Natalie Ogg

Natalie Ogg is a retired rider that stumbled upon the web site and I asked her if she wanted to be interviewed, she agreed, I got her on the phone and here is what she said:

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

NO: I was born in South Laguna Beach, CA that's in Orange County, which is the largest county in the US. Where I grew up, (giggles), well I went to 13 different schools in 12 years. That kind of gives you an indication of how and where I grew up. I graduated from high school in WI, but I lived in 7 different states. Kind of all over the country.

FOTH: What sort of girl were growing up?

NO: I was a tomboy. I dreamed of owning a horse, I had wanted a horse all my childhood. I called my family "city dwellers" because they were all from the city. I had a Breyer horse collection when they came out, I suppose I owned every model. I was incredibly influenced by my love for the horse world.

FOTH: At a young age did you know you wanted to become a jockey or was that something that happened later on down the line so to speak?

NO: Actually, I knew that I wanted to do something with horses although I also knew living in this world I would have to provide for myself. I struggled with the idea of how to incorporate my love horses and riding with making money. To be honest, that's where the race riding came into play. I was always very small so I knew my height would be an asset and I was very athletic.

FOTH: What actual event or events led to you becoming a jockey?

NO: I guess the track in Minnesota (Canterbury Downs). I was working for a company in Minnesota and I had invested in a couple of young horses that were bred to run, I knew that Canterbury Downs was about to open in a year or 2 and it really inspired me to consider my options in that field. So I packed up, sold my horses and moved to California. Just like that. I knew that I needed the experience and workmanship that I could acquire there. I had no family, no friends, no contacts, nothing. I was a cold walk on. San Lou Ray Downs in Bonzal, California is where I ended up. This is the premier training center that will train the individuals that will be running in Los Angeles, San Diego and up and down the West Coast. I walked up to the security gate, I talked to the guard at the guard shack and said I really don't know what I am doing, but I want a job. The first assistant trainer that came to get me was D. Wayne Lucas's assistant trainer. All time leading Thoroughbred trainer. It was definitely a God thing. There is no way a person could just walk on and start working their first job for D. Wayne Lucas. Now I was already a good rider, but that's not where I had to start. I groomed horses and mucked stalls for a long time before I ever got on any horses to exercise. I was a real asset for the Lucas barn, they trained me well, and I became one of the best hands on the place. Charlie Whittingham was the next barn over, the assistant trainer for Whittingham would always try to tempt me into coming to the "other side" and work for them. I was the only white girl that was working as a groom and I could really keep up, I was very good. I got to know the ins and outs from some of the top trainers from the very beginning and that's what catapulted to my success I believe, I started on the top. When I started galloping, finally, I was able to come back to the smaller tracks and be someone.

FOTH: How long did you actually ride for?

NO: In and out, just under 9 years.

FOTH: Tell me what you can remember about your 1st race?

NO: I had to test in front of the stewards and the starter at Canterbury Downs. I remember my first race was a quarter horse race. It was a short distance race and went by so fast I don't think I even uncocked my stick, (laughs) I obviously didn't win it. I had to sit back after my first race and try to figure out where my mind was, everything happened so fast!! I was just kind of along for the ride. I don't think I was even coherent.

FOTH: Now did you ride a lot of quarter horses races as well as regular thoroughbred horse races?

NO: I did. I got my bug for the thoroughbreds shortly after I started riding quarter horses, but I did kind of struggle with the weight allowance for my apprenticeship. I finally got to the point where the bug wasn't doing me much good, at least at the tracks I was at, I was always racing against leading thoroughbred riders, Mike Smith, Pat Day, etc. I waved my bug about 3 to 4 years into my racing career losing my weight allowance, for better or worse. I was then considered a veteran rider.

FOTH: What are some of the racetracks you rode at?

NO: I raced at Canterbury Downs obviously, Prairie Meadows, Tampa Bay Downs, Hialeah Park, Suffolk Meadows, which is on Long Island, Sportsman's Park, Fairmont Park, quite a few quarter horse tracks in Kentucky, also lots of bush tracks, Lake City, Florida, Valdosta, GA. , etc. Also Remmington Park. I think that covers most of them.

FOTH: Did you have a favorite track that you rode at?

NO: Hialeah was absolutely the most breath taking, it was very nostalgic. When you walked in there you could almost picture the wide brimmed hat on the ladies standing around. It was like the racetracks you would see in all the old movies. It was purely breathtaking.

FOTH: Now were you sad to hear that is closed a few years back?

NO: Yes. I was fortunate enough to have been there in the last years that they were open.

FOTH: Let's back a bit and tell me what you remember about your 1st win.

NO: My first win was on a quarter horse for some owners from Northern Minnesota that since have became some of my very good friends. This was at Canterbury Downs actually the year they opened, I think it was 1985. I had a very good meet there a few years in a row, I was the leading female quarter horse rider and was anywhere in the top ten leading riders on and off. This was when Mike Smith and I did some of the advertising for the race track the first years that they were open. It was fun, I got my foot in the door there at the right time. I had just come from California and had gotten my jocks license before they opened, boy I was ready to go. I had quite a win streak my first year. I was really just an average rider compared to the riders that were there.

FOTH: Did you get the initiation after the race?

NO: Of course. Back in those days it was just mostly buckets of water and stuff like that.

FOTH: Looking back do you think you were a good jockey?

NO: I think I was. I think I struggled more with personal issues than I did with my riding. I could have had a more bountiful career than I ended up having, I think I was a good rider with quit a few wins probably more than I can count, I don't think anyone has gone back and looked at my history, but like I said, I dealt with a lot of personal issues during that time. I was a young lady, I was on the road, I was alone and I didn't have much support, I think that was an obstacle for me that I never overcame.

FOTH: What are some of the injuries you have had over the years? Did you have any bad ones?

NO: You know, I was one of those riders that was fortunate. I had a lot of falls and spills, but most of my injuries were never severe. A lot of my injuries came in the starting gates riding quarter horses, horses that flipped. I was really blessed, I never really had anything that took me out for a long period of time. I was even in a race one time with another friend of mine at Riverside Downs in Paducah, KY and another female rider, one of my friends, was in the lead, her horse went down with her and broke both her arms. It was a horrible injury, life threatening. Another female jockey, Debbie Snyder, was hurt bad in the paddock during my career, she was seriously injured. I was just one of those who had spills but never injured severely. I broke my hand once, but not during a race, it was working a horse in the morning galloping.

FOTH: What led to you retiring?

NO: It was mostly a weight issue. To keep my weight down and I was fluctuating between 8 to 10 pounds each day. It was difficult for me. My last year that I rode I had a lot going on, it made it seem worse than it was, I to run 4 to 5 miles a day and hit the hot box after. I was tired. I had a really good head for training. I already had my trainer's license in quite a few states and most of my owners preferred me as their trainer rather than riding them myself. I had a lot of support behind me as a trainer, along with the struggle with my weight issue, it made it easy for me to make the decision to train and hang up my racing saddle.

FOTH: Are you currently a trainer now?

NO: We own a small horse ranch in Southwestern Iowa and I have a large family, 6 children, and my husband. We both broke and trained at the track for years. He was an exercise rider for many years. We both retired from the racetrack in 1993 and took our business home. We have a nice little set up right now with a tenth of a mile track and a 3 horse starting gate. We have indoor and outdoor arenas. We have trained from our farm for ten or so years. Standing stallions and raising foals. Although about two years ago we made a decision, with the slowdown of the Nebraska Breeder's Program and the Iowa Breeder's Program to concentrate primarily with kids and their horses. 4-H horses, lessons and boarding facility. We still get calls to break two year olds each year and once in a while take a lay up but we are turning down more than we are taking right now. My husband even has another job outside of the house so it's definitely a different lifestyle than it use to be.

FOTH: When you were training did you use girl riders on some of your horses?

NO: I primarily used the best jockey I could get. Vickie Warhol rode a lot of horses for me when I retired, Cindy Springman Noll rode a bunch, just a variety of people depending on what track I was at. If I could, I took my own rider with me. I went up to Canada in 1991 and I took a male rider and his wife with me so they could ride up there. Although if I was in the vicinity of Vickie or Cindy they would be my choice.

FOTH: Do you think when you were riding that you were treated pretty fairly as a girl rider?

NO: Not in the beginning. When I was in the South, Chris, I was in Lake City Florida and I'll never forget this. One of the most interesting situations I had ever encountered, I was riding for the first time down there. I had won a lot of races in Kentucky for a certain trainer, he always had a bunch of horses that he would start on the bush tracks before they would go pari-mutuel, we hauled down to Florida to start these colts, they didn't have anywhere for me to change, they had scarcely seen a female rider let alone had a facility for one so I had to change in a pick-up truck. Oh man, they harassed me through every race, grabbing my reigns, trying to intimidate me, pulling on my reins. They were full of it telling me "oh you little girl, you can't ride with the big boys" and it was kind of funny because the first day I was down there I won two out of two races. These weren't pari-mutuel (which means there was probably more money bet that day than at a pari-mutuel track) HA! It was exiting. I knew all along what I was in for with the male riders and the public, in a mostly male dominated industry at that time in history.

FOTH: Looking back what are some memorable days in your eyes?

NO: I won a big stakes race out on Long Island within my first year of racing, it was very exciting because the jockey had gotten hurt and I was the only one that didn't have a horse in that race, they gave me a shot and put me on a 60 to one long shot, I won. I raced at Beulah Park on a quarter horse during their All American Congress that they run each year. On a horse named "Don't Hold Back." That was memorable. Canterbury Downs, my experiences there and just being in the top 10 riders was really a thrill. I had one particular horse up there that I rode, known as a "rouge" he had never hit the board, there wasn't a rider that wanted to ride him, they put me up, I am in the process of witting a book about this experience, can't share the ending, just to give you a hint, you should never judge a book by the cover. I'll let you know how that one ends in the book. I had a lot of heart. I broke horses for 7 or 8 large thoroughbred farms, I still broke horses for them years after I left the track because they believed in me. It's all memorable.

FOTH: Your last race you rode, can you tell me what you remember about it and at the time did you know it was going to be your last race.

NO: I think it was in 1991 and I think at Lincoln Fairgrounds in Nebraska. I kind of knew the end was coming because I wasn't getting the premier mounts, it was like I knew I was going to have to make a decision about a career change. I told you already previously that I already had my trainer's license in many different states and so I was really struggling back and forth, at Lincoln I had a few thoroughbreds and I don't remember the exact last race, but I knew at that meet that it was probably going to be my last meet. I did fairly well there, but it was still a struggle physically and for me mentally. It was really hard for people to give me a shot because I wasn't getting on any that were bringing me close. Therefore I was always sitting 5th and 6th. Your not going to get that 2-1 or 3-2 favorite of the day.

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

NO: I would say to her that she needs to be perseverant and keep a positive attitude, that she would have to be willing to be an over comer and probably be ready to push her own way through. She better be tough or not even step in. That she would have to work very hard physically as well as mentally to pursue the career that she has chosen. She couldn't take things personally, it's still a male dominated industry. You can't take things to heart, you have to be willing to prove yourself. Once they know you can ride it gets much easier. I was blessed with the opportunity to ride right next to some of the big names. They treated me as their peers and respected my hard work and dedication to the sport. They knew what I had been through and what I was capable of accomplishing. Don't give up. It's a dangerous sport so safety is a huge concern. Make sure they have good training and safe horses. I believe it has been the great female riders of our past that have built trust in the boys, the stewards, track officials, trainers and the starting crew. It took girls who were powerful and in control to give a good name to the female jockeys now. She would need to remember the shoes are big to fill and consider all her options because being a jockey is not an easy life and it's very physically and mentally challenging. She would have to be prepared to be strong and daring.

FOTH: Do you think another female rider will win another Triple Crown race?

NO: Oh absolutely.

FOTH: Do you still miss riding?

NO: I do. I have a stable full of horses down at the barn and I do get to ride often, but I miss the adrenaline rush and the excitement. Just the inspiring athletic ability that the race horses have. There are a lot of things I miss.

FOTH: Were you self taught or did you learn a lot of it on your own?

NO: I was self taught, although I had a couple of good trainers behind me that really believed in me and helped me along. I could never thank them enough.

FOTH: Did you have a least favorite track that you rode at?

NO: There was a couple that were kind of getting old and broken down.
Some of the smaller tracks, I'm not sure if they are still even running there. I got very spoiled riding at the big tracks. Hastings, Nebraska was probably one of my least favorites, though I won a lot of races there.

FOTH: At most of these tracks were you pretty much accepted? You didn't have people yelling stuff at ya did ya?

NO: No, not at all. There was a little bit of jousting, but that was mostly from the boys.

FOTH: I am out of questions and I appreciate you stepping back in time with me to do this interview. Any last words you want to say to wrap this up?

NO: Well, thank you, and I really appreciate what you have been doing to support the girls that are on the edge right now and the great women of the past. It's very exciting to see the life you are breathing into the female jockey world. I really support you and hope in some way I can help. God bless and good luck to you.

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