Keri Brion is a young girl
that has ridden in a couple amateur and pony races and I thought it would be
fun to interview her and let her tell her story so here it is:
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
KB: I was born in Lancaster, PA and grew up in southern Lancaster County which is known for the large population of Amish.
FOTH: Did you always have a love for the horses?
KB: Always- which is very weird since no one else in my family shared the same love. Ever since I could walk I wanted to ride a horse, and when my mom started me with riding lessons when I was 5 I was hooked. When I was 10 I started working on the ground for Ronnie and Betsy Houghton who run Sylmar Farm, Inc- the farm was right down the road from me and I worked there for 8 years before moving onto Jonathan Sheppard's stable. I started galloping for Ronnie and Betsy when I was 13 and fell in love with horse racing right around that time as well.
FOTH: Take me through what you do in a typical day?
KB: I wake up around 7:00am; we don't start riding at Jonathan Sheppard's farm until 8:00 so it is nice to sleep in a little bit. When arriving to work, I ride anywhere from 5-13 horses a morning and they all do a variety of workouts. Some go to the track, others gallop in the fields, some breeze, and others school the hurdles. Every day is an exciting day. We finish riding anywhere between 1-3 PM and then sometimes I will go ride a horse or two for someone else in the area who needs a horse breezed or company for another horse, but my job at Sheppard’s takes up a good portion of the day.
FOTH: I know you rode in an amateur race. Where was that at and what was it like to ride in a race?
KB: I had ridden many pony races and junior races at the point to points but the amateur race at Marlborough Hunt Races in Davidsonville, MD was my first adult race and my first amateur race. It was 2 miles and I was on a filly for Bruce Miller named Lonesome Nun. She is owned my Blythe Miller Davies and wasn't expected to doe very much in the race- as she was up against the boys. We ended up finishing 2nd and the filly has gone on to have a successful hurdle season this spring. It was an awesome experience but man I was tired after the 2 miles!
FOTH: How did you end up getting to ride in such a race and how did you prepare for it and would you like to do it again?
KB: After starting at Jonathan Sheppard’s' in the fall I began meeting new people that are more involved in the NSA, whereas Sylmar Farm was strictly a flat racing operation. I had talked to Bruce Miller a few times and he wanted to give me an opportunity so asked a week in advance if I wanted to ride his filly at Marlborough. I had been galloping full time but I realized I could never truly prepare for that- I wasn't very fit as far as race riding goes at that point in time which showed after how tired I was after the race! I have ridden in a few more flat races since then and am hoping to finish the spring season at Fair Hill riding in a sanctioned NSA race.
FOTH: Have you ridden in any other kind of races?
KB: I have done many pony and junior races growing up, but the adult flat races have started this season. I also hope to ride in the amateur races held at the different flat tracks and maybe in a year or two try my hand at riding over hurdles.
FOTH: For people who don’t know, what exactly do you do in the morning when you are breezing horses for trainers?
KB: Well at Jonathan Sheppard's farm it is VERY different then at most places. We have a small 5/8ths of a mile wood chip training track that we breeze the horses on sometimes, but once the ground is good we go out into a field called the 100- acre field. There is a huge, up and down hill figure 8 configuration that we do out in that field while breezing. We do one figure 8 to warm up just galloping and then pick our speed up going up the hill, we turn right at the top and get rolling down the sand strip and down the hill before having to make almost a 65 degree right turn at the bottom at a quick pace. Once we make it through the turn we let them really work up the center of the field. Like I said, it is very different at Sheppard’s!
FOTH: Do you hope to become a jockey one day?
KB: Possibly an NSA jockey, not too sure though. I definitely want to stay in the horse racing business one way or another.
FOTH: What do you do for fun when you are not doing horse related stuff?
KB: I was big into track & field in high school and loved pole vaulting. Whenever given the opportunity I love to pole vault for fun. I also love to run-mainly; I just like to stay active.
FOTH: Have you gone to many racetracks and seen live horse racing and if you have which ones?
KB: Oh yes, plenty. I would take horses over to the paddock before races for Sylmar Farm, Inc for years. I've been to Philadelphia Park, Penn National, Delaware Park, Laurel Park, Pimlico, Timonium, Aqueduct- and probably more I am forgetting.
FOTH: Are you friends with or have you met any female riders?
KB: I work alongside NSA jockey Danielle Hodsdon. Melanie Williams who also rides in races for Jonathan Sheppard is one of my best friends. As far as the flat track jockeys go, I have met Rosie Napravnik many times and am actually riding in a race for her sister, Jazz, this coming Sunday at Potomic.
FOTH: Who is your favorite male and female jockey and why?
KB: Male would have to be Julien Leparoux- he is a very nice guy and rides his heart out on every horse. I also may be biased a bit since he rides Informed Decision, Forever Together, etc. Female would have to be Rosie Napravnik-she also is very nice and she remembers every horse she ever rides in races. She can pick them out in the mornings while they are exercising, and to me, that is very impressive and shows passion for her job.
FOTH: Do you always think you will be involved with horses in some way shape or form?
KB: Without a doubt I always will be.
FOTH: Have you ever gotten any injuries yet and is that something that you think about in the back of your mind?
KB: Once I got bucked off on a road and got my teeth knocked around in my mouth when I had braces and had to get them put back in place and pulled out of my gums and somehow none of them lost nerve connection and are fine now. Other than that, no, no broken bones or anything from horses (knock on wood), but it is definitely always in the back of mind- it doesn't scare me, but I know my time will come sooner or later.
FOTH: Did anybody help teach you how to ride and are you a fast learner?
KB: I took riding lessons when I was 5 and learned the basics pretty quickly. When I was 13 I was taught by exercise riders working for Sylmar Farm at the time how to gallop a racehorse. It didn't take me long at all to figure out how to use my weight to hold horses and before long I had my own style of riding.
FOTH: Does it feel natural for you getting up on a horse?
KB: Yes, very. Sometimes when a horse goes to bucking with me I am thankful for that- if it wasn't natural there is no way I'd stay on some of the crazy Thoroughbreds I get on! And sometimes that's not even enough, ha ha. I'm sure all of us must feel that way!
FOTH: Would you ever want to train any horses one day?
KB: I wouldn't be against it, the more I learn about the technicalities of horse racing the more I could see myself training a few one day.
FOTH: Are there lots of horse farms where you live and where do you mostly breeze horses at?
KB: Growing up there were tons of Amish farms everywhere but like I said earlier Sylmar Farm's 300+ acres was right down the road from me. Now I live in Unionville, closer to Jonathan Sheppard’s, and there are horse farms EVERYWHERE. Like I also said earlier, we breeze them on our wood chip track or out in the 100 acre field.
FOTH: Where do you see yourself in say 3 to 5 years?
KB: It's hard to say- hopefully with a degree (I am currently taking courses at West Chester University in the evenings) but I will still be with the racehorses. I would like to say I am riding in more races and may have turned into a pro NSA jockey by that time- but hey, time will tell.
FOTH: Keri I am out of questions. Thumbs up for the interview. Any last words the floor is yours?
KS: I love your site and I think it is an awesome idea- the ladies deserve the credit you give us!! Thanks again.
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