Friday, July 6, 2012

Thewifedoesntknow's Training Blog: Q&A with Jockey Shannon Uske

 Part 3 in a series of training blogs about Thewifedoesntknow, a Thoroughbred mare made famous by a viral YouTube video and race call by Monmouth Park announcer Larry Collmus. 

Click here to read Training Blog, Week 1
Click here to read Training Blog, Week 2

When Thewifedoesntknow broke prematurely from the gate before the fourth race at Monmouth Park on June 3, racing fans witnessed a few dicey moments. All horses, riders, and gate crew workers were uninjured, thanks to the skill and dedication of these horsemen and women, including the mare's jockey, Shannon Uske.

Thewifedoesntknow #9 breaks prematurely from the gate with jockey Shannon Uske aboard, as Assistant Starter Tyler Kayes, who was pulled out of the gate, takes cover below a leaping Sitora #8 in the fourth race on Sunday June 3, 2012 at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. All horses and riders, as well as Kayes were uninjured.  Hunter/jumper riders, you were always taught that a balanced rider has a straight line from ankle to hip to shoulder and also a straight line from the bit to the rider's elbow. This can apply to jockeys as well. Note how Shannon maintains her balance with strong equitation. Photos By David Owens/EQUI-PHOTO

I've known Shannon since she was 9 years old. We boarded and rode together at the same barns for many years, and I had the pleasure of watching her pursue her dream to become a jockey. I rooted her on as she cleaned up in jumper classes with her fantastic mare, Sweety (Jockey Club name: Plum Graceful), and I cheered her on at the racetrack from Gulfstream to Saratoga.

Once I heard that Shannon recommended Thewifedoesntknow as a sporthorse prospect to hunter/jumper trainer Carole Davison, I had to know more about the story:

TDN: For those who are unfamiliar with your riding background, how long have you been riding hunter/jumpers and how long have you been a jockey? Do you have horses of your own? 

Shannon: I have been riding hunter/jumpers for 19 years now and a jockey for almost 10. I do have horses of my own. I still enjoy getting green horses and retraining them, plus I have my one horse that I will keep forever named Playboy. I love working with horses, but the racehorses are all business so its nice to have my own to enjoy and work with.

Shannon Uske and Playboy

 TDN: When you are riding horses in the morning and before races, do some of them naturally "feel" like hunters, dressage horses, etc.? Do you notice it more in their movement, or in how they respond to a rider?

Shannon: Yes, I do get on some horses and think that they will make great hunter/jumper or dressage horses when they are done. Part of it is the way they move, but mostly the way they are put together and carry themselves. Their response to the rider is also important, although I feel that their response has more to do with how quickly they can be retrained to their new career. Some I feel can be ready to show in 4-6 weeks (usually the slow uncompetitive ones), where others may take 6 months.

 TDN: What qualities did you see in Thewifedoesntknow that caused you to recommend her to Carole Davison as a hunter prospect?

Shannon: I was only on Thewife in the afternoon, but she had a nice, athletic build and carried herself very well throughout the warm up. She was smooth with a natural head set and wasn't a nervous horse.

 TDN: What advice would you give to people who are thinking of training a Thoroughbred off the track to be a show horse?

Shannon: I think Thoroughbreds are great show horses. They are very willing to please and have big hearts. I think that as long as you are a confident, patient rider, you will do well with a Thoroughbred.
Shannon Uske and her Thoroughbred, Playboy. Photo ©Sarah Andrew
TDN: What advice do you have for people who want to become jockeys and exercise riders?

Shannon: For exercise riders or even a jock, if you are too young for the track, I would say riding any green horse will help teach you a lot for the future. If you're old enough to get a job at the track, I would find a farm with a track and get on horses to learn the basics of galloping or go somewhere to break babies and start them galloping. Knowing the basics before you get to the real track definitely helps. There's so many horses and riders on the track that it would be a difficult place to learn. To become a jock takes a lot of hard work and persistence. I would recommend finding a trainer with a big barn that can help teach you and look after you to get you started. Listen to the people around you and watch and observe what other riders do. It will help you learn what's good and bad. Being in a big barn will allow you to get on all kinds of horses, which will better prepare you for the afternoon where you may not have ever been on the horse you are racing. They will also help you progress as you are ready. I was fortunate to wind up with Allen Jerkens. He had 45 horses at the time and they were all so different, it really helped me learn how to deal with almost any kind of horse. He is also a great horseman with a lot of good insight and advice so long as you listened. When I started, the jocks would also give me good tips and advice. Just always listen and take into consideration what people are telling you, I guess is the best advice. 

Shannon Uske at Atlantic City Race Course in 2007
Stay tuned next week for photos and the newest update on Thewifedoesntknow and her training progress. Rumor has it she is doing quite well!

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