Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Being a woman without a whole lot of courage, I really appreciate those who possess an abundance. On Friday, two women stood tall and faced the winds that would level most. Jessica Watson whom I wrote about earlier and Barbara Jo Rubin are wonderful examples. Oddly, they both had milestone events on Friday.

Barbara Jo is a friend of a friend. Our mutual friend is Joan whom I have mentioned before. Joan and I have only met face to face one time but she has been in my life for years. Our love of animals, in particular Great Danes, brought us together and the Internet kept us in touch.

When Joan learned through our mutual blacksmith of an albino Great Dane (BG which was short for Big Guy) I had in my shelter that was deaf and partially blind, she and her husband Ted, sent me money every month to pay for his care. Their support of BG in the financially exhausting job of rescue, meant the world.

Barbara Jo , her husband and Joan and Ted became friends many years ago and though they now live in different states, they stay in touch. That is how I became aware of the Lady Legends Race for the Cure held at Pimlico track this past Friday. Eight retired lady jockeys participated in the charity event.

Barbara Jo had begun to ride horses when she was 6 years old. She contracted polio and the doctors prescribed horse back riding to strengthen her legs. Thus began her long love affair with horses. It was the love of horses that led her to attempt a job normally held by men. Barbara Jo Rubin was a pioneer when it wasn't easy to be one. She was the first woman jockey to win a pari-mutual race on a U.S. track. She was only nineteen.

When you are the first to do something, you suffer the "tall poppy syndrome." Cross the sex or race barrier and you really feel the heat. The male jockeys did not want her on the track. They called her derogatory names, told her to go home and have babies. They threatened to boycott a race she was scheduled to ride and she was unceremoniously pulled. Once a brick was thrown threw the window of the trailer she was using as a dressing room.

Generally, she was assigned rank horses no one else would ride. As a result, she took many a spill. She had 14 spills in two weeks. In spite of that she managed a very respectable win record on almost 50 % of her rides. However in her 19th year, Barbara Jo suffered seven concussions, broken ribs, a crushed femoral artery, broken toes , a broken pelvis and a broken neck. A jockey's life is a hazardous one at best. They usually ride hurt. Riding the horses no one else wanted, made it all the more treacherous.

Forty one years ago, Barbara Jo Rubin retired from racing but not from horses. She and her husband own a training stable, not for track horses however but for Dressage. Dressage is often referred to as equine ballet because of its beauty and elegance. It really is stunning to watch and now days is my favorite horse event to observe.

Since riding dressage does not require the upper body strength that racing does, Barbara had to put a lot of time in retraining and getting her body ready for the grueling sport.

Controlling a 1000+ pound, high strung and willful animal takes great strength. While training this month, she tore a muscle in her arm and has a dark purple bruise that runs the underside of her arm. She kept going with the arduous training when most of us, myself included would just say , "Well maybe this isn't such a good idea for a grandmother." However, you don't accomplish the records she has with that attitude. That is the distinguishing factor that separates the doers from the watchers.

She was contacted to ride the Lady Legends Race for the Cure at Pimlico which was to be run the day before the Preakness. The field was to contain 8 retired lady jockeys: Barbara Jo Rubin, the oldest at 60; Mary Russ Tortora, 56; Gwen Jocson, 43; Jennifer Rowland Small, 57; Andrea Seefeldt Knight, 47; Cheryl White, 56; P.J. Cooksey, 52, and Mary Wiley Wagner, 46 It was to be a charity race in support of the Susan G Komen Fund.

Both Patti Cooksey and Mary Wiley Wagner are breast cancer survivors. All of the ladies had to overcome great odds just to compete Friday. Barbara was quoted saying that last winter when she agreed to do this, she squatted down in her living room to practice some riding moves but then couldn't get up. She knew as a 60 year old grandmother she had a long journey to achieve the fitness necessary to ride a thoroughbred.

None of the ladies were competition ready. Mary Wagner finished the last of her 35 chemotherapy treatments in late November then set her sights on the race in May. Cheryl White had to shed nearly 40 pounds. She rode Friday on a hip replacement. These ladies got on the track Friday overcoming ailments that would sideline most of us to a rocker.

They discovered they had to go from sucking air from the exertion, overcoming decreased flexibility and pain that made even sitting on the toilet agony, to controlling 1000+ pound thoroughbreds with ease. The thing is, they made that journey, forcing their bodies past the pain. Once again they were fit athletes.

Pre-race game face.

I could not get the race as it was on HRTV which was not available to me. Joan's daughter was kind enough to record it and somehow email it to me. It took 8 hours for me to download but it was so worth it. Thanks again Joanne.

During the race, I mainly watched Barbara Jo for after all, she is the friend of a friend and the interest was personal, but this was a field of women who had been pioneers in a male dominated world. They stepped off the road of ease most of us choose, and jumped into a fray most of us could not handle, nor would want to. I can only admire them.

How to you spell happy?? Above two pictures are taken from the TV coverage during the Preakness race on Saturday. Sorry about quality.

Friday they rode together. Barbara rode #6 and came in #6 though not from lack of effort on her part. The horse just didn't have it. Gwen Jocson crossed the finish line first but all 8 of those women won for themselves, a wonderful charity, and those of us watching from our recliners. Thank you ladies.


  1. I second that.
    Thank you
    Hey Patty hoope you are well.

  2. I have to applaud them for even trying. The last time I as on a horse (age 12) was a disaster, so I think anyone who can control them is a genius.

  3. Wonderful; the women, the cause, Joan's daughter considerate enough to tape and send to you, and even you for a 8 hour download!!!!!!

    Because women are regularly breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling, many forget there are older pioneers who have contributed in every aspect of life.

    When I entered pharmacy school I was one of 5 women. When I entered the workforce I was given less salary, passed over for for promotions, and intelligence insulted by male and female customers who said "I'd just rather a man fill my prescriptions!" I had a fiery friend who had a sexually tainted retort for such comments I cannot put in print.

    Today there are more women pharmacists than men, I am told.

  4. Excellent and inspiring story! Thanks for sharing it. I often forget about all the women who have forged trails for all of us. It's good to be reminded.

  5. What a fantastic story, patti Very inspiring women.

  6. Isn't that just neat, Patti???? We all (as we get older) need to read about women of courage and determination--like Barbara Jo... She is such an inspiration... Thanks for sharing!


  7. What an inspiring Post, Patti...These women are FANTASTIC! It's something I knew almost nothing about and I loved reading about these great ladies and this partcular race.

    Thanks for youyr comment my dear....I too noticed BIG changes in these last 5 years...(I will turn 79 in June) and I'm afraid that is the way it is with aging....It definitelt sucks! (lol)

  8. Amazing story. I am in awe.

  9. 8 hours to download. You make me cry, Patti. So do women like these!!


  10. I had no idea about the women jockeys. I don't think I heard anything about them during the race or anything. I take my hat off to them and thank you for sharing their stories with us. Man, I couldn't even begin to get my body back in shape to ride a Clydesdale. Ha!

  11. Amanda,
    Hey, thanks for stopping by. Wondered where you have been. I am doing great and hope you are too.

    I have ridden a good portion of my life but would never attempt a race horse. You sound like my brother, he had one miserable experience and that was that.

    I hadn't realized you were also a pioneer for as you say, most pharmacists today are women but I remember when that was not the case.
    Girls today don't realize today just how restricting employment opportunities were for women back in the day. Hats off to you lady.

    Blue Ridge Boomer,
    Glad you liked it.

    I'm sure you remember when our job choices were secretary, clerk, nurse or teacher. We have come a long way on the backs of the ones able to think outside the box we were forced to live in.

    Thanks robin, they impressed me too.

    While I was blown away by their original accomplishments, that they got back in athletic shape past middle age gives me hope.

    You are so right. Once we peak and start the slippery slope of aging, things fall apart really quickly.
    All we can do is laugh at our selves and hunt for the asprin bottle.

    Kind of the way I felt.

    Fortunately, I let it download while I slept. It was worth it.
    Their courage to tackle this one more race, really impressed me. It took months and a ton of work for just 2 minutes.

    Amber Star,
    There was only about a 5 minute piece but it was well done. I am glad they were acknowledged on national TV.
    I find getting in shape for a 30 minute walk is about my limit.

  12. There's hope for all of us! :)

  13. These are remarkable women. Thanks for telling their story. Reading about them caused me to think of all the other remarkable women who overcome great odds every day, some just to survive! They are the un-noticed, unsung Lady Legends.

    Lovely post, Patti.

  14. Thank you so much for sharin' these amazing women with us. The women of courage and true grit pave the pathways for others to follow.

    God bless and you have yourself the best day!!!

  15. Yes, thank you ladies. Myself being a two time breast cancer survivor, I appreciate all the effort you all put forth.

  16. They are indeed incredible and inspiring!! And how cool is your association via a friend!!! You are such an amazing lady yourself! Thoroughly enjoyed this! Love, Janine XO

  17. Wanda,
    Hay, I think you are right, but then you usually are.

    I agree. There are the pioneers who break barriers so we all advance. Then there are those that even day to day living is a horrific struggle.

    I sure am glad that the paths were forged by the strong and made smoother for those of us that followed.

    The cause for the race was truly wonderful. I am a survivor also and am amazed at the people who go above and beyond in the effort to find a cure for this awful disease.

    Sniffles and Smiles,
    They are inspiring and the two degrees of separation was cool.Thanks for the confidence.

  18. Amazing indeed - thanks for this tribute to courage. blessings, marlene

  19. Inspiring inspiring !!!I loved reading this. I am totally in awe. Could only imagine how you must've felt when you watched the video finally.

  20. Stitchinbythelake,
    Thanks and yes they are courageous.

    You said Jesse made you want to go out and make your mark in the world. Well these ladies make me want to get up off the couch and break a sweat. Trust me,at my age, mine is almost as monumnetal as yours:))

    Lynda G,
    Thanks for the "Yay" for our side.We need to keep being reminded that we can do anything.