Jockey Discovers Love Of Nursing After Racing Accident Put Her In Hospital


Skyler Spanabel is not only a full-time Arizona College on Nursing – Tampa student, but she is also breaking barriers in a male-dominate sport. Find out more by reading below.

ABC Action News Tapa Bay, Published November 20, 2023
By Robert Boyd, ABC Action News Reporter

This week, Tampa Bay Downs begins another exciting year of live horse racing and they have one particular jockey who’s separating herself from the field, because of what she’s doing on and off the track.

Skyler Spanabel, 24, always wanted to be a professional jockey but didn’t realize that she wanted to add a nursing career on the side until she herself ended up in the hospital following a racing accident.

Tampa bay Nursing Program Student Interview Spanabel is known for defying the odds; only 2% of all professional jockeys are women. “So my mom, she was a jockey, she started down here in Florida actually right there at Tampa Bay Downs,” said Spanabel. “And I loved the horses. I was like, I need to do this from a very young age. This is what I wanted to do.” Since 2017, Spanabel has ridden in more than 800 races all over the country, winning 83 of them.

She said the best part about the job is the horses.

“They are just amazing creatures; they feed off your energy, and when you are on them, you feel the willingness they have to do the job, and to run, and how they want to go, there is nothing else that compares to it,” said Spanabel.

Spanabel’s career was full speed ahead until a broken arm landed her in the hospital in 2019. That’s when she realized there was more to life than racing.

“Out of the three days I was there, only one nurse was like very empathetic, considerate and gentle, and I was like, ‘we need more like her, and I want to be like her,’ and so I wanted to go into the system to make a difference,” said Spanabel.

Spanabel went on to enroll at the Arizona College of Nursing in Tampa.

For the past year, she’s been going back and forth between scrubs and silks. “Skyler came into my 215 class which is Foundations of Nursing, and one of the things we do is introduce yourself and tell us something that no one else knows about you, and of course, she said, ‘I’m a professional jockey,’ and I was like, ‘you what,’” said faculty member Cheryl Miller.

The 24-year-old said, believe it or not, the careers actually have a lot in common.

Skyler Tampa Bay Nursing School Student “The horses, they feed off of your mood, and you really have to read the horse to understand how they are feeling, and it’s the same thing with people; they might not always say how they are feeling, you have to watch for how they are acting, and you have to be very empathetic and considerate,” said Spanabel. “You have to be patient with the horses; you have to be very patient with your patients.”

For anyone who doubts that she can do both, well, let’s just say it’s not the first time she’s been called a long shot.

“In racing, we only race three days a week, and nursing, we typically only work three days a week, so as long as they aren’t the same days, I should be okay, and I’ll have an extra day to myself,” said Spanabel.

Spanabel is even gaining a whole new fan base.

“We start racing in Tampa on Nov. 22 and all my friends from this school are like, ‘let me know because I want to come out and watch,’” said Spanabel.

“Always bet on Skyler,” said Miller.