Robyn Smith #2

Another part of an interview with legendary jockey Robyn Smith. With more personal stories about her own life and career, she delves deeper into the sport of horse racing, discussing the reasons why she always felt she was a natural fit to be a jockey. Smith also reflects on her past and childhood, as well as her friendships with male jockeys and the complex nature of the horse racing world in general.

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00:45Copy video clip URL Robyn Smith tells an anecdote about a horse she had ridden once in her career called “Austin Mittler,”  which she had gotten the opportunity to ride due to the fact that the horse had killed a jockey in the gate 4 months prior to the time that she rode him. She explains that although every jockey was afraid to ride him, she found him to be a great horse, though very excitable and somewhat claustrophobic. Smith tells a story about how she had ridden him in a stake at Golden Gate in San Francisco, and, despite being the longest shot on the board, won with very little effort.  “He just galloped for me…I think that the trainer could have won him that day.”

01:56Copy video clip URL Smith recalls another time when she had ridden Austin Mittler at Arlington Park in Chicago when the horse was not as successful. Though Smith knew that the way to combat the horse’s claustrophobia was to load him last into the gate, the head gate man refused. As a result, before the race, the horse became nervous and slammed Smith up against the back of the gate. The horse ran terribly, and afterwards Smith heard a collective gasp come  from the crowd. It was at this point that she realized she was injured and bleeding, and needed fifteen stitches in the back of her head. “I think the name of the stake was ‘Stars and Stripes’; well I saw stars!”

03:48Copy video clip URL Despite the incident at Arlington Park, Smith says that she continued to ride and win races with Austin Mittler and he never acted up again. This, she states, is where the horse trainer can prove to be extremely useful, not necessarily in how to ride the horse, but to inform the jockey of the horse’s various faults or weaknesses.

04:39Copy video clip URL The video cuts to another location in the stands of the racetrack, and Robyn begins speaking about her relationships with the male jockeys she had raced with, saying that, unlike the very first women to race, she had never had a problem with any of them. “Some of them were my best friends, and they were very helpful to me.”

05:20Copy video clip URL Smith talks about her friendship with hall-of-fame jockey Angel Cordero, and how he had helped her when she was first beginning to race in New York by trying to make her look like a professional while riding. She says that she had a good rapport with all of the jockeys, socializing with them in the afternoons after the race.

06:06Copy video clip URL Smith speaks about never having encountered any other female jockeys in her time racing horses. “Every once in a while, a girl would ride a horse in New York, but usually just one horse for the trainer that she worked for, and there just weren’t that many jockeys riding when I was riding.”

06:36Copy video clip URL Though Smith misses horse riding deeply, she says that the prospect of owning a horse for another person to race does not interest her. “The only thing I’d want to do with a race horse is ride it…It would be very frustrating for me to own a horse and have to have another jockey ride the horse.” It is for this reason that Smith says she avoids owning horses or going to the racetrack. “If I put it out of my mind, if I don’t think about it, then I don’t miss it as much.”

07:32Copy video clip URL Smith discusses what old age is for a jockey and that after a certain age, a jockey will not get picked to ride in races as frequently. Smith also claims that jockeying has less to do with the strength of the jockey, and more to do with the quality of the horse, citing riders Johnny Longden and Willie Shoemaker as examples of jockeys that have ridden in races past the age of 50.

08:11Copy video clip URL Smith describes the factors that typically contribute to a jockey’s retirement from horse racing after the age of 40, naming old age, loss of interest, or weight gain as major issues.

08:42Copy video clip URL Something slightly audible interrupts Robyn Smith’s thought, causing her to pause her statement for a moment.

08:57Copy video clip URL Smith states that once in a while she had encountered jockeys that struggled with weight issues who would sometimes take as much as seven pounds off in the sauna before they would ride, depleting them of their energy, but allowing them to win the race. She questions whether or not this was a healthy practice for the jockeys to get into, but counts herself lucky not to have had dealt with many weight problems herself.

10:00Copy video clip URL Smith says that she weighs less at the present time than she did when she was riding, down to 100 pounds from between 102 and 104. The most that  she ever weighed, she muses, was 110 when she was 24 years old.

10:28Copy video clip URL Audible noise once again interrupts Smith, forcing her to pause until it subsides.

10:43Copy video clip URL Smith resumes talking, telling about how unlikely it seemed to her as a child that she would become a jockey, having been allergic to all animals and diagnosed with asthma as a child. This aversion to animals conflicted with her intense love of animals, which led to constant asthma attacks.

11:10Copy video clip URL Smith states that she had never even gotten on a horse until she was 22 years old and had outgrown her asthma, fulfilling a dream she’d had all of her life. “I always knew from the time I was 2 years old that I wanted to be–I didn’t necessarily want to be a jockey, but I wanted to be a cowboy. I didn’t want to be a cowgirl, I wanted to be a cowboy.”

11:56Copy video clip URL Smith explains her belief that every person is naturally inclined toward some ultimate goal in their lives. “I truly believe that you’re born to do certain things in life…and you should go with that, because if you go with what you feel … would be a natural thing for you to do, you’ll probably be very good at it.”

12:12Copy video clip URL Smith describes how she wishes that she had a story to tell about having been around horses all of her life the way that most jockeys do, but tells about how she began riding horses only six months after she had first gotten on one at age 22.

12:30Copy video clip URL Smith discusses how naturally horse riding came to her.  “Many times in the morning when I would exercise horses, a trainer would say to me, ‘take along a whip, because this horse is very lazy and you can barely get him to gallop,’ and..I’d get on this horse, and the horse would want to run off with me.”

13:31Copy video clip URL Smith says that even though she hadn’t gotten onto a horse until she was 22 and was riding six months later, she would not advise anyone else to do the same. Smith says that she was a certain exception, having an inherent gift and obsession with horse riding which allowed her to become a jockey with relative ease. “I just fell into it so naturally.”

14:13Copy video clip URL Smith discusses her past and childhood, talking about having grown up in the suburbs of San Francisco, not owning horses and hardly being around them at all. She talks about how when she was younger, she’d had a natural inclination toward the boys in school that owned horses, no matter how unattractive they might have been.

14:58Copy video clip URL Smith speaks about her love of pets, and how her allergies have prevented her from ever owning a dog, cat, or a conventional pet. Instead, she says, she’s always owned pet rats, which do not aggravate her allergies.

15:42Copy video clip URL Another loud rumbling noise (possibly thunder or an airplane) is audible.

15:59Copy video clip URL Smith comments on having known since she was young that she was destined to become  a jockey. As a child, she says, she had dreamt of instances that did in fact occur on the racetrack in her career. She discusses the idea that all people are meant to do or become something in their lives, though many are not able follow their natural impulses. “I think that everyone is probably destined to do something great in life.”

17:15Copy video clip URL End of tape.



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