tells how she beat the odds to become the "first African American woman in Chicago racing history to win a race and only the second in U.S. history.

By 1999, when the author was 32, her life had spun out of control. Her son was in foster care, and she couldn't afford medical treatment to control her bipolar disorder. Working at odd jobs and living in a car, she had hit rock bottom. After a relatively privileged childhood in California, she suffered her first manic attack as a teenager and was briefly hospitalized. Her life began a downward spiral with recurring episodes, and she entered a common-law marriage with a would-be musician that ended with him having custody of their two children. A short fling with a Hollywood casting director left her with a third child. After years of drifting—with her father taking custody of her son—she found work on a horse farm in Orlando and began her recovery. In a Hollywood film, the story would end with a fade-out of her triumphant comeback in 2007, when—now a 40-year-old apprentice jockey—she and the beaten-down horse she was riding won a prestigious race. In real life, however, there was no such fairy-tale happy ending. She had overcome many obstacles, but racism and prejudice against a woman trying to enter a traditionally male field still made it difficult for her to find horses to jockey. Offered a horse with an injured shoulder, she accepted, only to be thrown on the ground and seriously injured. By 2009, she was again homeless and in the grips of mental illness as she struggled to remain in the racing game. Fortunately, she moved to Wilmington and found work at the Delaware Park race track, which sponsored a mental-health program. There, she has received effective medication and is participating in group therapy.

An inspirational story with a happy ending (hopefully permanent).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061714412
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/6/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 948,355
  • Product dimensions: 5.34 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Sylvia Harris is a jockey. She lives in Wilmington, Delaware. This is her first book.

Coauthor Eunetta T. Boone is a graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and an award-winning sportswriter. She is a writer, creator, and producer of television as well as film.

Coauthor Bill Boulware is also a writer, creator, and producer of television, and has been a freelance writer for The Cosby Show and various PBS programs, among others. He has taught writing at the American Film Institute, USC, and UCLA. He also contributed an essay to the Writers Guild Foundation's book Doing It for Money.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

The Race: Hawthorne Race Course 1

The Start: Santa Rosa, California 6

Furlong 1 Santa Rosa, California 18

Furlong 2 LosAngeles, California 32

Furlong 3 Staunton, Virginia 56

Furlong 4 Orlando, Florida 71

Furlong 5 Ocala, Florida 90

Furlong 6 The OBS 109

Furlong 7 Quail Roost II 139

Furlong 8 Mr. H 143

Fuklong 9 Breezing 155

Furlong 10 Arlington Park and Hawthorne Race Course 173

The Finish 190

Epilogue 196

Acknowledgments 305

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