Photo: Stacy Hindt
“Racing’s Future” is a Q&A series in which I aspire to help everyone in the industry. In addition to shining a spotlight on youth who plan to have a career in horse racing, I hope that the opinions expressed in their responses will offer industry leaders insight into what a younger audience believes the sport should improve upon.
Katie Hindt, a 15-year-old from Fair Hill, Maryland, has been riding since she was 18 months old and started pony racing five years ago in the Delaware Valley Point to Point Association. She currently races her large Arabian pony, Garrett (AKA Under the Influence), who is a winner at the Genesee Valley Hunt races in upstate New York. She currently works as an exercise rider for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard as a working student and is in pursuit of her jockey’s license.
How did you become interested in horse racing?
I grew up with horses and my mom's friend's daughter, Maria Remedio, is a jockey. I love being able to go fast and pony racing was a great start. I love the adrenaline and once I started racing Stinky (AKA One Stinky Pony), I was hooked.
What do you love about horse racing?
I love the speed, the thrill of going fast and being in control of such a large animal. I love being in a partnership with them and guiding them safely around the track. When you get out there, you're out there with others going as fast as you, if not faster, and it's almost like dancing, the give and take. I love it when they test me, and I get them settled down and going nicely. To me, there is nothing better, and I love being able to be there on them as they work.
Who are some of the people you admire in the industry and why?
I admire Jazz Napravnik. She has an advanced jockey course, which I took last summer, and she taught me more than I knew from just pony racing. I learned to properly gallop and condition and she also taught me to school my ponies over hurdles at Tom Voss' Atlanta Hall. I admire Rosie Napravnik. She came to Jazz's and worked with us, as well she schooled my Arab, Garrett, over hurdles. I believe he is also the only Arabian that she likes. She was a great help in teaching me to use my Equicizer to the best possible advantage. I also want to shout out to Tim Woolley, Jonathan Sheppard, Keri Brion, Maria Remedio, Fenneka Bentley, and my parents. All have helped me along the way and allowed me to explore and reach for my dreams. Also my school: they arranged my schedule so I can gallop two mornings a week and miss my first period. I make it up one day a week in the afternoon. It definitely is a team effort and I appreciate all those who have helped me.
What aspects of horse racing do you wish you knew more about?
I wish I knew how the odds are set. I'm not too good at figuring out the odds. All I know is I wake up, gallop and go to school. I love watching them race and I love being hands on. I love it when the vets come around. One barn I worked at, the vets would let me look in as they scoped a horse and that was great. I was taught to check ligaments and I'm always checking my race pony and junior horse after works to see if they're sore. So I guess more anatomy! I've been able to pony racehorses on the track which was great. The more I can do, the better. I want to be able to understand everything.
What career are you pursuing in the horse racing industry?
I am currently getting as much saddle time as I can so I can get my jockey's license. I want to be able to race professionally one day. I am working all summer every day and also at my mom’s friends farm where I stay at night during the week. I wake up, ride my bike to Jonathan Sheppard’s, ride, groom, and muck stalls and ride back to Corinne and Dan’s farm where I ride and do night chores during the week. My parents are exploring the option of homeschooling me so I can ride more but nothing has been set yet. We want to see how I develop and grow over the summer. I do plan on college part-time as I ride. I want to get a degree in Chinese so I have something to fall back once I am done racing. I love the assistant trainer I ride for at Jonathan’s. Heidi is a wealth of information and puts up with me when I have questions.
Why have you chosen that career?
I chose being a jockey because it's in my heart. I love the speed. I love going fast. I love the relationship between the horse and I, and the balance of give and take as we work together. I respect them and they respect me back. It's a sport where I compete not only for myself, but against others. I love the strategy of picking the course and trying to be across the line first.
How are you currently pursuing that career?
I did Jazz Napravnik's Elite Jockey and Foxhunter Course. It was a very intense three weeks. My mom and I woke and were on the road by 5:30. We trailered to her place in Monkton, Maryland, where I rode out on her horses, as well as my race pony. It was all hands-on learning with guest speakers. My mom was the unofficial photographer and chef and made lunch the last week. Jazz really broke it down for us there and taught us well. I was very unsure of jumping steeplechase fences but came away loving it, although my favorite is flat racing. Besides that, I ride in local point to points on my pony. And ride. . . I ride as many racehorses that I can throw my legs over.
What racetracks have you been to?
I have been to Parx in Philadelphia, Pimlico, Laurel, Delaware Park, Churchill Downs, Charlestown, Del Mar, and Saratoga.
What is your favorite racetrack? Why?
My favorite track hands down was Saratoga. It has such an old time charm and is amazing. I went to see a horse I had ridden, race. Although he didn't win, it was a great trip and I can't wait to race there one day. Saratoga also has the first shop for Ben & Jerry's ice cream! A very close second is Churchill Downs. Those twin spires are magical. I love going there and wandering around watching the races.
Of the racetracks you have not been to, which one do you want to visit most?
Keeneland is on the list. I've not been there but have heard such great things about it. Finger Lakes is in the region where my mom grew up, so I'd like to see it one day if we go to visit family.
What are your favorite moments in your “horse racing life” thus far?
I would have to say my favorite moments so far are seeing a friend get a horse out of a bad situation. My mom went on the trip to get the horse and when the horse comes back to win, I will be there cheering. Another was when my parents surprised me with an Animal Kingdom Kentucky Derby saddle cloth that had been auctioned off. Even better was when I got Graham Motion to sign it! It's one of my prized possessions and I love it. I'm not much on collecting racing memorabilia, but this is a keeper! I love being able to go to the races and seeing horses I gallop do well, or watching them race on my smart phone app. On weekends if I'm not racing or riding, I love being able to help trainer friends at point to points and learning from them. The highlight of my pony racing career so far was being the 2011 Small Pony Champions with One Stinky Pony and last year in Genesee Valley Hunt Races in upstate New York, winning both the pony races with Under the Influence and One Stinky Pony. I love going to races and having people ask if Stinky is there. He’s a character and very much a crowd favorite.
Who are your favorite racehorses of your lifetime? Before your lifetime?
My favorite racehorses are Animal Kingdom, Divine Fortune, Better Talk Now and Inauguration. Before my time, Ruffian, Shergar, Dr.Fager, My Babu, Secretariat and War Admiral.
If you could change something about the industry, what would you change?
If I could change anything, I'd love to see more responsibility being taken for when horses are done racing. You read and hear of so many 'bad' rescues, and people who take them and immediately drive them to an auction. I watch all my favorites in a virtual stable, and there are a few I'd jump through hoops to try and get. I wish there were more opportunities for youth like me to ride. I know friends who would like to try, but with no experience no one will let them. Thankfully my parents are very involved and supportive and made it all happen so I am where I am at today.
What do you think is preventing horse racing from being a more popular sport?
I think that part of the problem is horse racing only gets prime time coverage for the big races. There should be more coverage allocated for racing than there is. Sure we have TVG and HRTV, but not all cable and satellite subscribers get those channels. There are many professional sports out there that compete for coverage, and sadly, horses racing around a track doesn't thrill everybody. It does help at least that there are apps for smart phones so we can watch, as well as watching online.
What do you think is the most common misconception about horse racing?
One misconception I hear of is that all trainers drug and that they're only lucky because they haven't been caught yet. I don't tend to listen to such nonsense. That’s why there is drug testing after races.
How would you convince someone who is not an avid follower of horse racing to begin following the sport?
I've had friends and even teachers come watch me race at point to points. They ask questions and I answer them. We sit and watch the races and I can see the interest spark in their eyes. I love answering questions and passing on what knowledge I have.
What is one thing you aspire to personally accomplish someday in the horse racing industry?
Well, one long term goal is to win the Derby. But I think that's everyone's dream. In the short term, my goal is to get my jockey's license and ride. I want to be able to take that next step and prove that I can do it. I also want to get my driver’s license and be able to help my mom out with some of the driving.