Female Jockeys of Australia and the world
July 20 at 2:00am · Edited ·
Meet JORJAN F NEAL (USA/MEXICO)
FJAW heads to Mexico to meet Jorjan Neal who recently won her first race in a quarter horse race.
Born in Lufkin Texas, JORJAN now lives in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora Mexico. JORJAN was kind enough to take some time-out to speak with us.
“Just so no one gets confused, in Mexico I am Jina Neal, it's because no one can say or will say my name correctly, in Spanish the J makes the H sound so my name to them was "Horhan" Jorjan, it doesn’t sound very complimentary, so a friend of mine on day called me Jina and it stuck, my Drivers license says JORJAN but no one calls me that here, so there I didn't want to confuse anyone”
As a Texan, JORJAN has been around horses her entire life. Jorjan’s grandfather whom she called ‘Pawpaw’ gifted her first horse when she was 4 years old, a big Appaloosa gelding named, Zipper. JORJAN recalls, “When there was no saddle with Zipper I asked him, " Pawpaw, where is my saddle? I don't have a saddle to ride him with." My Pawpaw said, "saddle? you don't need a saddle, any fool can ride in a saddle!" So until I was able to ride bareback perfectly I did not have a saddle. The purpose was to get me familiar with the horse, the way he moved, the way he felt, he told me there is a lot more to a horse than just riding him. It also taught me to respect them and understand them more.”
The world of Quarter Horse Racing is likened to the sport of Drag Racing. This breed is known for their speed. JORJAN explains,
“ A quarter horse breaks HARD, very hard, and their speed accelerates through the whole race, a much shorter race, they can run up to 55mph (88km) in a quarter mile in less than 21 seconds! In quarter horse racing the clock starts as soon as the gates open, compared to the thoroughbreds two to three strides out before the clock starts. The professional racing here is even different from the U.S. Here they use meters and not yards, and we do even shorter races than the 440 yards that most do in the U.S.. We do anywhere from 100 meters to 400 meters. Depends on the horse, ‘Chica Bunny’ my mare, does 100-125 meters and is almost unbeatable at this distance, too much more dirt and she wears out because she is so explosive out of the gates and just keeps going till her ‘lil fuse burns out! Quarter horses are very compact, some more than others, ‘Chica Bunny’ is more than others, she is not a smooth ride, she's rough as hell! I always compare her to a 4x4 short wheel base pickup with big tires! She's built like a brick house, Shorter than most, big round muscular shoulders, and a butt as big as Dallas! She is the granddaughter of Special Effort, who was the Triple Crown winner of the quarter horse world, winning the Kansas Futurity, the Rainbow Futurity, and the All American Futurity. A little history lesson in American Quarter horses!”
On 12 July, JORJAN won her first race in her third actual race riding ‘Chica Bunny’ against La Lucero, (English; The Bright Star) over 100 meters. When asked what this meant to her, JORJAN shared her feelings and reflected on her younger days.
“This meant everything to me. I have struggled most of my life trying to figure out who I was and what it was I wanted or just what I was meant to do. Horses have always been a balance for me. When I was younger and in school I had low self esteem, I wasn't good at school, I did not make good grades, I just wasn't interested in it, I suffer from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) I’m not able to focus or complete projects, sit still, sometimes you will notice when I am sitting my right leg moves up and down , it would always drive my Grandmother crazy! I never accomplished anything, as soon as I was 18 years old I quit school, never wanted to go to get a degree in anything, so therefore getting a job was almost impossible. So, you can see having the feeling of no self worth, being useless playing their part in my life. I have finally done something with my life, even if I were to never run another race I still will always be the first female jockey in all of Sonora and quite possibly at this time the only active female jockey in the country and winning that race meant I didn't just do it, I did it well, and I made history doing it!
Racing worldwide has always been a male dominated sport and JORJAN says it the way it is as she tells us what the Quarter Horse Racing scene is like for a female rider in Mexico.
“Well I will tell you this, most of the men here are chauvinist! Not all, but most. The women here don't ride horses, much less race them! They’re usually afraid of horses. You will find most women, not with their husband but at the house cooking cleaning and taking care of kids if they are my age, or taking care of their grandchildren if they’re older. And all the while their husbands are out with their buddies Sunday evening at the race track. This is a man's world down here for sure! Until my last race that I won, not one other jockey had ever spoken to me. I think at first they thought I was in it for the publicity. I rode in my second race on another one of my horses, a big grey horse named ‘Don Simon,’ he's a beast, as much racehorse as any man could handle. I was told one day before this race I needed to step down and let another jockey ride him, I could get hurt, he's more horse than Chica Bunny, he is very strong and hard to stop, and that this was a tough race and if I made a mistake I could lose. It brought me to tears that someone had such little faith in me I was sad, then I got mad, then I wanted to show them! I ran that race and I ran it well, no I did not win but I beat the handicap just like I did in my first race on Chica Bunny. So at my last race, my husband and I were just chillaxin before the race, one jockey passes by said, "Hey, you ready?" another told me "good luck you're going to win today!" So something has changed, I think maybe that they see now I'm not here for anything other than to ride and to have fun doing it. As far as other people thinking I can't do it because I'm just a poor little helpless woman, yeah I think July the 12th’s win has probably shut them up for a good long while!”
FJAW asked JORJAN if there are any goals to aim for in the coming months or beyond?
“I think in September they start having the Futurity races. A bunch of different horses enter in the same race, they all race each other, each horse losing gets bumped out, then there is a final race with the last remaining four horses, this is usually the only time you will see more than two horses run at a time. These are big money winning races, and they also cost a lot to enter. So I probably won't run one this year, it's not about the money that it cost to enter, it's that I know I am a rookie and I need more experience before I start entering in races like that, just because I can afford to enter doesn't mean I should, but yes, it is absolutely a goal of mine to be at that point where I know I can and I should!”
JORJAN tells FJAW about her personal life.
“Well like I said I am from Texas and so is my husband. I come from a little town named, Alto. Very small, has a blinking red light, and three gas stations and a grocery store, oh and a dollar store! I played sports growing up soccer, basketball, and softball. I met my husband Joey in a bar! (I was a ‘lil wild at one time ) We have three boys, Jordan, Laret, and Colby. Laret and Colby were both born in Mexico, we would have lived in Mexico for eight years, in September we will be married for 9 years. I am originally....... do not laugh!! A barrel racer! I won my first play day when I was 5 years old! In 2005, I won my district on my horse Have a Winner, son of Raise Your Glass. And since I have lived in Mexico I have been in the World Rodeo in Chihuahua and won a buckle in Jiminez Chihuahua.When we lived in Hermosillo Sonora, three hours from where I am now, I joined a jumping club. No I had never jumped before, but just like racing I caught on fast and I won First Place in my first competition.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I'm a Mormon, if you do not know the church by its official name. God and my family, they’re always first in my life.
My favorite food....hummm I love fried chicken with gravy, I like my husband's ribeyes too.
I drive a 1995 Jeep Wrangler and I love it,
We have nine horses at this time, three are my race horses.
My favourite movie is, Lonesome Dove and I love Elton John, I am a 70's music lover! I was a finalist at Model Search America in Dallas when I was 17.
I have at least 15 tattoos I love!
JORJAN, thank you for your time. It has been a treat for those out there who have had little exposure to the world of Quarter Horse Racing.
“Thank you for this opportunity I hope you enjoyed it and maybe learned a little about quarter horse racing! God bless you all”