With a run at ND Horse Park this weekend, Sofie Barandela hopes to inspire more women to become riders – InForum

Fargo – There are two basic characteristics that a person needs to be a horse rider.

“You must have passion and no fear.”

Those are the words of Sophie Parandella, a rookie jockey based at Canterbury Park in Minnesota outside the Twin Cities.

With the race on hold in Canterbury this weekend, the Mexican national traveled a 3 hour 40 minute drive to Fargo for two races at North Dakota Horse Park this weekend.

It was a historic feat of sorts, which Parandella was only aware of after the fact. She was the first female jockey to race a Fargo course in eight years.

Tiff Mussett was the last woman to race at Horse Park in 2014. Prior to this weekend’s Parandilla race, fewer than five women have participated in the track since it was built in 2002.

“Maybe it’s about people telling you, ‘Don’t go in there, it’s dangerous.’ But every place is dangerous,” Parandella said. Maybe it’s about the conditions and you didn’t know this racetrack existed.”

These are two reasonable answers for why not more women are showing up, but another key element to this problem is the lack of many female jockeys in the sport.

A 2018 study by the Thoroughbred Racing Industries MBA program at the University of Liverpool showed that only 11.3% of professional jockey licenses were held by women at the time. This is in contrast to the equestrian industry as a whole, which is female-dominated with 77.4% of women participating in equestrianism.

Parandella stunned by being the first woman to compete in Horse Park since 2014.

“Proud of me? Yes. Disappointed by the (lack of) other women? Maybe,” said Parandella.

Jockey Sophie Parandella is one of the few women who rides at the North Dakota Horse Park. Youwonderwhyidrink, a 6-year-old Thoroughbred horse, rode in the third race, Saturday 23 July 2022. Wendy Reuer/The Forum
Wendy Royer / Forum

Parandella finished second on Saturday in his first six-furlong race where he won the race on top of the Thoroughbred “Youwonderwhyidrink” horses. On Sunday, she will take place seven gullies at the Rachelle Backhaus Memorial Event with Thoroughbred ‘Yak’. Both horses are trained and owned by Lixon Backhouse Company.

Parandella said her experience at Fargo has been top notch so far.

“We arrived with the trailer, and the sky was beautiful,” she said. “It was great, it smells good and people seem happy. It seems like a friendly place.

“I’m always very professional. I don’t care if I ride Triple Crown or ride here, I respect the horses, the crowd and the coaches like everyone else. And the crowd is great. Everyone has been so great. Beautiful. Well so far.”

A trainee jockey is someone who has recently started riding and is looking to climb up the ladder towards obtaining a professional jockey license.

Parandella started riding last September. She moved to the United States in what she considered a “leap of faith” in continuing her equestrian career.

“I started riding a year ago in Rock Springs (Wyo),” Parandella said. “A friend there—who passed away—was an agent and called me and said he knew I wanted to be a jockey. I was in California running, but it was time to start riding, so he called me. So I took my bags and headed all the way to Wyoming to see how it was. I started Riding there, it went well and then I went to Colorado. We finished the last two or three weekends, and then I said, ‘Okay, I want to continue, I love it.’ So I went to Phoenix and was riding Monday through Friday, and then an agent called me from Canterbury, Minnesota, so I went there. I know it’s hard to break into, I haven’t ridden much yet, but I do lead the ride. ”

Parandella started running in her native Mexico in 2013 and has since spread around the world, earning her degree in veterinary studies in Germany.

“I was born and raised in Mexico and my father is Hispanic,” she said. “I lived for five years in Germany and had just grown up in Mexico with horses. I was always showjumping, dressage and whatever else – just horses. My Mexican grandfather had racehorses, but he never let us go to the racetrack or nothing, So I studied animal medicine and am a certified veterinarian, I came back to Germany to finish my studies and had the opportunity to stay in Germany to work as a vet or go back to Mexico and ride in Mexico.

“So in 2013 I started running in Mexico to learn, then rode two races in Mexico. I won one race and then came back to Germany. I’ve been running all over Europe in France, Germany, England and Spain — and I never rode, which is why I took a leap of faith and came To this country. I was in California just learning and running with great horses. I could feel so comfortable traveling and jogging until (my friend) called me and said, “Hey, you’re in this country to ride races, not to be a lifelong enemy. That’s kind of a journey.” .

Trained riders have one year of apprenticeship starting from the year they won their fifth race.

Parandella has racked up six pole positions in a career of 162, including three wins in 118 starts in 2022.


Jockey Sofie Barandela aboard Youwonderwhyidrink, trying to catch Missen the Point and rider Larren Deloreme during Race 3, Saturday 23 July 2022. Wendy Reuer/The Forum
Wendy Royer / Forum

When asked why she thinks the gender gap in sports is so wide, Parandella pointed to the fact that women have been denied entry to sports for a long time. It was in 1968 when Olympian Kathy Kosner became the first licensed jockey in the United States after the Maryland Racing Commission had originally rejected her application on the basis of gender. Kosner was the first woman to win a medal in equestrian competition at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

“In the past, this was forbidden,” Parandella said. “So we’ve been working our way into the industry. There is still a belief that women are less powerful than men. Unfortunately, it’s still a male-dominated sport, so we still have to fight with that. I know we’re built different, but some horses do better for them.” For female riders. It doesn’t matter how strong you are. And some horses – that’s the coach’s job. Even as a rider, you can say, “This horse is too strong for me.” But that doesn’t mean we don’t have an advantage. Some horses relax better with us and work better It is not always about strength, but rather about soft hands, understanding, and communication with the horse.”

Parandella said she hopes to see more young women pursue a jockey career one day.

“I hope it will inspire more women,” she said. “I want young girls to know they can do it if they want to. The idea that women aren’t strong enough is a misconception. Lots of horses do better for us, so we have an advantage there.”

“As long as you have a passion – because that’s hard. You have to deal with people. But once you get on the horse, you don’t care. Be constantly disciplined and ask how you like it. Because there is to be more of a challenge and more dark spots than the good ones, but the good ones are greater than The bad. Some days you get tired or sick or whatever – but you still have to get up and go in there and run. Be disciplined constantly and never let go, trust yourself because the horse feels whatever you’re carrying with you.”

Work continues from North Dakota Horse Park in Fargo on Sunday with another weekend of racing scheduled for July 30-31. For more information, visit hrnd.org.

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