I’ve been in an equine hole the last two days, working on hats for two horse-centered events while in front of my computer watching every episode in the two season cache of the show “Jockeys. I can’t quite seem to find words that can accurately express how much I love this show but I will try.
For anyone who may not have seen , the show is a reality series covering the lives of several jockeys during a thirty-day period known as the Oak Tree Meet at Santa Anita Park in California.
There’s the couple who competes against one another:
There’s the young hot-shot, Joe Talamo:
and the newbies, the old heads, the injured, the bitter, the hopeful,etc. They’re all in a different spot in their career which gives a perspective from a myriad of points. In the first season there is heavy concentration on the new jockeys just trying to break their way in and get a chance to race. Kayla Stra came all the way from Australia to see if she could cut it and I couldn’t hold back my tears watching footage of her being turned down repeatedly by owners and trainers not willing to hire a no-name* jockey. I can relate, as an independent artist, feeling completely hopeless and exasperated sometimes and wondering if it will ever all come together. These guys have to look failure and rejection in the face time and time again and they greet it with a smile. There seems to be an unspoken rule that if you’re not grinning, you’ll be ostracised. The horse racing word is riddled with superstition and from what I gather, a jockey who isn’t positive for one second or who lets even an iota of doubt cross their mind will be seen as the racing equivalent to a broken mirror or a black cat.
How do they do it? When people ask me how the taxidermy business is going, I try to emulate this good sport attitude even when things aren’t so great. It’s no easy task trying to find your own way, especially when you encounter rejection. I get really emotional thinking about how much these men and women inspire me with their fearlessness and drive. More than that, it’s almost impulsive: there is nothing else on earth they could possibly do with themselves. They were born to ride horses. I feel the same way about creating. I don’t know how to do anything else, at least not happily. I know I’m not alone; there are so many of us out there just trying to make it. It’s hard not to blame one’s self for not being where they had hoped they’d be in life, while overloooking the plain truth which is that there are too many factors at work in the universe to make success for one individual such a simple and clear-cut path. My favorite jockey, Aaron Gryder, sums up the feeling pretty well in this clip:
So we motor on, focusing on the future, hoping for that break.
And when that break comes, people respond, but they probably have no idea how many hundreds of hours were spent putting in nonpaying/underpaid work, being exploited/used and feeling terrified/uncertain of what’s to come. These jockeys risk their lives every time they get on the track, sometimes only to clear $17/race. We all notice the ones who place, the ones who are in the money, but for each of those there are many more who walk away virtually empty-handed.
The second season is even better, exploring more controversial issues like performance enhancing drugs for horses and conflict between riders. The whole series gears up toward the biggest race of all, the Kentucky Derby. As someone who went to the derby and left still feeling puzzled over how the betting works and what exactly odds even are, I wish I’d seen this show before the trip. There are one-on-ones with a professional better named Jimmy Hats who breaks down the betting system for the viewer, and a slew of nuances are covered like how greatly starting gate position affects the odds for each horse.
The only thing lacking in the series was good music. I’m not sure if it was too difficult to obtain the rights to use certain songs but the songs which were used are just awful, in my opinion. Of course, this is coming from a gal who has Ke$ha and Nikelback in her current workout rotation…so take that with a huge grain of salt.
I just wish there was a season three.
*no-name by their own local standards, or course.
P.S: I was definitely a horse in a past life.