Monday, September 21, 2009

A Teen's Dream of Becoming a Jockey: A Guest Post by an Aspiring Jockey

Frankie Lovato Jr. and me.

By Kayla Jarvinen

The life of a jockey isn’t all fame and fortune… No, not at all. Despite all of the risks that jockeys take on a day-to-day basis though, that’s what I want to do and am going to do. I’m going to be a jockey.

I remember watching the 08’ Triple Crown with Big Brown and all the drama that surrounded him. My family has never been involved with the racing industry but for as long as I can remember, every year we’ve watched the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont on TV -- and 2008 was no different… Except that was the year I fell in love with horse racing. It must have been right after the Preakness; I walked into the kitchen, told my mom I was going to be a jockey, and then settled down at the computer to do some research… And that was that. I don’t know what it was, but I’m hooked for life. Being a jockey is the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night.

It’s kind of amusing actually. I had, for some reason, never really noticed the guys perched precariously over the horses’ backs during the races. I guess I always knew they were there; I had just never given them much thought before. It kind of just came upon me suddenly… “Hey, those guys (called jockeys) ride horses for a living! I’d like to do that someday. Yes I think I will.”

At that point I didn’t realize what I was getting into. I didn’t know at the time that jockeys are the toughest athletes around (at least in my opinion), both physically and mentally. I didn’t know that it was a male-dominated sport and that only 10% of jockeys are female, and even fewer are successful. I didn’t realize, simply, the dedication that you have to possess to pursue a career as a professional jockey. All I knew was that it looked thrilling out there and I wanted to be a part of it!

That was just last year. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about horse racing and jockeys; I now have some pretty amazing people helping me achieve my goals and dreams; and this last August I attended a Jockey Camp put on by retired jockey, Eclipse Award winning apprentice, and creator of the Equicizer, Frank Lovato Jr. I learned so much at Frankie’s camp, and I actually won a jockey saddle there, which I practice on every day. I know my journey’s just beginning, and I have such a long way to go and so much more to learn. I’m up for the challenge though. I work out regularly -- running, lifting small weights, push-ups, sit-ups, etc. Because when it comes time for my first race, I want to be ready. I hope that when I become a jockey, I can make it a little easier, open the door up a little wider, for others girls that are like me and want to have this sort of career.

I just want to say thank you real quick -- first to my parents. I know it has to be hard for you to let your “little girl” pursue a career in such a dangerous profession but you both support me anyway and without you guys I really don’t know how I’d ever make it. I also want to thank Frankie. When I first saw your jockey videos on YouTube last spring, I had no idea how much of an impact you’d have on me. I’m always amazed at how much you know and how much I’m learning from you… So thank you for your belief in me as well as taking the time to help me and answer my never-ending stream of questions.

My parents, my family, Frankie, and so many others inspire me to work my hardest and never give up. I know this is going to be a long road, but I want to be a jockey more than anything and I know that with the help of these wonderful people, I will get there.

About Kayla:
My name’s Kayla Jarvinen, and I’m 14 years old and a freshman in high school. I’m home schooled and working hard to graduate early. My current goal is to attend the North American Racing Academy -- a college in Lexington, Kentucky -- to further pursue a career as a jockey. Some day, I’d like to race on the New York and California racing circuits.


Anonymous said...

What a great article! I want to be a jockey too!
Best of luck, Kayla!

Anonymous said...

You go Girl!!!! best of luck

Anonymous said...

Luck to Kayla ! Mary, any news on the Pamplemousse? Has his recovery been progressing as planned - i.e. do we have a chance of seeing him run in 2010?

Anonymous said...

Hi Kayla! I understand completely that overwhelming drive that compels one to envision a dream and then to see it through to completion, no matter how much hard work is required or how many obstacles one encounters along the way. Despite the odds, I too was one of those young girls back in the mid 1970's. And yes, I worked my way up from Hot Walker, to groom, to pony girl, to breaking babies on the farms of Ocala, to exercise rider to Jockey! Through hard work, an indomitable spirit and perseverance, your dreams CAN be long as you don't get too big that is, as that is the one barrier to the profession that all must comply with. Blessings in your quest, Sandra J. Koster P.S. - I started at Santa Anita, then on to NY, then to FL where I was given my break, and then a zillion states thereafter.

Sally said...

Good Luck to you Kayla. Your essay was terrific to read and I hope I'll be watching you at Santa Anita in a few years.

Anonymous said...

awesome, well written essay!
I hope your dreams come true!

iRideHorses said...

You rock kayla!
where can i find out about frankie lovatos jockey camp?

Anonymous said...

What a great article Kayla. I am very proud of you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all of the compliments! It means a lot to me to hear all of the support I've gotten. That's another thing that inspires me and helps me keep going forward.

Sandra J. Koster - Wow, that is so cool! It is neat how you worked from the bottom up, and achieved your dreams and goals. That's very inspirational to me. Thank you for the good wishes as well!

iRideHorses - If you go to and click on "Jockey Workshop" you can find out more about it. Or go to the following link:

God Bless you all and I hope to see you at the track soon!

-Kayla Jarvinen

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, very inspirational, good luck kayla!

Anonymous said...

if anyone else has any comments or insight about frankie lovatos jockey workshop, i'd love to hear them...
great post kayla

Jessica said...

Great Article Kayla! I wish the BEST of luck to you and your dreams, always know that i will be with you every step of the way. Good Luck! =D <3

Your Best Friend, =)

Anonymous said...


Thank you...I appreciate it so much!

Your Friend (FOREVER),

ModGraphix said...

As i've told you many times your an inspiration to so many. Your commitment,heart and desire is the reason i know you will succeed in this adventure and whatever life has to offer you!!

Richard Macias said...

As well as her storng desisre to be a jockey, Kayla is also a very kind person with a big heart for her friends. I never realized she was only 14, in her bolgs she shounds so mature and her spelling is so much better than most of the adults :-). How proud her parents must be. Thanks Kayla, you are a true inspiration. I wish you all the success in life and if you ever make it to the Southern California Tracks I'll be there to root you on.

Blues Greene said...

It's very clear that you have the drive and the right attitude. Seems to me that you are going about achieving your dream the right way. Most people I know in the horse business worked their way up learning from those that came before them. When a person's passion for something is matched by someone with that same passion, it's magical. As you know, lots of folks around the race track are hard working and friendly. They care about each other, as a family. I wish you great opportunity and success as you continue to learn your craft. Stay with the writing too, the sport always needs new voices and the backside is filled with dozens of wonderful stories!

Candi Pfaff said...

Kayla, I'm so glad I found this blogspot. I've seen the comments between you and Jess Anderson on fb and wondered who you were... I live two houses from Jess' grandma and think the world of Jess, her parents and grandparents. May you always reach for the stars (or the reins as the case may be)and best of luck reaching your goals, whatever they are!

Anonymous said...

Wow, It is nice to see a young lady,have a dream, and do something with it. When I was a young girl, I rode saddlebreds at a riding stable. When I graduated from high school in Ohio, I went to Ohio State University and graduated with a medical degree. But, I knew my heart was riding horses. I quit OB/GYN, and started taking carew of yearlings at Darby Dan Farms. I weighted around 101 pounds. Everyone at the farm wanted to ride. Some had been waiting 3 years. But, my baby horses,needed a light person, and patience, so I was there first rider. Later on, one of my baby horses won the Breeders Cup. His name was Proud Truth.
He is on U-Tube.
In the 80's I started riding as a jockey, and ended up out here in California. Santa Anita Race Track. I worked and rode for Richard Mandella,D. Wayne Lucas,Neil Drysdale,Bob Hess,Jr. and many more.
Just the other day,,I saw some Santa Anita images,on u-tube. There I am next to D.Wayne Lucas. On a horse. Those photos were taken in the late 80's. I have a lavender colored helmet cover on.
My oldest daughter is now 21. She wants to be in the recording industry. I'am retired,and I do miss riding.
So for me, and all of us females, don't let the male dominent sport,keep you back, just keep your wits about you, don't let fast talking good looking guys, interrupt your goal. Take a lot of vitamins, it will help you keep your bones and muscles strong.
Good-Luck, and you go girl. I'll be watching you, and Thanks for the great article. Jockey Jane.
Email me, and tell me how you are coming along!!

Anonymous said...

Every teenage girl is horse crazy and some are crazy enough to dream of becoming a jockey. I was, at 13, There is an excellent book called The Lady is a Jock. If you can find it,it will show you how even the best female jockeys were not made happy even when that dream was realized.The book was written in the early 70's and opportunities for female jockeys have not improved. It is a male-dominated sport (business)right down to the horses and it always will be.Finish school,train for a "stable" career and someday you can afford to buy and keep a pleasure horse to ride on weekends and your day off.But don'tt take my advice. Go and see for yourself,get your heart broken and maybe a bone or two and then come to your senses before you are too old to have a family and a life.

Hailey @ Turning Winds said...

Goodluck Kayla, I pray that you'll succeed!
It's not easy to have focus on whatever goals you want to achieve but the support from your loved ones will surely give you that push you need. Other teenagers should get inspiration from you. They should think of the positive things they can do for their future rather than doing drugs, and getting involved with bad people who do nothing but hurt themselves and others. Go for it Kayla!

Kayla Jarvinen said...

Less than a month away from turning 17 now, I come back here every once in a while to read all of the comments that everyone so graciously took the time to leave about the little piece I wrote. Whether it's been a good day or not, it never fails to put a smile on my face and the support and sincerity with which they were written continues to inspire me today.

I'll be graduating this spring - a year early, as I planned - and I've come a ways since I wrote this; the journey's been nothing short of incredible so far and I can't imagine what it's yet to hold. But I also know I have an even longer way to go. I'm ready... and I'm still willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

Thank you everybody, and Merry Christmas!

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