Mallory Strandberg

Mallory Strandberg is currently out with a knee injury that will require surgery and she hopes to be back soon and here is her story:

FOTH: Where were you born and where did you grow up?

MS: I was born in Grand Forks, British Columbia. I grew up in that area and Ferry County.

FOTH: Did you come from a big family or small family and what sort of girl were you growing up?

MS: I come from a large family, only three older brothers, but many cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. Growing up I'd say I was a bit unusual. A clash of girly girl-tom boy. I liked dressing nice and then playing in the country, into everything. Outside was my world, most of the time I was adventuring with friends, either horseback riding, biking, 4xing, snowmobiling, and that sort of fun stuff.

FOTH: Did you have a love for the horses at an early age or did that come later on in life?

MS: The love for horses was certainly a very early age. We had a lot of horses. I been riding and connecting with horses since I was practically in diapers. Maybe literally. My family is very western and horses are part of our family. Always have and always will be. They are a big deal to us.

FOTH: When did you see your 1st live horse race and what did you think of it at the time?

MS: Pony Express were the first live horse races I seen and I was always attracted by it, but my mother refused to let me even do quarter mile races until after 10 or something like that. Kentucky was however the 1st place I witnessed a live professional horse race and it was amazing! That will always be a favorite memory, Chris McCarron took me to Turfway Park, absolutely blew my mind away! I knew I was going to follow through with my pursuit to be a jockey after that day.

FOTH: At what point in your life did the sport of horse enter your life as far as working at a racetrack goes? At the time was the goal to become a jockey or did that happen later on down the line?

MS: When I went to Bluegrass Community & Technical College I was full on going for a career of Jockey and I needed everything that the North American Racing Academy had to offer if I was even going to have a clue or chance at making it. After a little more than half the year I believe I started going out for other horses outside the school horses. The Thoroughbred Training Center was a great start for me, was big enough to expand with some challenge yet small enough to create some courage. I didn't become a jockey until later and it felt like I was after it a long time, in reality I was after my dreams for not long before I had it.

FOTH: What was your 1st job at a racetrack and who did you work for and what track was it at and what time of the morning did you have to get up at?

MS: My 1st job was with Preston Stables, Frank Betancourt who ran the barn at the Lexington Thoroughbred Training Center hired me on as an exercise rider. My job was galloping, working horses, and going out to the farm in Paris to work with babies or rehab horses. Work started at 6.

FOTH: Now how long did you gallop/exercise horses before you actually became a jockey? Who taught you how to ride and what was the best piece of advice you were given at the time?

MS: I think since I started at Nara it took 3 years, on training facilities and oh gosh I don’t know a year on from a live and running race track. A lot of people taught me, but the most important teacher was Chris McCarron. He has a gift to teaching that will be hard to replace if we ever loose him. Not everyone understands Trip therefore putting that into anyone else's mind is difficult. The best advice McCarron gave me was smile it will go a long way and trust a long hold, be steady and a tough horse will come back to you.

FOTH: Looking back was becoming a jockey easier or harder that you thought it was going to be and what was the hardest part?

MS: Never did I think easy was the word. Did I imagine it would be this hard, where you put your body through so much discipline? Not that either. Although horses to me are easy the different body language to make a successful race is hard and is an art. Sometimes people over think it. Racing is nothing of the sort easy, but it feels much better when you have the best horse in the field. The hardest part is finding a good team for yourself, a good agent, and the best horses and keeping all that together.

FOTH: What did your parents think when you told them you wanted to become a jockey and what was it like finally have your actual jockey license in your hand?

MS: My dad was concerned, but grew to support my choice quickly; my mom new nothing else would fit me. :) When I had my actual license, omg I was relieved, I was ready to fly. I wanted to rush and go go go so bad...I didn't have things lined up right though and I will admit it didn't fall together like I had hoped, but I will never give up.

FOTH: Tell me about your 1st race. What track was it at? How nervous were you in the jock’s room before you went out into the paddock? Where did you end up finishing in the race?

MS: During my first race at Laurel I remember relaxing, tying on and coming out the gates and thinking, omg this is it and then wondering how come it felt so easy with a sudden grin. I stopped smiling quickly because I realized I needed to pay attention and then I got into the race and it was just a fun game to me who could get to the wire first. My horse felt fresh in the beginning and then chicken round the turn and no fly at the stretch. So I came in empty and that was that, hooked, ready for the next. I was so nervous the day before and that night I don't know how I slept. In the room even I was nervous, there was a bunch of girls riding there at the time Kristina aka Mac, Sarah, and I forget who else, but it was fun and they all made me feel great. Right before I went out I got calm to calm I scared even myself! I finished 7th I believe. I'm not sure I know I did not finish first! :)

FOTH: Tell me about your 1st win. What track was it at and did you win by a lot or was it in a photo finish? What was it like jogging the horse back to the winner’s circle and getting your picture taken?

MS: My first win was nice, right in Laurel Park. It was on a bay gelding, Light of Truth. I went out there aggressive n it was almost like when we stepped on the track I could feel it was a win so I tried to just sit back and enjoy it. Out from the gates I wanted the lead and I got pressured from my outside, I stayed steady when he wanted to pull away, we were going a good pace, he came back and we saved enough to shoot a little down the lane. Going back to the winners circle was so sweet. The horse knew where he was going and took me there. One thing you do when you first win a race is show gratitude, so I saluted the stewards up above with my riding crop. I think I was smiling from ear to ear. I thanked the trainer, Mr. Steve Casey, the owner, and a lot of other people. I was very grateful how far I had come looking back and humble I stumbled to the right people the right time. Oh and I gave my horse a big pat and kiss at some point... :-) the picture was quick and I loved it all.

FOTH: Did the jockeys get you good after the race and what did they get you with? Have you had a chance to return the favor yet?

MS: So I missed the memo about letting people attack me with egg and flower and water after the race. I literally ducked everyone and went around...yeah I was no fun and I'm sorry about that.

FOTH: You have now ridden in over 700 races as I type this out. What has been some of the most surprising things to you as far as being a jockey?

MS: The most surprising thing to me has been the moments I get run out of a horse who was giving me absolutely nothing. Those give me the best giggles and smiles and it's just a great thing or when u know before everyone you’re going to kick ass and everyone else looks stunned in the end. Lol! Yeah I think I like that better!!

FOTH: Do you feel you have been treated pretty fairly as a jockey so far in your career?

MS: Fair is only a matter of nothing. Faith is what matters.

FOTH: Do you have any idea how long you would like to ride for?

MS: I'd like to ride for the rest of my life. Sure everyone would, but until my knee can take it. I'm going to get knee surgery in the future and that will make me feel better and be the deciding factor.

FOTH: Have you had any serious injuries so far and if so how long were you out of action for?

MS: I have had my back hurt, broken toes and sprained fingers. My knee is the concerning injury and right now it's been hurt since October.

FOTH: For those who have never been to Pimlicio describe a little bit about what the track is like?

MS: PIMLICO IS FUN! It's a mix and clash of people. The girl’s jock room is downstairs and I love it. I love everything about that place, the vibe is good. The track is better and easier to my liking. It's a good rip around those turns grass or dirt. Every generation can go out to this track and have the best memories.

FOTH: Take me through what a typical race day is like for you?

MS: There is no typical race day, every meet is different. At Pimlico when I raced, I went to 1 of 3 places in e morning Bowie, Pimlico or Laurel. By 10:00 am no matter what I had to be at Baltimore in the Pimlico track for room time. Chill there, study the rest of my races and mark up things I want to watch, have movies if there are any wins or our stewards, and then get ready for each race. At the end I usually prep and talk with someone over the day and the races. I think about it on the way home and try to stop thinking about it when I go to bed. Sometimes it takes a while to wind down. Then get back up and do it all over!

FOTH: What are some things you like to do when you are not doing any racing related things? Do you follow any other sports at all?

MS: Seahawks football, not too much else, but my family is into basketball and hockey all sports. I like shopping, designing, cooking being home on the ranch, taking care of the cattle. Pretty much always with horses-

FOTH: Do you feel that as a whole that jockeys are underappreciated in the sports world?

MS: I don't know if we are under appreciated or if it's the fact people do not fully understand what we risk(our lives) and or why we do race. I wish we were recognized with the reward of better pay, but in time some of us figure out how to protect ourselves and keep money in our pockets. I think it is known, the sports world does credit those talented, they are unmistakable and I also know some people definitely are very talented and somehow get missed. That's just the ride. (I totally agree-chris)

FOTH: What was it like winning a race on a big race day like “Black Eyen Susan” day, which is run the day before the Preakness?

MS: Smitten, it was perfect. Like a day should be every day.

FOTH: What tracks have you rode at so far in your career and are there any that you have not that you would like to one day?

MS: Aqueduct, Laurel, Pimlico, Turfway, Charlestown, Parx, Timonium, Presque isle Downs, Thistle downs, Fort Erie, Woodbine, Penn National. I would like to ride at Emerald, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga, and all over!

FOTH: If you were not a jockey what do you think you would be doing jobwise?

MS: A mommy to my dog Berkeley ;) maybe just promoting and working our families ranch, rodeo. Something agriculture or equine industries.

FOTH: If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to become a jockey, what advice would you give her?

MS: I would tell her any advice that points her in the direction of her first step to get there. Everyone is different though it would depend on the girl. The last thing I would tell her is don't ever be afraid or show fear and go for it.

FOTH: Mallory I am out of questions. Thumbs up for doing this interview and do you have any last words to wrap this interview up?

MS: Sorry it took so long to get back to you! Thank you for supporting female Jockeys and showing an interest in our careers.

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