Women make their mark in Rockhampton as jockeys

Jockey's Carly-Mae Pye, Alexandra Kitson and Tracey O'Hara relaxing between races. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Jockey's Carly-Mae Pye, Alexandra Kitson and Tracey O'Hara relaxing between races. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka

WITH several hundred kilos of thoroughbred underneath you, galloping at speed, the wind racing past you and adrenalin pumping through your veins, the last thing you're thinking about is your anatomy - but for our female jockeys it's a constant battle to make sure trainers, owners and spectators aren't thinking about it either.

Senior jockey Tracy O'Hara has been riding for 10 years and has found that, as a female jockey, constantly proving yourself is par for the course.

Originally from country New South Wales, Tracy has been living and racing in Rockhampton for two years.

"A lot of people say we're a lot kinder on a horse," she said.

"Not every horse needs to be flogged but in saying that I can still do that as well.

"Obviously we try so hard to prove we're as strong and vigorous as the boys, we try not to use that mentality. At the end of the day they don't want to see that, they want to see the result."

However, there's a lot more to being a jockey than just strength. As a senior rider she often discusses with the apprentices their techniques and how to make their body shape work for the horse.

"We always discuss if we rode a certain race if we could of done anything better - technique, style, our body shape is different to the males so you have to accommodate for that," she said.

"The horse that you're riding helps win a race and also your ability to place the horse in the right position.

"One technique compared to another, it doesn't matter what sex you are, your technique could be better for that horse."

Tracy's sister is also a jockey in Sydney, and she said she's under monumental pressure.

"She's in Sydney, this is the career that she wanted," Tracy said.

"She stuck down there and I'm so proud of her, because of the scrutiny that she's under all the time she is forever proving herself... and trying to prove to yourself that your as good as the next jockey.

"She does well at it too, she's always travelling, she's at race meets six times a week - it's a big feat to be the leading female rider down there."

Tracy said generally trainers aren't discrimantory but she has had problems in the past.

"Some always put females on and will back you all the way... some can be just 'nope, dead set against it, they're not strong enough,'" she said.

"I've had experience more so with owners that may not nessacarily know a hell of a lot about racing, I've had them say to their trainer (they don't want a female jockey) then the trainer has to explain to me that they don't think I'm strong enough."

One of the young jockeys coming up through the ranks is Carly-Mae Pye. She's been Non-South East Apprentice of the Year two years running, and recently won her first Brisbane race.

Originally from Toowoomba, she said Rockhampton has been a great place for her to pursue her career.

"It seems a forward place to be an apprentice," Carly-Mae said.

"If you put the work in up here you do get the results.

"Some of the senior girls have always been a help."

She said there can be a blokey culture in the sport, but it's never put her off.

"If a rider hasn't been the best it's never been because they're a female," Carly-Mae said.

"I think there is an undercurrent but it's hard to change something that's so old.

"I don't think we're doing it as tough as some of the other girls previously - just having to work harder to prove

Topics:  jockeys rockhampton women

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