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Dannielle Hodsdon-Steeple Chase Jockey from South Carolina

photo Tod Marks
It is a shame that horse racing in general does not get the recognition that it does in other parts of the world, but especially steeplechase racing. In England, Ireland, New Zealand, Japan, etc., it gets a great deal more publicity and is more highly attended and popular with the general public. It was once the "Sport of Kings" and is no longer seen that way in the U.S. Today it is all about betting and not about the sport. Steeplechase racing suffers even more than flat racing due to this because bettors find it more difficult to make their bets on the jumpers. It is frustrating that the history and prestige of the sport is lost to the general public
4, Did people think it was strange when you wanted to become a jockey?
It was not something I grew up planning to do. I did not even know what steeplechase racing was as a kid. When I began riding race horses, it was just for fun and a paycheck while I was in college. As my knowledge about the sport grew, I began to realize I was much more passionate about racing than I was athletic training and sports medicine. I never said to my parents or my friends; "I think I am going to set my degree aside pursue jump racing." I did know growing up, though, that my life would always involve horses and I have always been very competitive. I also know that my degree in athletic training and sports medicine background is a natural in any sport and something that I will always have with me and can pursue at any point in my life in the future. Right now, my passion is horse racing.
5, Do you study the men’s form to help yourself?
I do not specifically study men's form, but I do study flat jockey's forms. Most of them happen to be male, but there are a couple excellent female flat jockey's as well. The flat jockey's have a much tidier, polished look when they ride the finishing part of the race.
6, How do the public and the media treat you, because you are playing in a male dominated sport?
The public, specifically the betting public may occasionally see a female rider as being inferior. It is not something that I have found to be a problem or an issue within my career. The media generally finds it an interesting angle to use as we are a minority. I spend at least 5 months of the year training at Springdale Racecourse in Camden, South Carolina with Hall of Fame trainer, Jonathan Sheppard. The Carolina Cup race, held in the spring, is the largest race on the steeplechase circuit and receives a lot of publicity. The media is always looking for the human, personal side of racing and a story about a girl jockey is one that "makes it real" for their audiences.
Danielle Hodsdon is currently the leading jockey and only professional female competing against 25 - 30 male jockeys in the National Steeplechase Association racing circuit, competing for the title of Jockey of the Year. She is based in Camden, South Carolina riding for Hall of Fame trainer, Jonathan Sheppard. Daneille has graciously given her time to our local and southeastern television stations and newspapers for publicity about the sport of horse racing.

1, How do your earnings differ from the men in your sport?
They are the same as the men. We are all paid on a per ride basis. A set percentage of the horses' earnings or a flat fee in the case of no purse earnings.
2, How do you get treated by your male counterparts?
I am treated very well by the males I ride with and for the most part with respect and as an equal.
3, Does it bring new challenges being female in your sport?
I am faced by some challenges that are different from what most of the men face by being female mostly due to strength. They are naturally stronger; therefore, I have to find other ways to put myself on equal terms. I have to find the best way to be a partner with my horse and occasionally use more finesse in order to get results, where they may be able to use natural strength. On the other hand, not all horses like to be bullied or told what to do and these horses will sometimes respond better to a female and a more gentle or persuasive touch. Some horses require a very strong rider and they are better off being ridden by a man. One of the challenges of both jockey and trainer is to try and put the best suited horse and rider together.

photo Tod Marks

7, Do the male jockeys support you, in any way i.e. advice, train with you?
Yes, especially when I was beginning, they were very helpful in advising and helping me. Most of the older journeyman jockey's will help you and teach anyone willing to seek it. We are a small sport and everyone knows one another quite well. I have rarely, if ever, been treated inferiorly by another jockey based upon being a female.

11, Like most other Sports women, do you have to have another job outside of the sport to earn a living?
No, I currently earn a weekly salary from Hall of Fame Trainer, Jonathan Sheppard. He is who I primarily work for and I am paid separately for any additional races I ride.

12, If you could give any encouraging advice to girls about becoming a jockey professionally, what would it be?
Do not be intimidated by the sport being primarily male - it just happens to be that way. Most people within the industry treat a woman with just as much respect as a man, provided her skills back her up. Former female steeplechase jockey, Blythe Miller, is ranked 7th all time in the U.S. steeplechasing, based on wins and is the all time leading money earner. In most cases, we are not the minority because they are trying to keep us out, but because there are less of us trying to get in! It can be a tough sport, we do fall, we do break bones, but we can be just as successful at it as the men. It is the same with any sport, you just have to work hard and be passionate. If you want to do it, do it and do not feel intimidated just because we are outnumbered.

It takes great skill and discipline to be a jockey and a lot of determination to win against "the guys". Danielle has it all along with a true love of the sport. She would be an inspiration to women of any sport.

8, Like most female athletes, do you have other careers on top of the jockey commitment
At this time I do not have another career. I have a bachelor's degree and keep my Athletic Training certification current even though I am not currently using it.

9, Are you sponsored individually?
No. Most jockeys would be interested in discussing endorsements, but I do not, personally have a sponsor. The race meets, however, do have sponsors which benefits us indirectly in that part of those funds go toward purse money.

10, What do you feel would help with the promotion of women in this sport?
Greater publicity of the sport in general would help to promote more women in steeplechasing. More female equine athletes need to know that this is an option for them. I grew up competing with horses, but had never seen a steeplechase race. A large percentage of our jockeys are foreign, because jump racing is so much more prevalent and popular in Europe and other places.

photo Tom Didato
Thanks to Danielle, Tod Marks Tom Didato and Pam Mosier

Steeple chase standings South Carolina.
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