Katie Cosgriff is a jockey that rides out at Portland Meadows and some of the other smaller tracks out on the West Coast. I emailed her off some questions to her and here is what she said and she has quite a story to tell:
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
KS: I was born in Livingston, Montana. I grew up on a cattle ranch in Big Timber, Montana and spent my last year of high school in Brush Prairie, Washington.
FOTH: What sort of kid were you growing up and did you come from a small or
KC: I was defiantly horse crazed from the get go. I played in the dirt with trucks, loved Breyer horses and my little ponies. I would cook and do house chores with my Grandma and spend the rest of my time outside working with my dad. I pretty much knew every move to shoeing a horse by 5. I would pound nails into boards while my dad was shoeing and he would take them back out, straighten them out and I would nail shoes onto boards all day, eat his granola bars, drink the ice tea and entertain his clients:) I have one brother and the family is pretty close. My parents are divorced so I have a large family when they are all combined!
FOTH: Did you have a love for horses at a young age of did that come later
KC: My mom rode horses while she was pregnant and I have been riding for as long as I can remember! My first horse was a little paint pony named Candy. While we were trailing cows I started at the back and within a few hours I was at the lead in front of the cows!
FOTH: What were your thoughts or feelings the 1st time you saw a live horse
KC: I couldn't believe how long you had to wait for such a short event! The suspense and post parade seemed to take hours, but the races were heart stopping. My aunt and uncle invited us to the horse races that day and their horse, Tajranee, won the Ms. Yellowstone coming from last to win the race! The win photo was packed with people and there was a neat royal blue win blanket. I still have this photo and there is no way I could have ever guessed I would end up riding as a real jockey!
FOTH: What event or events led to you becoming a jockey?
KC: While I was growing up on the ranch I was fascinated by horse racing. I still have scraps of paper from grade school where I would write the results down for the Kentucky Derby, Belmont and Preakness. Then, I would go into the field and shorten my English saddle irons or curl my legs up while riding bareback and pretend I was racing. Running the horses was not allowed on the ranch for safety reasons: gopher holes, barbed wire fences and the fact that I rode alone most of the time. The ranch horses were only allowed to run full speed after a cow and we traveled everywhere at an extended trot or fast walk. But, as kids will ... had to let them ponies run every now and then when I got out of site! Then, it would take a while to cool them out before heading back to the barn.
When I moved to Washington I graduated high school early and took college classes. This is where I learned to pony horses, groom and learned the racetrack way of working with horses. I declined an art scholarship to take a pre-vet scholarship from the Oregon Thoroughbred Breeders Assoc. and head back to Montana State University....
Well, I ended up becoming a professional snowboarder. I taught and competed half-pipe, boarder-cross, slalom and giant slalom. Hello injuries...so all and all I finished with an Animal Science degree and quit snowboarding due to an Achilles tendon injury that partially tore and never quit hurting.
What is a gal to do...house-sit for my aunt and uncle while they went to a horseshow in CA. I flew to Portland and spent about 2 weeks taking care of their racehorses...hooked for good! I moved back to Portland and that is how is really began! I went from owning racehorses to galloping to race riding! After watching my horses get beat because of a poor ride my boyfriend suggested that for the rides we were getting I should just ride them....
With the lack of a license I rode my first race at the
Crow Indian reservation south of Billings, MT. The adrenaline rush riding a
racehorse in a race was even greater than falling in an Alaska glacier crevasse.
All I wanted to do from then on was ride races!
FOTH: How long have you rode and how much longer do you think you will ride?
KC: I got my jockey license at the 2003-2004 Portland Meadows meet. I have rode off and on between injuries and school since. Once I started graduate college I have not been able to get to the races...34+ credits/quarter. My mom and I run horses and we would like to hit up the summer fairs again.
FOTH: What tracks have you rode at so far and are there many other female jockeys
where you ride?
KC: I started at the Crow Indian reservation, went to Portland Meadows, Oregon fairs, Pocatello, Arapahoe and Montana fairs. I make my way to Emerald Downs from Feb to June on the weekends while I am at school to gallop. The most female riders in one jocks room was 12 at Portland Meadows to the least at Great Falls where I was the only one.
FOTH: Have you had any injuries so far and if so what has been the worst one?
KC: Horse wise...at the age of 8 I broke my facial bones in a horse accident on the ranch and tore and ACL at 12 in horse wreck in the mountains. Snowboarding lead to 2 more torn ACL's, cracked ribs, partially torn Achilles tendon, concussions and torn up shoulder.
Horse racing I have been fortunate only have one major wreck that hurt my back so bad I couldn't sit, stand or lift anything for months. I did have some stitches above my eyebrow.
My most comical incident was at Union, Oregon. The horse
was Joy's Toy...she stumbled in the first turn and I ended up on her neck and
reached out to grab the horse to my right. I hung on to the necks of two horses
rounding the turn and the horse to the right began to drift out...Rowdy Luark
held the rein of his horse as I grasped onto the inside rein...I was so close
to getting back on my horse, but just couldn't hang on anymore. I landed on
my feet...only to smack facedown in the dirt. With the air completely knocked
out of me I listened to the race call and when they hit the homestretch the
body has an amazing ability to get off the track and crawl to the outside fence.
I bandaged up my nose where the goggles sat and rode the rest of the races.
Dr. Fitzpatrick was there to work out my hands that I was completely unable
to move in any direction. This was the first time I ever had a chiropractor
work on anything but my back.
FOTH: Looking back was becoming a jockey harder or easier than you thought
it would be and what was the hardest part do you think to getting your jockey
KC: Getting fit to ride races was a lot of work. The hardest part of getting a license was riding for the stewards! I came over on a 2 year old maiden that bucked like a banshee the last time I took him out of the gates...he broke like a million bucks and worked like a dream. My enthusiasm was crushed when they told me my horse was "too broke" and to come back on another one. So I got on an older mare that had raced all over, had a foal and was back in training. She broke like an old pro and I was approved for my temporary license.
FOTH: Tell me a bit about your 1st race?
KC: My first race was on a Quarter Horse at Crow. There are not stewards or enforced rules...they play rough and tough. The rodeo was going on in between races and being a huge minority in the stands Rod announced loudly...."how can they call them cowboys when they are Indians"...how we left in one piece I am not sure!
My first licensed race was on a horse named Storm Tempest.
It all happened so fast that I just remember the sand blasting in my face from
the wet, sloppy Portland Meadows track.
FOTH: Tell me about your first win and did the jockeys get you good after the
KC: My first win was on a maiden with 30+ starts and I had 30+ starts...Billy didn't give me much for instructions-just do the best you can:) The filly was known to not like the inside and had always been taken out and around. Without knowing this I came up along the inside fence to win the race! It was amazing to know that I was going to be the last one back and finally get to stand in the winners circle! The jockeys were really kind after the race and I didn't get it to bad...whew! None of my family made it to the races that day...they had supported me and waited many days as I crossed the wire 2nd, 3rd, etc. My mom was watching the race in Montana on her computer and she saw my first win as it happened.
FOTH: Do you think you have been treated pretty fair as a jockey so far?
KC: I have rode for some great owner and trainers that have all be great to me.
FOTH: Do you have any short term or long term goals for yourself?
KC: I will graduate from chiropractic college in June 2010, Dr. Katie Cosgriff. Many long years of school: Bachelor + 4 more. I would like to specialize in conditioning and rehabilitating athletes. Eventually I would like to have a farrier school where I can focus on spinal care, conditioning, nutrition and setting up farriers for a long term successful career. I have been focusing on the injuries and balance of jockeys. I would love to travel and work on jockeys.
FOTH: Do you do anything else horse related besides being a jockey?
KC: Of course...I airbrush graphics on autos, snowmobiles, motorcycles, hot walkers and barns. I draw portraits in chalk and pencil. I have a selection of custom Christmas cards that are racehorse related.
I am the fourth generation farrier in my family. I have been shoeing horses for almost 13 years. I have shod show horses, jumping horses, carriage horses, ranch horses, rodeo horses and race horses.
I have had show horses, ranch horses and I am currently
training in combined driving with my retired racehorses.
FOTH: What are some things you like to do when you are away from the track?
KC: Running, hiking, swimming, dog agility with my Chihuahua, fishing, wakeboarding, snowboarding, watching movies, cooking, camping...Tobi-the best agility Chihuahua ever!
FOTH: Take me through what you do in a typical day?
6:30 take dogs out
7:30 clinic or class to 5:30 or 6:45- check www.drf.com in-between patients
7:00 gym, dinner, bed: dream of getting my life back after school and riding horses again
Dog trials, gallop horses at Portland Meadows/Emerald Downs, shoe horses or study
I was riding races the day before I started grad. School
and life has never been the same since. I pretty much eat, sleep and live at
school. I can gallop on the worst rainy, sloppy and cold days with a big smile
on my face. I get on a lot of the weekend haul in horses since I am a weekend
FOTH: What is the hardest part of being a jockey?
KC: Choosing which horse to ride when there are multiple calls.
FOTH: Do you learn something new everytime you ride?
KC: I learn something new everyday on and off the track.
FOTH: Were you self taught or did somebody help teach you how to ride?
KC: My mom and dad taught me how to ride horses and I went to many English clinics. HR and Rod Gibson taught me everything about race riding and coached me along the way. Rod passed before he could see me win my first race...it was a bitter sweet win. I was so happy to win and so sad that Rod was not in the win photo after all of the hours he spent coaching me and walking on the Stairmaster beside mine.
FOTH: If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be a jockey, what
advice would you give her?
KC: Work hard, stay in school and manage your money. Take time to heal and get insurance for time lost due to injury!
FOTH: Have you been recognized outside the racetrack yet?
KC: Yup...art, snowboarding, dog agility, horse showing, school, shoeing.
Rookie of the Year snowboarding 1996
USSA Competition Portland Maine to Mammoth California
Student teacher for the MSU horseshoeing school
Resident of the Semester at MSU
FOTH: Have you ever brought in a 99-1 shot?
KC: Long shots all the time, 99-1 I don't recall.
FOTH: Do you think you will stay involved in the horse racing industry after
KC: In your blood...always in your blood!
FOTH: Any track you would like to ride at one day?
KC: Los Alamitos on a Quarter Horse raised by the family ranch. My family has always raised speed horses and purchased race horses for the breedingstock for our ranch horses.
FOTH: Would you ever be on a show like "Jockeys" and what do you
think of the show?
KC: I have only seen it twice-no cable TV and I don't know if I am the kind of person to be on the show. I pretty much avoid conflict, drama and keep quite. Usually when I do get fired up people hit he brakes and look at me with the: I can't believe you just said that expression.
FOTH: Any last words and thumbs up for the interview?
KC: Oh I could go on, but in the time it has taken to type this I have gotten behind in paper work for my patient's.
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