Inez Karlsson is a young jockey currently riding out in the Mid West and has been doing quite well for herself out there. I emailed her some questions for an interview and below is what she said to the questions that I posed to her.
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
IK: I was born 1983 in Gothenburg, Sweden. I grew up in a small community called Bollebygd probably 45 min from Gothenburg.
FOTH: Did you have an interest in horses at a young age or did that come later
on in your life?
IK: Mom took me to riding school when I was six and it became next to all other sports I practiced my biggest passion. I was pretty much in the barn every day from the time I was ten.
FOTH: What were your thoughts the 1st time you saw a live horse race and if
you can remember were was it?
IK: It was in Canada in October 2005 at Woodbine. I thought it looked really cool and when the jocks came back I realized they were my size. I didn't think it looked that hard so I told myself after the races that I wanted to become a jockey.
FOTH: I know you are from Sweden. Are there any racetracks over in Sweden and
if so, is it a place where being a jockey at you could make a decent living?
IK: There are three major ones, Taby Gallop, Jagersro and Goteborgs Galopp. It's not a place a want to be a professional jockey. The opportunities are so much bigger here in the US. The Swedish jockeys pretty much has to travel all over the country to ride and even go to Denmark or Norway. It's just way too much work for not as much money plus that they have contracts instead of agents and they have to gallop horses in the morning too. I did ride a couple of races in Jan when I was there and it was a lot of fun but it's nothing I would do to100%,
FOTH: I heard that you boxed before becoming a jockey. How long did you do
that for and did you box in any actual boxing matches?
IK: I boxed for 4 years in Sweden went 20 fights and I win 14 and was ranked #2 in the lightweight division. I was 3rd in the Swedish championship in 2005 the same year I left for Canada. In Canada I trained for 6 months but after moving to NY I didn't have time and I stopped.
FOTH: In your opinion, what is harder, boxing or being a jockey and why?
IK: It's just as hard. The training hours a boxer puts in is at least 2 hours a day. I used to jog in the morning and train at the club for 1 1/2 hour a day, six days a week. For a while I fought every weekend. It's a sport where you have to diet and keep your weight low. Mentally it's really tough. I used to be scared to death every time I jumped into the ring. You have to have a really fast reaction and be able to read the other boxer in a fight without thinking.
The only difference between boxing and race riding is that you don't ask to get hurt. You going to go down and get hurt riding races it's just a matter of time but you don't know when it's going to happen.
FOTH: How did you become involved in the sport of horse racing and what was
your 1st job on the track.
IK: When I came to Canada in 05 I worked with standardbreds. The job didn't work out and I got fired after three weeks. I met a couple that had thoroughbreds on a farm and I start helping around in the barn and with the exercise of the horses. In the fall all the horses where moving to Woodbine and the ones I worked for had contacts so I got my first exercise riding job there. It was for Stronach Stables and in the beginning I got to do everything from walking to grooming and of course riding. I stayed with them for a year before moving on.
FOTH: At what point in your life did you know you wanted to become a jockey
and did you have anybody help teach you how to ride or did you do a lot of it
on your own or was it a combination of both?
IK: I was very fortunate to work for good outfits like Stronach to learn how to ride on horses bred by awesome again and such was really good. They were well broke and well behaved. The trainer Justin J. Nixon also helped me out. He let me work horses and tried to put me in spots so I could move forward with my desire to become a jockey. After I left him I worked for Dickey Small who started a lot of girl riders off (Anna Napravnik). I didn't start riding in Maryland. I ended up in Kentucky where I met Randy Romero SR. He knew I wanted to become a jockey and he help me out. He was the man who got me up to Chicago and he helped me when I was starting off. I'm pretty much self taught I realized I wasn't strong enough to hold a racehorse and I had to find other ways to make them do what I wanted them to. Finesse them, getting along with them or getting them relaxed to make them do what I wanted them to do.
FOTH: Tell me what you remember about your 1st race and what track was it at?
IK: Chris Block had a maiden that couldn't win. He had the talent but he was one of those horses that runs off and stops. He didn't finish his races. I got to work him in the morning and it was a horse that I got along perfect with. I could work him slow and relaxed and he didn't try to run off with me. So he put me on in a msw the 12th of Sept 2007 at Arlington Park 9th and last race of the day. I used to sing for that horse in the morning and he loved it and that's what I did in the afternoon too. He broke out of the gate from the 1 post. He was going for the lead up the inside but when another horse wanted the lead I took back, sitting behind him in the far turn. At the 1/4 pole I angled him out and he was gone and I win by 8 3/4 lengths. Zoe Cadman came up to me after the race and interviewed me and she asked-how does it feel? I couldn't say anything and I couldn't sleep for three days after.
FOTH: Did the jockeys get you good after the race?
IK: The thing was that the kitchen was already closed but I got shaving cream all over me. Vaseline in my hair and a lot of cold water.
FOTH: What tracks have you rode at so far and is there any tracks that you
would like to ride at one day?
IK: I've been riding races at Arlington Park, Hawthorne, Laurel, Indiana Downs, Gulfstream, Fairmont Park, Prairie Meadows, Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs and Penn National. I would like to ride some of the bigger tracks like Keeneland or Belmont before I'm done riding.
FOTH: Take me through what you do in a typical day.
IK: I work horses in the morning, read the form, have a nap, ride races all day, go home, cook and go to bed. Sometimes if I'm not too tired I go out for a jog or my boyfriend is coming over. When we don't have a break lol.
FOTH: Looking back, was becoming a jockey harder or easier than you thought
IK: It was harder than I thought. I faced a lot of people that told me I was never going to make it. That I should go home and get married or that I was too pretty to be a jockey. The hardest part was to get a chance it was really slow starting off and it took a long time for me to get going. I had to work twice as hard it felt like to get a chance than for someone else. When it finally picked up it picked up a lot.
A lot of thanks to Frank Kirby, Jimmy Divito and Roger Bruggemann. Today there is no problem. I'm well established and I can trust the people I work for there are like family.
FOTH: If a young person say like 13 or 14 came up to you and said they wanted
to become a jockey like yourself, what advice would you give them?
IK: I probably would tell her to wait ten years and then see if they still want to do it. When you're 13-14 you don't know what you want in life. If she truly wanted to do it I would tell her not to bullshit around. There are way to many female jockeys that are not serious and they end up on bad horses at some little track and get hurt. You want to be a jockey you have to act like one. You have to eat and shit it. It's a mans game and you have to play by their rules. I would tell them to work their butt off. There are no easy ways to success. You get most respect when you earned something. And don't look like a woman on a horse. Don't have your hair outside the helmet! I hate that!
FOTH: I have never been to Hawthorne or Arlington Park. Describe to me what
both tracks are like in your opinion?
IK: Arlington is the most gorgeous track I've ever been too. Even better than Keeneland it's a really upscale track with a lot of events around the racing. Arlington Million day is crazy. Over 30,000 people in the stands. The crowd is usually enormous.
Hawthorne is Arlington's opposite it's a really old track and Chicago winters are miserable. I love the place because everyone acting like family over there.
FOTH: How long would you like to ride for or are you just kinda taking things
day by day and waiting to see what happens?
IK: I don't want to have kids later then 30 if I want kids at all. If I do I probably get kids and come back riding. As long as I feel I can improve myself and got more to accomplish I'm going to keep riding. It also depends if I get to stay healthy.
FOTH: Do you miss Sweden at all and has your family from over there ever had
a chance to come to the US to see you ride?
IK: I do miss Sweden but I got no life over there. My family comes over regularly and I go home once a year.
FOTH: What injuries have you had so far and what has been the worst one so
IK: Broken ribs, broken toe, broken thumb, contusion in my pelvis after getting run over, separated shoulder after the spill I took a month ago, concussions. The worst one was probably when I went down a month ago. My horse broke both front legs inside the 1/8 pole and I flew over her head, landed on my shoulder and got run over by another horse. I was so sore I couldn't get out of bed for a week and I was off riding for two.
FOTH: What are some things you like to do when your away from the racetrack?
IK: I like to be a normal person and don't have to think about horses. I love painting and I like to take care of my body, workout, etc.
FOTH: Does riding in the cold weather bother you at all?
IK: I like cold weather better than hot summer days of course it's really hard when it's subzero, but you get used to it. The only thing is that it's harder to keep your weight low.
FOTH: Have you ever been recognized outside the racetrack by a horse racing
fan or somebody that may have saw your picture in a newspaper?
IK: Sometimes I do and that's always fun.
FOTH: How do you prepare for a race. Do you look over the form/program or do
you pretty much leave it up to the trainer to tell you what he/she wants you
IK: I always read the program and watch race replays if I trainer tells me to do something I always do it. If you get beat you got beat on his/hers instructions.
FOTH: Do you have a favorite horse that you have ridden so far?
IK: The horse I win my first race on, "Death Valley." I win 6 or 7 races with him so far.
FOTH: Inez best of luck with everything and thumbs up for being part of my
website. Any last words towrap this up and I thank you for your time.
IK: Thank you no problem.
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