Jamie Kah is in such sublime form it has been said she could ride a broomstick to victory … but please forgive Debra Hall if she doesn’t get the joke.
Broomsticks and particularly broom closets bring back painful memories for one of Australia’s pioneering female jockeys who says she faced chauvinism almost every day of her 15-year riding career.
Hall, who became South Australia’s first female apprentice jockey in 1979, says the racing industry Kah is thriving in as she stands on the historic precipice of 100 city winners in a season is poles apart to the one Hall rode in.
“My first changeroom at Victoria Park racecourse (Adelaide) was a broom closet – literally – thankfully they took the brooms out for me,” Hall said.
“They didn’t have a room anywhere for me, so they just put me in somewhere that had a door.
“I couldn’t really even fit in the closet to get changed properly as my gear took up most of the closet.
“I was never even given any access to water, at least for a couple of years.
“At Cheltenham racecourse I was put in another room that was nowhere near the scales.
“Against the rules of racing, I had to get changed there and walk through the crowd to get to the scales.
“Being a female I wasn’t getting very good rides so it certainly wasn’t much fun walking through the crowd.
“This was when chauvinism was filled with complete hatred toward females in a man’s world.”
Debra Hall (nee Lloyd), aged 16, after winning a race at Morphettville.Source:Supplied
In another incident, Hall (nee Lloyd) said she had money stolen from her purse in a “toolshed room out near the race day stalls” which doubled as a female jockeys’ change room.
She was then put in the male jockeys’ room – a situation that would be inconceivable in today’s world.
Hall said when she rode 40 years ago she was riding in a man’s sport and many male jockeys – and even stewards – wanted her out of the sport.
“They wanted to get rid of me, a steward once made it very clear if my horse got interfered with in a race that it would have to be very severe interference for there to be a stewards’ inquiry,” she said.
“In races, I wasn’t really supposed to hold my ground on a horse because I was a female jockey and the thought was I not supposed to be there.
“So the thinking was that male jockeys had every right to push my horse around in a race.”
Hall, now 63, rode 450 career winners, many of which in regional areas in South Australia.
But one of her proudest moments was representing Australia in a riding series in Japan where she rode a winner against the male jockeys.
Debra Hall (nee Lloyd) after winning in Japan.Source:Supplied
Her riding career ended 15 years after it started when she had a bad fall, suffering a brain injury and other medical issues she still struggles with today.
Hall will watch on with admiration and pride when Kah, who also hails from South Australia, almost certainly rides her 100th city winner for the season at Sandown on Wednesday.
She is delighted at how far women have progressed to be some of the leading lights of the racing industry which she insists would now be lost without them.
“For most of my career I was the only girl riding, now there is four or five girls riding in some races,” Hall said.
“The industry almost depends on their skills and their professionalism.”
Originally published asShocking sexism female jockey pioneer had to confront
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