Sharon Soilera is a retired rider that discovered my website and after a few emails back and forth I got her on the phone and here is what she said to my questions I asked her:
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
SS: I was born in Louisiana.
FOTH: Did you have a love the horses as a young and stuff like that?
SS: Yes I did that was all I could think about.
FOTH: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
SS: I have 2 brothers, one is a year older and one is a year younger.
FOTH: Were any of them interested in horse racing or were you the only one?
SS: No my family had nothing to do with horses.
FOTH: Can you remember the 1st time you went to an actual racetrack. Was it one of the Louisiana tracks?
SS: At that time the Fairgrounds was running, but we went to the little bush tracks.
FOTH: What event or events actually led to you becoming a rider? Did you start hot walking and then ex-rider and then a jockey?
SS: No when I was little I always wanted a horse and my parents they would never buy one for me and my daddy told me if I wanted a horse I would have to buy it myself. So I saved my Christmas money and my allowance money and when I was 12 I had enough money to buy a horse and I brought one for $250. After I got her my daddy told me he wasn't going to buy any feed and if I wanted her fed I would have to feed her myself. So I learned how to gallop horses at 12 years old to feed my horse.
FOTH: Wow that is interesting.
FOTH: At what time in your life did you seriously think about becoming a jockey?
SS: Probably when I was 8 or 10.
FOTH: So you brought this horse when you were 12 years old and started galloping and stuff, what was like your 1st job on the racetrack and where did that come from?
SS: I went straight into riding as I had been riding on "bush tracks" since I was 13 or 14 and the day I turned 16 I went and got my jock's license.
FOTH: That is an interesting story. So were you were much self taught as nobody helped teach you how to ride?
SS: I went to the school of hard knocks.
FOTH: At these "bush tracks" did you manage to win any of your races?
SS: Yes I did and I am going to try and scan a few.
FOTH: Tell me a bit about your 1st race at I guess an actual racetrack and not a "bush track"?
SS: My 1st race recognized race was at Delta Downs. That had to be in 1977, right after I got out of high school. It was a maiden race going 550 yards.
FOTH: Did you encounter many problems when you were riding with other male riders, etc?
SS: I could go on for days. I remember one particular incident where the clerk of scales hated the girl riders. There was 3 of us riding at the time and he wouldn't let us even go weigh in and at the time we had no girls room we changed in the nurses room and weighed in the boy's room. He made us look at him and he would not let us look at the scale. He said we were overweight and we were not riding this night. I know I wasn't and I was taken off my horses and later that night 3 different riders came into the nurses room and told me that they saw us weigh in and we were not overweight. It just didn't want girls to ride. There was a lot of that, that went on.
FOTH: What tracks did you ride at. I know you mentioned Delta Downs. What others were there?
SS: I rode at Delta, Evangeline, I never rode at Louisiana Downs, but galloped there, the Fairgrounds I rode at too. I rode some races in Idaho, Colorado, and Utah. I think that is it.
FOTH: Out of all the tracks you rode at, was there one that you liked the best? And how about a worst one?
SS: I always liked the Idaho fair circuit. There tracks were like 1/2 a mile and they were built around a rodeo arena. We ran 5 furlongs around 2 turns. That is a true bull ring. Oh I also roe in Texas I forgot to mention Texas.
FOTH: Is there any track that you liked the most?
SS: I rode very little on the regular tracks due to sexual harassment. I just wouldn't give into it so therefore I rode very few horses. After a while I just threw my hands up and that cost me a lot of galloping jobs. As far as favorite track, I always liked Delta.
FOTH: Did you ever get into a physical fight with any of the male jockeys or was it just verbal?
SS: I had a few words with some of them, but it never got physical. I wanted to punch of few of them, but never did. (we both laugh)
FOTH: How long did you ride for?
SS: I broke my collarbone really bad in 1983. I got a job galloping horses for one of the leading trainers in the state and 1979 and from there I was offered a job training. I got my trainer's license and did that for a while and then went back to riding because I was satisfied with the rides I was getting. When I broke my collarbone I was out for 9 months and had to have surgery After that I still rode a few on the bush tracks, but I didn't try go back race riding at any recognized tracks. I am a little tall and it was hard for me to keep my weight down too. Fighting the weight and the harassment I was getting I just went and got my trainer's license back and have been training ever since. I still gallop my own horses and break colts and shoe and go everything.
FOTH: With you being an ex-rider and all that, can you tell if a jockey has given a horse a bad ride?
SS: Oh I can tell in a heartbeat if I have been given a bad ride. Usually what I do is tell them (the jockey) what does and what he does not like and what I would like to see out of the horse. But if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out.
FOTH: Do you think another female rider can win a Triple Crown Race?
SS: I don't know if I'll ever get to see it. I would like to see somebody do it cause ever since I was 8 yrs old that was my big goal, to win a Triple Crown race. It is just so hard as a girl is usually considered too weak and not smart enough to ride. There is still a lot of prejudice going on.
FOTH: Do you have a go to rider or do you put different jocks on your horses?
SS: I try and stick with the same rider. At Louisiana Downs I was using David Elston and Lucy Burch (rip). Lucy got a lot of run out of these horses. Our in the money percentage was very, very high. They were several that she had just run 2nd on before she got killed. They were performing really well for her. I use a girl whenever I get a chance.
FOTH: Since your a trainer and I ask most of the female riders this, why don't you take me through your day as a trainer. I am sure you put in a lot of long hours too.
SS: Yeah. At 5: 30 in the morning I start feeding the mares and the babies and after that I will start galloping and I do my own galloping and clean my own stalls and do my own shoeing and around noon I'll give the horses lunch and then after that I may ride some colts that need to be rode and just keep going till it is 5:30 PM and it is time to start feeding again.
FOTH: So do you plan on being a trainer or being involved with horse racing pretty much the rest of your life.
SS: Yes, definitely.
FOTH: What is your opinion on slot machines at race tracks?
SS: It has definitely benefited us. The casino here they own the racetrack. The horseman seem to be the 2nd consideration. The people inside the casino are # 1 and the horseman are 2nd, but if the racetrack owns the casino, then the horseman are put 1st. It is helped the purses and I think it is a pretty good idea as long as they we get a percentage.
FOTH: I always ask this question and I will ask you too, if some young girl came up to you and said she wanted to become a jockey, what advice would you give her?
SS: Get on as many horses as you can and don't put up with no bull**it from anybody.
FOTH: Do you have a favorite horse that you have trained and have you won any stakes races as a trainer?
SS: I have not one a stakes race because most of the horses I get are colts or rejects. We have won are fair share and at Delta one season, we were 80% in the money.
FOTH: That is amazing.
SS: Yes it was phenomenal. I think one of my favorite horses is one I have right now named "Bobbin Boey" and one of the pictures I am going to send you is a pic of me and him right before his last race he finished 2nd. He is a horse when I got him he couldn't finish a race at the $ 5,000 level. The last time I ran em he was 3rd for $20,000 and his owner decided he wasn't doing good enough anymore and she took him away from me and to another trainer and they put her in her $12,500 and I snatched him up and brought him home. He still is amazing and ran in 2 maiden special weights and gotten 4th and 2nd and this horse is very special to me. This is one horse that Lucy ran for me last year and one time she rode him and he went off at 117-1 and she ran 3rd on him. Got brushed 10 wide in the turn and she got 3rd by 2 lengths.
FOTH: What do you think of some of these tracks like Keeneland and Santa Anita putting these new surfaces on their tracks and getting rid of the dirt tracks?
SS: I have mixed feelings about that as it is supposed to benefit the horses, but I haven't seen that yet. I don't think it makes a big difference.
FOTH: What are your thoughts on the whole 'Eight Belles" story?
SS: I think it was just a freak accident. I saw it on a replay and it looked like she took a bad step and snapped that leg and then as she went down to catch herself she snapped the other one too. I have one horse break down in all the years I have been training. It was kinda the same thing, she was going down the backside and switched leads to go to the turn and when she put that right leg out it snapped. The rider told me she never took a bad step, there was nothing wrong with it, she just took a bad step and freak accidents happen all the time.
FOTH: Do you think if a trainer has a positive test for a horse the penalty should be more than just a slap on the wrist so to speak?
SS: If a horse can run on its own merits, it doesn't need to be running. I think a lot of these horses continue to break down because the horse is running out of his mind and he doesn't feel the pain and if he does get hurt in a race he feels a little bit of pain he could pull himself up. I think anybody who gets caught ought to receive maximum penalties.
FOTH: I agree 100% there is too much wrist slapping going on nowadays.
SS: Yeah they might get 10 or 15 days and then they can come back. There is some people using some hard stuff out there.
FOTH: Oh I know.
SS: The little guy like me even ask the vet "can you give me a little something to help out the horse a bit" they say there is nothing we can give to help the horse. I know a lot of people that have asked for help with horses and they don't get it because they are low profile people. I don't believe in "icing" a horse before the race (that means having the horse stand in an ice bucket before he races). My opinion is that if he is so sore that he has to be iced before the race, he doesn't need to be running.
FOTH: OK I am out of questions. Anything you want to say wrap this up and I appreciate your time and best of luck with the rest of your training career.
SS: I am just excited to see the interview up on your site.
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