I have known Jennifer Schmitt for a number of years and it has been awhile since I last interviewed her so I thought it was time to do a new updated interview and I emailed her some questions and below is what she said to my questions:
FOTH: So in a nutshell what have you bee up to since you left Philadelphia
Park a few yrs back?
JS: Hey Chris...I have been riding mostly in Oklahoma since the last interview. I have been a lot of places since Phila Park, but it's all still pretty much riding and making a living.
FOTH: What do you miss about the track and do you miss me ha ha?
JS: Well, I wasn't there for very long. The purses are good there, though, and its always great seeing you.
FOTH: You have had some bad luck as far as injuries goes, what has been the
worst one so far and how do you keep from getting discouraged?
JS: Well, I have certainly had my share of bad luck. And it always seems to hit when I get going on a good streak. I think the worst would have to be breaking my arm last year (Feb 2008). I had a horse go over the inside rail while working it from the gates in the morning. I had a compound fracture of my left humorous and several ribs. The surgery to repair it didn't go so well, and I needed a second surgery right before thanksgiving. Its pretty good now, although there was a lot of damage to my shoulder, so it will always ache.
As for keeping from getting discouraged, I'd be lying if I said I didn't. Its really frustrating when you're down from injuries, and more so trying to come back because trainers want to see you ride and make sure you're really OK. Sometimes you lose great mounts and never get them back. So, yeah some days its really discouraging. I just try to stay thankful for the success I have had and always remember I choose to do this because I love it. There are a great many people out there who don't even have jobs, or are stuck doing something they hate. So despite injuries, bad luck, slow periods, and all the other stuff we face, I try to remember in a way I am very fortunate.
FOTH: What tracks have you rode at since you left Phila Park and do you have
a favorite one?
JS: Oh wow. Again, there has been A LOT since then. That's been a long time ago. But I will give it a whirl- Finger Lakes (ny), Beulah, Thistledown (oh), Tampa Bay Downs (fl), Canterbury Park (mn), Prairie Meadows (iowa), Columbus (nebraska), Lone Star Park (tx), Blue Ribbon Downs, Will Rogers Downs, Fair Meadows, and Remington (ok), the woodlands (ks), Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs...I think that's most of them. As for favorites- Canterbury was the most fun and people friendly place. They are great up there. The Remington quarter horse meet was really cool also. It's a great track, with great money. Lone Star is also a really cool place.
FOTH: Do you still feel you are improving as a rider?
JS: Always. And I hope to continue improving as long as I ride. I always go out there and give the horse, owner, and trainer my best efforts and most of the time I do well. I still watch a lot of races and try to see ways to make myself better.
FOTH: I know you have been riding some quarter horses. How do you prepare for that as opposed to a regular thoroughbred horse race?
JS: There is really not much difference. It's much shorter and faster, so there's really no coming off the pace or anything. I still sit down and read the program or form to see what's in the race with me. I also try to notice if there are horses in the race that have been fractious in the gates or lugged in or out. The break is so vital to quarter horse racing. Even if your horse is perfect in the gates and runs straight down the track, you need to know if the horses inside and outside of you are going to possibly interfere with your race.
FOTH: Are there many female quarter horse riders?
JS: There are several here in Oklahoma, but there are also a lot of female tb riders out here. I guess the ratio balances out about the same as it is the thoroughbred industry.
FOTH: Do you have any idea how much longer you will ride for and do you think
somehow, someway you will always be involved in horse racing?
JS: I am not real sure on the riding. I would like to start easing my way into training and riding barrel horses, but still ride for certain trainers or certain horses that I really enjoy. I have a few barrel horses now that I train and compete on, and that ties in a great deal to the horse racing business. Many young barrel horses come from the track. I don't think I will ever be completely out of the business, but I am not sure I want to be a jockey forever.
FOTH: What are some things you like to do when you are away from the racetrack?
JS: Well, part of why I love racing in Oklahoma so much is the opportunity and availability to continue working with my barrel horses through the racing season. Rodeos and Barrel events are big out here, so its fairly easy to make it to different competitions even after a day of racing. There is not a whole lot of city life out here, but my boyfriend (Berkley Packer-jockey from Idaho) and I don't mind so much since we do enjoy outdoor actives. I run, and compete in races sometimes. We also both like to go to the lake, go dancing, or go explore the local area we are in. In between meets this spring we got a wild hair idea to go to Vegas for 4 days and got back the day the Tulsa meet started. And there's Laila, my mini Australia shepherd. She's entertainment all by herself!!!
FOTH: Take me through what you go through in a typical day?
JS: Well, my days vary a lot, depending if its night or day racing, what race I start, and if there is a barrel race to go to. lol. Generally however, I get up and go feed my horses, then go to the track to lope horses. Fortunately I have no worries about my weight, so I only go to the room about an hour before my first race. If its night racing, I head back out to take care of my horses and ride them. Laila usually comes along for exercise too. Also during the night racing season I try to get all the errands done during the day and if there's any time left at all, I will try to get a little nap in. This spring while Remington and Will Rogers ran together, several days a week I would lope at Remington, drive 2 hours to ride the first few races at ward, then hurry back to make Remingtons card. That was exhausting because we were racing 7 days a week, plus driving up and down the road a bunch.
At Blue Ribbon Downs, when its day racing only, I still feed mine then go lope, then go check mine again before heading to the room. I ride a lot of races here, so most days I am in the room all day. After the races, I go back to ride mine or load up and head to a rodeo or barrel race.ÊIf it's a day off for me, we hang out in the pool or drive over to Fort Smith, AK, for dinner or movies, or just something to go do. There are some nights I have to go ride at Remington for the tb meet, or even down to Dallas for racing there.
FOTH: Have you ever been recognized outside the racetrack and if you did what
was the feeling like?
JS: Yeah, I do get some recognition outside the track from fans. It's nice having the support behind you. Although there are more times that people, trainers and owners don't recognize me when I don't have a helmet and actually have my hair and makeup done!!
FOTH: Do you feel you were a good apprentice rider?
JS: I think I was pretty good. I learned a ton throughout my year, and can look back now and see maybe I shouldn't have started so quick. But once I got going and went on to Tampa then ny, I did really well.Ê I think looking back there are always things we might have done different, but as long as we learn along the way you can't really have regrets.
FOTH: I know your dad is very active in supporting you. Does he get a chance
to see you ride live a lot?
JS: Not near as much as I wish he could. My dad is the best though! He watches on the computer and TV whenever they show the tracks I am at. He is the best stat guy you could ever wish for. He knows all my percentages on everything!!! Wins, breeds, race distance, horse ages, whatever you want to know he's probably got it. But it would be nice for him to be around for more live racing. This spring I called and asked if he was busy one Friday night and if he could get me from the Indianapolis airport and take me to the track. He was very excited, and we had an awesome weekend!
FOTH: Do you think the weights should be raised at all?
JS: That's a tough question. Out here in Oklahoma, most of the horses don't get in under 118. I think that's plenty light. And I really don't think the weights play as big a role as some people believe.ÊA lot of riders are a few pounds over, and the horses run just as good. And then there's the other end of the spectrum, which I am beginning to think is possibly worse than a few pounds over. I am really light, especially for riding quarter horses. One day my saddle and lead was just under 20 pounds. That much dead weight may be harder on a horse than a little over of live weight. I think the most important factor is how quiet and still a rider is while on the horse. If you think about it, no matter what weight the horse is packing, if the jock is all over that horse will be at a disadvantage to a rider who sits real chilly. Overall, tho, I would have to say I think tracks should keep the weights up around 118. I would much rather have a healthy rider than somebody who is too weak to steer and cant think because they are delirious.
FOTH: What is it like on a horse going at full blast in one of these quarter
horses races. How is the adrenaline rush for you?
JS: On a great horse, the adrenaline rush is like no other. When you are on a horse that really leaves the latch hard and runs his legs off to get to the wire...you can't compare what that feels like to anything. Even if you get outrun, it still pumps you up to ride ones like that. It is hard to be upset when you run 5th or 6th and maybe only got beat a head for the whole thing.
FOTH: What do you think of slot machines at tracks. Good or bad for the sport?
JS: Great for the sport-and very necessary!Ê I have rode at tracks without the slots, and its sad to see how much the tracks and all are falling apart.ÊNot to mention the huge difference in purse money.ÊFor example, maiden quarter horses run at Remington for over $20,000.Ê In Minnesota, where they have one of the best crowd bases of any track in the country without slots, maiden qhs run for about $6000.ÊBig difference to jocks, owners, trainers....everyone.
FOTH: Do you follow any other sports and if so what are your favorite teams?
JS: I am an athlete, so I enjoy just about any sport. I love to watch football, and will always be a die hard buckeye fan! I like watch pro football also, but don't have a specific team. And I really enjoy watching live hockey.
FOTH: Do you have any short or long term goals for yourself?
JS: I think a person always has to have goals to keep them driving forward. Short term goals include continued success on the track and with my barrel horses; start to look for a place to buy so I can start my own training; and work towards my long term goals . Which include of course getting a place and getting myself established in the training end, making circuit and/or national finals with barrel horses, and continue to make my impact on the world.
FOTH: What are some things you think should be done to make the sport better and more popular?
JS: I am not real sure on what could be done to make the sport better. Slots across the country would certainly help.ÊAnd if there was a way to prohibit horses from being run after so many poor performances I think that would help a little too. These people that keep running a poor horse after two years of never hitting the board and getting beat double digits-I find that absurd and almost cruel. Be kind to your horse and find him another job. Obviously if they keep getting beat like that they aint really into being a racehorse . You will always have people out there that are opposed to racing but as for more popular I think tracks like Canterbury are on the right road.They are so people and fan friendly there.ÊFor racing to regain popularity, it has to be appealing for the whole family .
FOTH: Do you like the "Jockeys" show on Animal Planet and would you
ever be on it if asked?
JS: I only saw the first episode, so I don't have a strong opinion.ÊAnd as for being on there, I guess if they asked me I might think about it.
FOTH: What is the longest shot you ever brought home as a winner?
JS: Dad would know the answer to that one, but I think it was in Ohio when I had the bug-I had a couple that paid over a hundred to win.
FOTH: How do you prepare for each race you ride in? Do you look at the program/form
or rely on the trainer's instructions?
JS: Most of the time, yeah, I read through the program and form to see how I think the race will set up.ÊI also take note of conditions, horses dropping or stepping up, etc. And then you always have to listen to what the trainer wants. Sometimes you may plan the race one way, and the trainer wants you to ride it another way. In those cases I've learned to just try and do what the trainer wants. Then, if the horse doesn't perform, at least you did what they asked of you. And you always have to be prepared for quick decisions and changes. More times that not, a race will not unfold like you would hope. That's when you need to think quick and react to whats happening around you.
FOTH: Do you think you will ever come back east to ride or no?
JS: Yeah, I would love to come back there, or anywhere on the east coast again if a trainer or owner wanted me too. I came to Indiana this spring for trials, and whenever Florida gets their quarter horse racing going I would like to go there. And I am hoping to come for the female challenge!!!
FOTH: Jennifer I am out of questions. Thumbs up for doing this 2nd interview with me and good luck in all you do. Any last words the floor is yours.
JS: No problem Chris. It's always a pleasure and I think it's awesome how much you and your site supports female riders. I wish you the best, and hope to cross paths again in the future!!
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