Girls Horse Club Blog

Behind-the-Scenes: Women in American Horse Racing

Published by • Jul 6th, 2007 • Category: Entertainment, Previews & Reviews, Showing & Sport

At the end of May we previewed a new documentary titled Women in American Horse Racing that chronicles the history of women in this male-dominated sport and talks about their impact on the industry. We know you like to hear what inspires the work of other writers and artists, so we asked the creators, John and Sandy Ronan of American Storyboard, to tell us a bit about what happened behind-the-scenes to inspire and motivate their incredible effort.

womeninracing.gifSandy and I were sitting one afternoon talking about horses and racing because we had recently been to Saratoga. Both of us have always loved horses and horse racing, and Sandy had horses when she was a child in Pennsylvania. We were talking with enthusiasm and a little nostalgia because the summer meet at Saratoga was over. Later that night, we were on another topic: movies. Our non-profit, American Storyboard, had done a movie on an historic schooner in Gloucester, MA, and we were looking for a new documentary topic. Somewhere in that second talk — BINGO! — we thought of linking racing to a new movie. That simple idea, almost three years ago, was the moment we began.

The next step was to narrow the topic down. Many movies had been made on racing and we didn’t have the urge to repeat that work or the money to imitate it. We needed a topic of interest that would not be a duplication of earlier work. I don’t remember the details, but because my wife is a social worker and concerned with working women, and because I have taught many years and have been concerned with students (a majority of whom are women) getting jobs, we hit on the topic of women in racing. A little research showed that almost nothing visual had been done on women in the sport of racing! This documentary needed to be made. We were off and running.

In the process, we met many wonderful people in all occupations at racetracks: jockeys, executives, outriders, grooms, and others. All of them impressed us with their genuine love for horses and love for racing. As one women says in an interview, “It’s not really a job. It’s a passion.” These people were happy at their jobs. Most of them were not getting rich and had little chance of being part of a Kentucky Derby or Breeders Cup victory. That made no difference to them. They liked being around and caring for horses and most had begun their careers very early. They had fallen in love with horses at five or six and starting training or riding shortly after.

We are happy to give some recognition to the women who are changing the racing business in a big way, but so far have gotten little recognition. It’s a start!

~~John and Sandy Ronan

We know some of you dream of working and effecting positive change in the horse racing industry. If you have questions for John and Sandy, feel free to ask and hopefully they will have time to respond.

Also, we have a copy of the DVD kindly donated by American Storyboard. If anyone is interested in writing a review, please use the “Contact” link at the bottom of the page to let us know. With permission from a parent (if you’re underage), we can mail the DVD and it’s yours to keep in exchange for writing an unbiased review.

NOTE: Unfortunately the DVD won’t work everywhere in the world, so you need to live in the US, Canada or someplace where you can view a DVD in NTSC format. If you’re not sure, check out this map (green = NTSC).

18 Nickers »

  1. Hello, I love horses and the topic of women in racing is extremely interesting. It’s a stereotype that all jockeys are men, which is untrue. I was wondering if you traveled to interview people invloved in the sport and, if so where, where did you travel and who was interviewed? Thanks. :)

  2. Hi Julia –

    We made one trip, Julia, and that was to Boston to Suffolk Downs. You see other locations in the movie, but those shots are from donated footage. At Suffolk Downs we interviewed lot of people; not everyone we talked to wound up in the final version. Among others, we talked to Tammi Piermarini, a jockey who is not the leading jockey at Suffolk Downs. Also, we talked to Tamay Alpander and Anne Sanguinetti, jockeys, to Cathy Chumbley, an outrider, to Kerry Reynolds, a groom. We also talked to Alison Lanci, a girl whose father is a jockey and whose mother is a trainer. Everyone, without exception, was in love with the sport and their own jobs.

  3. Did you guys make the movie? That’s awesome! :) :) :D :)

  4. Hi Julia and Horsejo –

    Yes, we made the movie! We also made a mistake, Julia, in our note to you. (Oooops!) Tammi Piermarini is “now” the leading jockey at Suffolk Downs.

  5. When is it going to come out/go into theaters? Because I would love to see it! :) It sound like a really fabulous movie. :D Is it hard making a movie?

  6. Cool, movies must be fun to make!

  7. Hey I was just wondering did you meet any women trainers? If so did they say anything about not getting the same respect as male trainers if so that’s so unfair!

  8. I am really going to see the movie. Is it a documentary or what? I don’t care, I just want to see it because it sounds so interesting! I love to know everything I can about horses because horses are AWESOME!

  9. Thanks for clarifying. :) It’s also something I would love to see because it’s what’s behind the scenes of racing, just not what’s on the track. Thanks!

  10. I would love to see the movie! When does it go out?

  11. Tori, I think it’s already out. There’s a link to it on Amazon.

  12. If it is already out I haven’t seen it at Block Buster when I went a week or two ago. Is it a documentary or what?

  13. Hi Everyone –

    Yes, we did interview trainers: Jenny Young, an assistant trainer who works for Steve Klesaris, and Pam Angevine, who trains a stable of horses and races at Tampa Bay and Suffolk Downs. They did say it is more difficult for women but that if a woman works hard she can get ahead.

    This is a documentary and it was a lot of fun to make. It also took a long time and some patience, but we are proud of the result. We got to meet some great people and some nice horses, too.

    The movie is out! We had a premiere at Suffolk Downs June 16 – we chose Suffolk Downs because it was one of the tracks that was open to women riders and trainers early on, back in the late sixties and seventies. The DVD is available through the Racing Form website store or on Amazon.

  14. Will it ever be at Blockbuster or what?

  15. Hi Horsejo

    No, Blockbuster will not have it, as far as plans go now.

  16. I will try and find it. Can I rent it somewhere? Is there a link you have so I can see a preview of it on youtube.com or somewhere?

  17. There is a clip at: http://theronan.org/storyboard.htm

  18. This year, I went with my best friend to see the derby horses workout. What exited me though, is one of the derby horses, Stormello, had a female exersice rider!