Vanessa Romberg is a jockey that is currently riding down in Mexico and she also will be heading down to Brazil in May to do an international female jockey challenge and here is her story:
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up? Did you come from a big or small family?
VH: I was born in a little town at 15 min from Bordeaux, South West of France. I have been living there with my parents and my two sisters until the age of 23. I am very attached to my roots from my mother, which are Celtic from Britannia, with big family.
FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up and what did you want to be when you were growing up?
VH: I was a very good student. I loved sports and animals. My passion for horses began when I was 3 years old and has been growing through the years. As a teenager, I had photos of horses and race horses all over my bedroom walls instead of singers or actors’ photos teens usually prefer.
FOTH: When did you see your 1st live horse race and what did you think of it?
VH: The first time I remember being close to a race horse, I was 3 years old and my uncle put me on the horse back to take a picture. I was so happy. I didn’t want to get off. I love this picture.
FOTH: So now at what point did horse or horse racing start to enter your life? What was the 1st job you had on a race track and early on did you know you wanted to be a jockey or did that come later on?
VH: Being a jockey has been my dream since I was 6 years old. My uncle owned racehorses and I was fascinated every time I was visiting him. Nevertheless my parents didn’t let me even try to ride racehorses as they were very scared. I was a good student and eventually ended with a French MBA, due to family pressure. I started to work in Investment Banking, with my first job in Santiago, Chile. On the personal side, I got married and had 2 children, 2 fabulous boys (of 11 and 12 years old now). I moved to Mexico for work reasons 10 years ago. Nevertheless, after my divorce and the death of my father, I realized I wasn’t happy with my life and I needed a change. It was clear to me: I always wanted to be a jockey. I first though it was impossible but then I decided to try. I was 39 years old.
After 6 weeks, I was starting at the Racetrack of Mexico under the supervision of a trainer, first on a pony, getting back in shape. I was working at the racetrack from 5.45am to 8.00am and in finance the rest of the day but after 3 months I had to make a decision. I quitted my job to focus only on becoming a jockey. I had to change all my life, live with my savings. My boys have been very supportive in this adventure.
FOTH: Now the 1st few months you were working on the track. What track was it and was it very exciting and fun for you?
VH: You cannot imagine the profound happiness I felt when I was for the first time on a horse, entering the racetrack of Mexico City. The sun was rising. A little breeze, no noise from the city, just the birds and the breathing of the horse; my sight on this beautiful racetrack… The feeling was amazing. I was feeling the huge emotion of this little girl I was once and that eventually reached this unbelievable dream. When sometimes I am feeling exhausted or I get a bit stressed, I get back to that feeling and I take time to be grateful for what I am experiencing. I think about what would have said the little girl I was…. I am feeling so lucky.
FOTH: Now when did you start to exercise horses and how long did you end up doing that before you became a jockey?
VH: My background and journey are quite unusual.
On June 12th, 2015, I won my first race with Good Danzing at the age of 41 years old.
I started at the Racetrack of Mexico City at the age of 39, learning from zero, starting on a pony and then little by little learning on a racehorse.
FOTH: Did you have anybody teach you how to ride and looking back was becoming a jockey harder or easier than you thought it was going to be and what was the toughest thing?
VH: It hasn’t been easy but as it is a passion, I enjoyed it very much. It is an ongoing learning process that never ends. That is great, you never get bored.
Exercising horses during morning in Mexico City, at height of 2300m is quite challenging for several reasons. First, you have to maintain the horse at a slower path than at sea level; second, the height affects a lot (I am asthmatic so this part is not easy for me) and to worsen the oxygen problem you have to deal with a lot of air pollution.
Nevertheless, the toughest part has been to gain condition and muscles (after 15 years working in an office) controlling my weight and not having muscle injuries. (Weight in Mexico is 110 lbs. /50kgs)
I would like to thanks the people who helped me to learn, the trainers that gave me the chance to ride their horses, the jockeys that gave me recommendations and in particular my Husband, a great jockey, Giorgio Moreno, for his great support.
FOTH: What was it like having your actual jockey license in your hand?
VH: You cannot imagine the excitement and happiness when I had my license. I couldn’t believe it. Then I started to be very nervous as I was riding 5 days later. Two days before my first race, I went to the gate during morning and I was so nervous that I fall down at the start.
FOTH: Tell me about your 1st race. What track was it at and where did you finish in the race? Tell me about your 1st win. What track was that at and did you win by a lot or in a photo? What was it like jogging the horse back to the winner’s circle and getting your picture taken?
VH: On June 12th, 2015, at the Mexican Racetrack, I won my first race with Good Danzing at the age of 41 years old. Female against males.
It was the first time I was riding that mare. I had been told that she was quite difficult in the gate. I was a bit preoccupied about that part, but she behaved so well. She jumped first out the gate. We took the lead until the finish line.
I went to the winner circle for the photo and jumped down to go directly to celebrate with my two boys. I was so happy to give them this image that whatever you want in life, you can accomplish it with hard work and dedication. It was so important to me to give them this victory after all the support and sacrifices it meant for them too.
FOTH: Did the jockeys get you good after the race and did you know that it was coming?
VH: I was so amazed by this first race and victory that I lost my way back to the Jockey´s room. Eventually when I got back, my colleagues and my husband were waiting for me with water buckets as it is the tradition.
FOTH: Now are there many racetracks down around where you are from? Is it year round racing or do you have to go to different tracks?
VH: In Mexico, we have only one racetrack. But I had the opportunity to ride in Panama for a week end. It has been a great experience. Different track, climate, horses, strategy etc… I learned a lot.
FOTH: Do you feel you have a certain riding style? Do you feel you have been treated pretty fairly as a jockey so far in your career?
VH: I definitely have my own style with a Mexican base. I have a lot of things I want to improve and I love to watch many races from the best racetracks in the world. I try to analyze strategies and techniques in order to implement them. But it takes time between the moment you try to implement or correct some details and the moment you really have the style you want.
I would love to ride more as it will help me to improve faster. Nevertheless, my gender does not help me in that career. But this is not the first challenge I have to face. I will pursue my goals with determination.
FOTH: Now how long have you been riding for and how much longer do you plan on riding for?
VH: I plan to ride as long as my body will allow it. This is really something I fought for, I am just beginning and I will follow my dream as long as God allows me.
FOTH: If some girl came up to you and said she wanted to become a jockey, what would you say to her?
VH: Go for it!!!! And count on me to help you if I can and encourage you.
FOTH: What are some things you like to do when you are not riding and what do you do for fun?
VH: I love to practice many sports (ski, waterski, tennis, rafting). Outside racing related activities and sports, I love to spend time with my two boys. I love to travel and discover new cultures and people, read novels, see movies, take pictures (I have a diploma of photographer) or cook for my family and friends.
FOTH: Are there many other female riders down where you race at?
VH: At the Mexican Racetrack, Hipodromo de las Americas, there are two other female jockeys. Jazmin Larios and Elizabeth Garrido. I have a lot of admiration for these two young Mexican ladies, because they are very determined and hard worker but also kind and supportive persons.
FOTH: Would ever like to come to the US to ride one day? What do you think of US racing in general?
VH: It is a dream for me to ride one day in the US, as it is one of the big countries of races. It would be a dream come true.
FOTH: Take me through what you do on a typical race day.
VH: One a typical race day, during early morning I go to work horses, then I get back home, take a light breakfast, prepare my bag and get ready. At the beginning of the afternoon, I go to the Jockey’s room and report weight. (It is mandatory in Mexico to arrive at the jockey’s room 1hour before the first race.) I usually see races around the world with colleagues, get prepared, and check my weight before my races. At the end of the day, I finally eat a normal meal with my family.
FOTH: If you had the power, what are some things you would try and change about horse racing to make it more popular?
VH: I would maybe try to promote the racetrack as a family entertainment place for the week-end, by organizing more family activities in order to attract the whole family and that kids could entertain themselves while parents can have a great time. (Riding pony for kids, video race game contests for teens, Paintings for kids, picnics, mini golf, etc.).
I would maybe try to help people to understand and know better the horses and the staff/people working in the industry, in order to make them feel more related (through TV programs, article, etc.).
Also I will maybe promote multi-micro-ownership through “funds” of several horses as this kind of structure allows people to be an owner and feel the passion of races without the heavy costs.
FOTH: Have you ever had any problems or your weight? Have you ever suffered any injuries and if so how bad?
VH: I do not have big problems of weight but I do have to keep a strict diet. Usually, I do eat very light the day I compete. I did suffer an injury one year ago. I had 30 stiches on my inferior lip and lost one teeth. But 6 days after the accident, I was back on the track.
FOTH: Vanessa I am out of questions. Thumbs up for doing this interview and any last words to wrap this up?
VH: Thank you very much for this interview.
Back to our main page