Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Winnipeg's own horse whisperer

Jockey gets most out of mounts by whispering sweet nothings

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It comes as no news to the world that jockeys are small people. It's just common sense. Thoroughbred horse racing demands that as little weight as possible be placed on the back of the horse.

Just being able to ride a horse doesn't qualify one for the job. Otherwise, cowboy movie star John Wayne would have been the next Willie Shoemaker.

But then again the Duke was a mountain of a man, and his brawn was a match for any horse. But, how does a 5-foot, 104-pound (soaking wet), 22-year-old woman control 1,200 pounds of fury from the starting gate to the wire at speeds up to 60 km/h?

Well, if you are apprentice jockey Jennifer Reid, you simply whisper sweet nothings in its ear. After all, "they're just like puppies," she says.

Getting serious, Reid, who so far this year has 12 wins in 131 starts at the Downs, with $120,558 in earnings said, "No one can muscle a horse. Men will try before we (women) would, but you do have to steer them. They'll wander away and you'd be out there zig-zagging and getting into trouble. You need to have control at all times."

Born in Melfort, Sask., but now calling Edmonton home, Reid said, "instead of manhandling them, you can talk to them nice and easy. They'll, flick an ear back and it's, 'oh, you're talking to me. I better pay attention.' Then, they take a breath and relax, and their attention is on you, rather than other horses chasing you down."

The system also works in reverse if you want to wake them up.

"You can also excite them, by shouting at them, or act annoyed," she said. "I'm not saying that all people do that. I learned it from my own personal riding. It's not hard. It works, so why change it?"

Reid has been riding since she was six years old, cutting her teeth first with the 4H club, and later rodeo barrel racing.

"I did good in barrel racing," she said. "I was always in the money. I miss it."

It would appear that her horses weren't listening all that closely Wednesday night, as her best placing out of three mounts, was a third on Daryamar in the fifth race.

"For a bug, it's (the season) been going good," she said. "I won a couple last weekend, so that picked me up a little bit. I'm still learning, making mistakes and still trying to look pretty (riding low in the saddle) out there. I have a bit of trouble with that, but I'm working on it."

While most male jockeys have to fight to get their weight down, Reid does not.

"I wish I could tack (weigh in with saddle, helmet, crop, etc.) 109 pounds, every day."

Often she needs to add weight.

"If I get on a horse and the weight is 119, I have a five pound saddle so they add lead in there," she said. "If I need more I have a lead pad that goes under the saddle."

When the season ends here on Sept. 25, Reid will follow her dream, most likely to Florida, where she will work as a gallop rider, since to race in the United States would count against her apprenticeship in Canada.

And what exactly is Reid's dream? "Be another Vicky Baze (2010 Downs' leading jockey)? Hell, I'd love it. It'd be nice to be famous. I'd like that," she said.

Reid has two mounts on tonight's program and one on Saturday. Tonight she' be on Fabulous Gold in the third and Sister Shadow in the fourth. On Saturday, she'll be up on Feelin N Iappealin in the fifth race.

Post time both nights is 7:05 p.m.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 2, 2011 C5

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