Terry West is one of the 1st female black jockeys as she rode in the 70's and I recently got her on the phone and this is her story:
FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Terry: I was born in Wash DC.
FOTH: What sort of girl were you growing up? Were you a tomboy like a lot of the other female riders I have interviewed?
Terry: Maybe. Kinda.
FOTH: When you were 10 or say 11 years old, was being a jockey like the farthest thing from your mind or was that something you were thinking of doing?
Terry: Oh I liked horses at a young age, but never thought about being a jockey.
FOTH: Do you remember what track it was that you saw your 1st live horse race.
Terry: Yeah it was at Laurel Park.
FOTH: Do you remember anything from that time you went, like the crowd, speed of the horses, etc.?
Terry: Not really we were just there to see a horse race.
FOTH: Was there any sort of event that sort of steered you in the direction of wanting to ride races?
Terry: Well I always rode horses even before I went to the racetrack. I just went to a racetrack one morning with a friend and galloped some horses and said to myself “wow this is fun I can make some money doing this”. (laughs)
FOTH: You said that you rode horses long before you became a jockey. Do you feel that getting up on horses was a pretty natural thing for you? Were you scared getting up on one?
Terry: I had been riding horses since I was 4 years old so I was never scared.
FOTH: How long did you end up exercising horses before you wanted to become a jockey?
Terry: I would say maybe a year.
FOTH: Now looking back was it harder becoming a jockey that you thought it was gonna be?
Terry: The process of becoming a jockey really wasn’t that hard, but getting mounts was a different story. Becoming a jockey wasn’t a big deal.
FOTH: I know this was quite a while ago, but tell me what you remember about your 1st race and what track was it at?
Terry: You know I don’t even remember, but I would say the year was 1975.
FOTH: I would assume there were not a lot of female jockeys around at the time you rode.
Terry: No there wasn’t.
FOTH: What were some of the tracks you ended up riding at?
Terry: Pimlico, Laurel, Bowie, Charlestown and Penn National.
FOTH: Now out of all those tracks, did you have a favorite that you liked to ride at?
FOTH: I know back in the 70’s I imagine you and any of the other female riders that were riding at the time were having a hard time getting mounts. Did you have an agent or did you do everything by yourself as far as hustling for mounts?
Terry: I just did it myself.
FOTH: Did you ever encounter a bunch of naysayers saying that females shouldn’t be riding horses and stuff like that?
Terry: Yeah there were a few.
FOTH: Now at the time do you think is was tougher for you being a black female jockey as opposed to being an Hispanic or Caucasian female jockey?
Terry: Yeah I would say there probably was a difference yeah.
FOTH: Did back in the day did anybody heckle any of the jockeys whether they be male or female?
Terry: If they did I never noticed it.
FOTH: Tell me a little bit about your 1st win.
Terry: That was at Charlestown. I won easily. It was fun going into the winner’s circle.
FOTH: Now back then did they get the jockey’s the inanition so to speak when they won their first race?
Terry: Yeah. I knew it was coming and they just got me with water.
FOTH: Now how long did you end up riding for?
Terry: I rode till around 1983.
FOTH: What made you decide to retire?
Terry: It just stopped being fun.
FOTH: Now after you retired did you stay in the sport at all like being an ex-rider or something like that?
Terry: I stayed and was an ex-rider.
FOTH: Was it tough for you for your entire career being accepted as a female jockey?
Terry: I think towards the end it got a lot easier.
FOTH: Was there any track that you saw on TV that you wanted to ride at?
Terry: No there wasn’t.
FOTH: When you were riding did you think you were a good jockey?
Terry: I thought I was OK.
FOTH: Do you feel you had any sort of riding style at all?
Terry: I liked to go to the front.
FOTH: Did you ever have any injuries?
Terry: I was probably lucky enough not to have any.
FOTH: Do you follow the sport of horse racing at all much nowadays?
Terry: I go to Charlestown every now and then and hang at the racetrack.
FOTH: When you go there does that bring back any memories at all?
Terry: If I see any of the older guys I rode with or my old valet, then yes it does.
FOTH: If some young girl wanted to become a jockey, what advice would you give her?
Terry: Just go to it.
FOTH: Do you feel most racetracks will now need slot machines or a casino or some other form of entertainment to keeps racetracks open?
Terry: Yes. I have gone in the casino area of Charlestown a few times, but don’t go in often because they allow smoking in there.
FOTH: Is there any other sports that you like to watch?
Terry: I like football and horse shows and I am at one right now. I just finished competing in one.
FOTH: Oh wow you still do stuff like that now.
Terry: Oh yeah I love my show horses.
FOTH: Do any of these people at these shows know you were once a jockey?
Terry: Yeah some of them do.
FOTH: Do you ever see the day when we have another Triple Crown winner?
Terry: Oh I think there will be one.
FOTH: Do you think you will be involved in some way with horses the rest of your life?
Terry: Probably. I like taking thoroughbred horses and turning them into show horses.
FOTH: Did you have any favorite horses that you liked to ride when you were a jockey?
Terry: There were 2, one was called “Sir Lord” and the other was called “Lymond”.
FOTH: When you were riding did you ever bring in any long shot to win?
Terry: No I don’t think I ever rode a really long shot and won.
FOTH: Was it tough when you were riding to walk around in the stable area trying to get mounts and was there ever any thoughts of just quitting riding races?
Terry: It was tough, but I never thought about quitting. It would be too easy to quit.
FOTH: Now when you sit back and think about your riding career as a whole, does anything stick out in your mind at all?
Terry: That I wanted to do something that was fun and riding races was fun.
FOTH: Were you surprised at all when Julie Krone won the Belmont Stakes?
FOTH: Do you think another female rider will win one of these Triple Crown races like say a Rosie Napravnik, Rosemary Holmeister, Tammi Piermarini, Emma Jayne-Wilson or Chantal Sutherlund?
Terry: It may not be one of them, but I think someone will.
FOTH: Is it difficult to turn a thoroughbred horse into a show horse?
Terry: It is not difficult, but it is challenging and fun and not all of them you can turn into a show jumper and it also depends on what level you want them to show jump at.
FOTH: Do you feel that jockeys are underpaid?
Terry: Yes I do.
FOTH: Do you still have a lot of your winner’s circle pictures and if you do, do you ever look at them much?
Terry: I don’t even have any. I actually have one.
FOTH: OK I am out of questions any last words to wrap this up?
Terry: Thanks for your interest in interviewing me. Nice website.
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