He was orphaned as a young boy in London. Wounded by German artillery in World War II. Employed by Santa Anita Park since 1961. His name is John Shear, and he is the track’s beloved Paddock Captain. John will celebrate his 99th birthday between races with family, friends and co-workers this Friday, January 17th.
A former exercise rider, groom and assistant trainer who had originally aspired to be a jockey, Shear checks in at four feet, 11 inches and 104 pounds. He gained national attention on March 12th, 2011 when, as a spry 90 year-old, he threw himself into the path of a loose horse, potentially saving the life of a 5-year-old girl who was attending the races with her father.
“Horses are like homing pigeons,” Shear said in an interview following the incident. “When they’re upset, they want to go home. So when I heard someone shouting ‘Loose horse !’, I knew it would be heading our way as it tried to go back to the barn.”
He suffered multiple fractures to his pelvis, hip, back and cheekbone, along with internal bleeding that resulted in a significant loss of blood, yet Shear was back on the beat in Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens in less than a year. Now on the cusp of 99 years of age, he continues to defy Father Time.
“I love what I do,” said Shear. “I love the people, the horses and working outside. I still do 30 push-ups every morning and I walk all the time. I’ve loved this place since I first came here in 1954 and I’m blessed to be able to do what I’m doing. I think if people got outdoors more often and stopped worrying about things none of us can control, they’d be much happier. I know I am.”
Shear and his wife Diane reside in nearby Sierra Madre, where, during the city’s 2011 Fourth of July Parade, Shear was celebrated as a Hometown Hero.
So, does Shear have any advice for longevity?
“Find something you love, stay positive and exercise!”
John Shear will be honored with a race named in his honor on January 17th and will be presented a birthday cake in the Winner’s Circle after that race.
The Daily Racing Blog salutes John for his life well lived and for his sage, time-tested advice on fulfilling ones spirit.