Racing Needs To Up Its Game
I have been very quiet about the whole Bryony/Robbie situation as I have been waiting to see what happened, not knowing first hand what had gone on and hearing many different accounts of it from other jockeys, I didn't feel it was right to comment.
I see Robbie has been found guilty on all counts. I take my hat off to Bryony for having the guts to stand up for what she believed in, I have to say that she would have had a torrid time, all credit to her determination and principles. Whatever you believe in, whether it is perceived to be right or wrong, to follow through and put your money where your mouth is takes guts.
When it first happened, the general consensus was that Bryony was causing trouble, I have no idea as I don't know the girl, she is a very good jockey and is doing the sport a lot of good.
However I have worked in racing for 30 years and being female (yes I know it's hard to believe!) I know first hand how misogynistic it can be.
When I was in my 20's I thought the same as most young people in racing, "they're only lads, just having the craic", if a girl ended up crying due to "teasing" or a "bollocking", I would be scathing and thought she was a whimp, racing's not for softies...
However then I grew up, you see I have been the subject of bullying one way or another all through my teens and working life. Ironically the worst bullying has come from women, I didn't have the tools to deal with that then and possibly still don't.
Men were just as bad but my perception of them was "this is normal, this is banter", until it wasn't.
I remember having a runner in a flat race at Southwell, a cocky small flat jockey came swaggering in to the parade ring, I tried to give him his instructions and all he wanted to do was flirt (this was 15 years ago - I wasn't always old), he didn't listen to a word I said.
I remember being in the pub one night and a certain trainer at the time said " I wanna F__K you..." very loudly, oh how we laughed...
In another pub someone in the media said exactly the same, I laughed in his face and I barely get a hello from him now.
I had an owner who assured me he valued me as a trainer, promised he had horses with me for no other reason than because he thought I was good at my job, ha I believed him, in his words "F_ck me and you can have any horse you want", I had to manhandle him out of my house. How naïve was I?
When I first started training I had a jockey tell my jockey he had slept with me, I didn't even know him, obviously I do now and believe me that would be a no, absolutely not, why he felt he had to make stuff up, which is strange, but really???
When I race rode for the first time I had the gibes and the piss taking in the weighing room, it was a horrid experience and I grew up with a fairly handy father a brother who didn't take any shit, I worked in pubs and nightclubs in London and believe me noone messed with me, however racing was different.
I had a runner one day at Stratford, in the weighing room with 2 big trainers that had runners in the race along with a few others, one of the middle of the road trainers came in, walked between me and the bigger trainers that I was talking to, put his back to me and said "right lads, which one of us will win this then..." I'll never forget Philip Hobbs looked over his shoulder and said "well I think Jo's has a good chance", the other chap looked behind, sneered and walked away.
Yes we did win and no I haven't forgotten it. Obviously that doesn't happen now - you have to have horses winning for people to be bothered! Joking, no it doesn't happen now because I would say I give off a different aura, no F_cks given is possibly the one.
We want to be accepted when we are young, the girls I have spoken to about the Bryony situation say "its just Robbie, unless you stand up to him that's what he does", fair play to them, however why should they??
Why should any man (it does happen to them too) or woman need to draw a line in the sand with a male or a female bully?
I have been mortified to see the amount of younger and older women on social media who were the ones to say Bryony should man up and stop moaning, way way more than the men.
Let me tell you if a bloke swung his privates in my daughter's face, he would be wearing his nuts as earrings and probably be half way to a sex change, yet if he had done it to me when I was in my twenties, I would have been one of those girls saying "its just banter, what's everyone getting in a flap about".
No, its respect and decency and like it or hate it women are playing on an equal footing to men, both in and out of the saddle all across the board in equestrianism and racing is the only part of the horse world, where it seems the attitude is still so old boys club.
I don't give a monkeys if you are male, female, white, black, gay, straight, whatever, if you are a good person then I will treat you with respect and decency, If you aren't I will avoid you like the plague, bullies are not welcome, I have reached a point in my life where it will not be tolerated.
Anyone who knows my yard, knows we are inclusive here and everyone who sets foot on the yard is treated like an equal, but behave like a twat and you can bugger off. My daughter is an anti bullying ambassador at school, when we were talking about someone mummy was having a problem with, her words were "well do you think she is unhappy mummy? That is usually why bullies behave badly..."
Change our ways in racing or we are slowly losing valuable people, who contribute so much by following and supporting a great sport which many would see in the gutter.
In other news we are turning a corner (well I am mentally) now we have the gallop in, I am so grateful to Patricia for the chance to train here, I just hope I can do the place justice.
The horses are all flying at home, they could all still be geese but I would like to think there may be a swan in there, it's taking time to learn where we are with them and we are running a few, some disappointingly but at least I'm learning about what needs to be done.
We are having a ladies morning here on the 22nd for the #TheseGirlsCan racing club, if you haven't joined or want a present for the lady in your life, then do give me a shout. Claude Almighty is such a lovely horse, even more lovely now he has learnt to behave like a racehorse - well most of the time anyway!
Ha I've just realised I've been banging on about being inclusive and our racing club is for ladies, isn't that ironic? I did it for ladies as I know how daunting it can be for women to go racing alone and how it is nice for them to get the chance to make friends with like minded women, would there be a market for another club open to all?
The club is either £25 a month or £250 a year as a one off fee, we will try for at least 5 or 6 yard visits and I will get as many tickets as I can for when he runs, which I am hoping will happen in January!
I will do another blog re the horses when I have more interesting things to tell you, have a good evening!