Jockey Victor Espinoza in neck brace while recovering from broken vertebra

DEL MAR, Calif. -- Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza is wearing a neck brace while recovering at his San Diego home after fracturing a vertebra during a training accident at Del Mar.

He was exercising Bobby Abu Dhabi during morning workouts on July 22 when the horse had an apparent heart attack and threw Espinoza off. Bobby Abu Dhabi died.

Espinoza, 46, spent 11 days in between a hospital and then a rehabilitation facility and held a news conference Thursday at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas.

While Espinoza will be in the neck brace for up to six weeks and said his left arm is still numb, he initially thought things were much worse.

"I was very conscious," Espinoza said Thursday, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. "But I could not move my body. And there was no pain. I thought I am paralyzed. ... I thought I'd never walk again."

Espinoza said he was first able to move his right arm while still on the track, then his left leg while heading to the hospital. He was able to move his right leg when he reached the hospital.

While Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to a sweep of the Triple Crown in 2015, walked into his news conference, he won't be competing in the near future.

"It is too early to think about that," Espinoza said. "I will think about riding again when I get back to 100 percent. I'm not even thinking about racing right now."

Dr. Jihad Jaffer, a rehabilitation specialist at Scripps Encinitas, said that in addition to the fracture to the C-3 vertebrae, the spinal cord was also an area of concern, which is why Espinoza is wearing the neck brace.

"Victor is recovering well," Jaffer said, according to the Union-Tribune. "A spinal injury is not an on/off switch. It is like a dimmer switch. There are degrees."

Espinoza will continue his rehabilitation on an outpatient basis.

"I have to learn some new techniques," Espinoza said. "I can't laugh the way I used to laugh. I'm confident I'll get back to full strength. When, I can't say."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.