Horseshoe prints covered the dirt as jockeys rode their thoroughbreds from the paddock onto the track at Keeneland Racecourse. The sun was setting, which meant the final races of the day were about to commence.
The horses entered the track in order one by one. All of the jockeys wore different colored outfits to represent the trainers that they were riding for. One particular jockey in particular, number seven, possessed a look unlike the rest of the jockeys. This jockey carried around a persona that the other riders could not relate to. This jockey was Katie Clawson, a 20-year-old Apprentice horse jockey that has been racing in the Kentucky circuit for a little over a year.
“I love Kentucky, and that’s where I wanted to be,” said Clawson. “My friends race at this circuit, and I definitely identify with Kentucky.”
Although this was not Clawson’s first race of the day, she showed no signs of exhaustion or distraught. It was like she was competing in her first horse race all over again.
“Being away from the racetrack drives me crazy, said Clawson.” “I don’t see myself being away from it anytime soon.”
Clawson was unique in that she was the only female jockey racing in the seventh race of the day. As astonishing as it may seem, Clawson was usually the only female in her group during her races, regardless of where she was racing. According to Horse Racing Nation’s Top Active Jockeys chart, out of the top 250 horse jockeys in North America, only eight females made the list, and Clawson was not one of them.
Clawson was ranked 251.
After Clawson finished her last race of the day, during the 16th day of racing at Keeneland, she went home, changed out of her race uniform, and headed straight to bed. Clawson would have to be up the next morning at 6am to start breezing and training horses again, a routine that all jockeys are accustomed to.
Katie Clawson was born in Brazil, Indiana, and has been around horses her entire life. Her family owns a farm and Indiana, where she raised horses growing up, along with various other animals.
“I started galluping when I was 15,” said Clawson.
Galluping quickly turned into racing, and by June of last year, she was already competing at Churchill Downs, but not before overcoming some major injuries.
During the summer of 2015, a year before she competed in her first race, Clawson suffered her first major injury while breezing (training) a horse during morning workouts.
“I don’t really know what happened, but one way or another I ended up hitting the rail besides me,” said Clawson. Somehow, Clawson collided with the rail besides her and suffered a major spine injury. “I had three fractures to my fifth vertebrae along with a fractured rib and bruised lung,” said Clawson.
“That was the first time I was ever injured, and it was my first time seeing the realities of racing,” said Clawson. “It definitely made me think about if riding was what I really wanted to do, and it turns out it was.”
Because of her injury, Clawson has a permanent plate and some screws that are attached to the 5th Vertebrae.
Despite her early injuries, on June 11, 2016, Clawson competed in her first race ever at Churchill Downs, the same track where she had injured herself a year before.
“I wasn’t nervous at all for my first race,” said Clawson. “It was crazy. I had a little pit in my stomach when it was time to put my goggles down, but I knew my horse, and I had so many people out their supporting me.”
Clawson, now 20, lives in Louisville and is traveling more than ever. Since she ran her first race in June of 2016, she has traveled to race at nine different tracks around the Eastern Region. From Laurel Park Racing in Maryland City, Maryland, to Oaklawn Park Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Clawson has won 11 races since her first race in June of 2016
Clawson travels alone, and has always traveled alone when competing. That way, she is only responsible for housing one body when searching for places to stay.
“It is difficult traveling alone,” said Clawson. “Everytime I move into a new location, I get a little lonely before finally settling in.
On top of being alone, whenever Clawson travels she knows that she is a minority while on the track
. There have been plenty of races where Clawson was the only female competing, and is used to the atmosphere.
“It’s a male dominated sport, and we (females) have to be tough to deal with those guys,” said Clawson. “To me, it doesn’t bother me being the only girl in the Jock’s room, but also I would like to be at a track with a bunch of girls. There are pros and cons with both. We’re all out their together and in a second I can get in their way intentionally and vice versa. If we’re all friends off of the track then most likely we will be friends on the track.”
Although the love for horseracing is very strong among Clawson, she definitely understands the toll the sport can take on you.
“This is a really draining job,” said Clawson. “There is so much to it that it takes a lot out of you. Physically and mentally, the ups and downs are really big, and that’s taken a lot of getting used to for me. Idk how long I’ll ride, but I don’t want to do it forever.
She probably will not ride horses her whole life, but for now, her love of racing is not going anywhere