FOX 5 NEWS
Female Jockey and Veterinarian Brings Double the Expertise to the Track
- Kalyn McMackin, December 2019
SAN DIEGO -- Ferrin Peterson is no stranger to hard work. The Carlsbad resident works two jobs: one as a professional jockey and the other as a veterinarian, making her quite the dual threat when it comes to horse racing.
At 5'4" and 110 pounds, Peterson's stature looks like most jockeys -- except for the long blonde braid tucked under her black riding helmet.
"I want to see how far I can take this jockey career," Peterson said. "I would love to be the first female to win the Kentucky Derby. It's never happened and I think that's crazy."
Before earning her jockey's license in 2018, Peterson raced part-time. She's competed in 230 races and won 15 of them, often as the only woman riding.
"There's this perception that we're not as strong as the men or maybe we'd be more scared. But as I've been here longer, I can tell people are starting to change their opinion about me," she said.
That has a lot to do with what she's accomplished off the track. In between her jockey training and racing, Peterson earned her doctor of veterinary medicine degree in May from UC Davis, making her the only jockey of the sort.
"It wasn't the way I planned it at all and doors just kept opening. I was like, you know, this has always been my dream -- I'm gonna go for it. I thought, no matter -- the better jockey I become, the better veterinarian I can be because then I can really understand my horses," Peterson said.
The 27-year-old spends her mornings training at Del Mar on horseback before heading to a farm in Rancho Santa Fe, where she works on rehabbing injured horses.
She says she has taken a hiatus from competing to focus on getting her certification in equine acupuncture. "I certainly love medicine and I love riding because both of them are a lifelong learning experience," she said. "Every horse is different, medicine is always developing, so both intrigue me and to be able to combine the two just totally made sense to me."
"She definitely comes with those things," said Julie Krone, a retired Hall of Fame jockey. "The desire to learn, the ability to take in information and apply it on horses in her own version of what's going on in the moment. It's just been a sheer joy."
Peterson says proving her value as a female jockey wasn't easy. Nicknames like "blondie" and "girl" certainly didn't help, but since becoming a vet, she says she's earned more respect and is now referred to as "Doc."
"I do care so much about the sport and I do think some people thought I was just doing this jockey thing for fun," Peterson said. "Once I graduated vet school I'd go and be a vet, and they'd always say, 'Aren't you gonna go and make a lot of money?' And I'm like, 'This is my passion.' I love racehorses, and if I can help them through medicine, help them through riding, I just want to be with the racehorses."
And now she can -- either by riding or healing them.
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A Jockey/Veterinarian’s Open Letter to Dianne Feinstein: ‘I Only Ask That You Recognize The Progress Being Made’
- Ferrin Peterson, DVM, November 2019
Dear Honorable Senator Feinstein,
Thank you for caring so much about our state and having a compassionate ear to listen to each individual need.
I wanted to address some of your concerns over the horse racing industry.
I am a veterinarian, as well as a jockey, a combination of pursuits that gives me a unique perspective on the health and welfare of racehorses. I received my degree from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and I competed as a full-time jockey at the 2019 Del Mar summer meet.
Author Ferrin Peterson, DVM, during an equine welfare project in Myanmar
Additionally, I have traveled the world working in various racetrack veterinary practices to witness firsthand the diversity in training, veterinary treatments, and regulations in a number of jurisdictions, including Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Ireland, and England, as well as Kentucky and New York in the United States. I also pioneered equine welfare projects in Myanmar and Ethiopia. Obviously, I have a strong passion for the well-being of animals, and especially horses.
The level of care given to Thoroughbred horses in America is outstanding. Their grooms are with them around the clock, seven days a week. Each day, there is an array of veterinarians, physical therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and others attending to the horses' needs. Further, based on my international experience, I can say with confidence that the care racehorses receive in California ranks with the finest in the world.
Changes are always needed. And even though changes made in a large industry like horse racing require time and patience to take their full effect, I have seen immediate positive impact because of recent alterations in whipping and medication rules that benefit both horse and rider.
When I attended this year's Breeders' Cup with UC Davis veterinarians, I was able to observe continued progress toward improving veterinary care. Among the new developments that will have an extremely beneficial impact is the availability of a standing PET-scan, a diagnostic unit that is the first of its kind, made possible through UC Davis and through industry funding inspired by upgrades in California safety protocols.
As a jockey, I put my life on the line every time I ride. I care about the safety of my horses just as much as I do for myself and other jockeys. If I was not fully convinced that our industry was constantly striving for improved welfare of our animals, I would not be a jockey. I only ask that you recognize the progress being made toward the highest possible level of racehorse care, because I know that these horses are already receiving some of the best care in the world, and we are doing all we can to actively remediate the current challenges facing our industry.
Ferrin Peterson, DVM
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Ferrin Peterson works to become full-time jockey after becoming Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
DEL MAR — There are trainers and backstretch workers at the Del Mar racetrack who at the outset of the summer meeting had no idea who Ferrin Peterson was.
The 27-year-old jockey showed up before sunrise on the first morning of workouts in mid-July, with her blond hair pulled up in a tight bun under a black riding helmet with large gold stars. Slight of frame at 5-feet-4 and 110 pounds, Peterson looked like any rider as she moved from barn to barn trying to cajole trainers into giving her mounts.
In the six weeks since, many people here have come to know and marvel at Ferrin’s story, and while in the past some didn’t show her much respect by calling her “Blondie,” there is a new nickname going around that is much more in line with Peterson’s achievements: “Doc.”
As Peterson was boosted by trainer Marcelo Polanco onto her mount, Discrete Stevie B, for Thursday’s third race at Del Mar, a man near the paddock turned to the woman standing next to him and said, “This girl is a veterinarian.”
Her jaw dropped. “No way!” she said.
It’s true. In May, after four years of undergraduate work and another four years at UC Davis, Peterson received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).
Thus, she is Dr. Ferrin Peterson, and she likely is making modern horse racing history as the first person who could ride a horse one day and operate on it the next.
Not that Peterson has any plans to pull off the double.
“Trainers say to me, ‘Why don’t you be a vet right now? You could make a lot of money,’ ” Peterson said in an interview. “I don’t have expensive tastes and I’m just happy to do what I’m passionate about.”
Jockeys come from all walks of life and some from backgrounds of extreme poverty. Peterson was a middle-class kid growing up in Roseville who had her own modestly priced Arabian horse.
Still, arguably, few have toiled harder to be a professional rider.
Before her final year of vet school in 2018-19, Peterson got her jockey’s license, and during the demanding clinical year at the UC Davis hospital, she worked 12-hour shifts around her riding and racing.
On one dizzying weekend, Peterson recalled that she: worked 12 hours, contributing to treatments on a goat and pig; got off at 4 a.m. and slept in her car for an hour; drove the hour to Golden Gate to breeze one horse; drove back to the hospital to check on the goat and pig; went back to the track to ride in a race; returned to the hospital for another 12-hour shift; followed by a morning breeze; followed by an afternoon race.
“I remember being so hungry, so tired, and I was like, ‘Is this worth it?’ ” Peterson said, laughing at the thought of it. “It seems like I have this glamorous life as a jockey, and this is horrible!”
Jockey Ferrin Peterson riding Discrete Stevie B comes down the home stretch in the
4th race at Del Mar Race Track on August 22, 2019.
Being a jockey, though, was her dream since she was a kid, though her parents, who weren’t racing people, discouraged it. And though she didn’t see a live horse race until she was in college, the idea of being a jockey never left.
“We thought she outgrew it,” Connie Peterson, Ferrin’s mom, said. “When she decided to go to vet school, it was like, ‘OK, she’s going to do something more that’s on the ground.’”
The parents could have expected that might change. Her mother describes Peterson – the youngest of three girls in the family -- as easy-going, except when she is focused on a goal.
“Then she’s like a bird, pecking and pecking away,” she said.
Connie Peterson recalled once being on a city tour in Vancouver and learning about how a skyscraper was made earthquake-proof by the structural integrity you couldn’t see.
“I told my husband that it kind of reminds me of Ferrin,” she said. “She’s not an aggressive person who’s going to punch you in the face, but she’s got an iron core.”
Ferrin Peterson has needed all of that will to become a jockey.
Some people up north discouraged her about coming to Del Mar this summer. They said she’d be better off trying tracks on the East Coast or Canada where there are more “girl” riders.
“People said, ‘You should be a big fish in a small pond,’ ” Peterson said. “No, I want to surround myself by the greatest and have a chance to improve. If I don’t make it, I can say I gave it my all.
“I can already tell my riding has improved even with having fewer mounts here.”
Being at Del Mar has allowed her to be mentored by former jockey Patrick Valenzuela and get advice from Hall of Famers Mike Smith and Victor Espinoza. Last week, Peterson visited the Carlsbad home of famed female jockey Julie Krone, who broke down Peterson’s riding film and put her through her paces on the Equicizer mechanical horse in Krone’s living room.
“To sit casually and listen to somebody you’ve idolized is pretty amazing,” Peterson said.
She knows that she still has much work to do rise to the level of her competition at Del Mar.
In the first six weeks of the meet that ended Sunday, Peterson rode in 14 races for a handful of trainers who are not household names. She has yet to win while getting only one horse, Discrete Stevie B, into the money with a third-place result.
“She needs more horses and she’ll be OK,” Polanco said. “It’s not easy when you come from another place. But she’s working very hard. She shows up every morning. She’s getting on horses and now she’s starting to get more business.”
Polanco has been among the trainers to give Peterson her first opportunities in Southern California. They combined for the jockey’s first victory in the Southland when she put Royal Seeker in front in a claiming race at Los Alamitos on July 6. Six days later, the jockey and horse scored again.
Peterson hoped the wins would get her a little name recognition once she got to Del Mar, but, she said, “The summer has been good, but tough.”
She’s served as her own agent, which saves her 25-perent commission off earnings, but she also has to constantly scour the barns looking for work. Rejection comes more often than not and being a woman doesn’t help.
“It’s very frustrating,” Peterson said. “There are certainly times when I know I’m not getting mounts from a certain trainer because I’m a girl. I still hear people say that I can’t ride, or that I’m weak. But I don’t think they’ve probably ever seen me ride a horse. I just know there is an automatic stigma against me.”
She brushes off concerns about her athletic ability. In high school and junior college, Peterson said she reached state championship meets in the pole vault. She was a traveling vaulter on the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo track team.
“I felt more pressure in the pole vault than I do riding,” Peterson said.
Peterson said she has worked at staying low and strong in the irons through the wire. She also contends that she brings “gentle hands” in managing her ride, and she does particularly well with “nervous” horses.
“I think of it as a partnership,” she said. “I’m trying to be the best passenger I can be.”
Peterson said she believes her veterinary training comes into play in how she analyzes a horse’s biomechanics and how she might contribute to the improvement of that when she rides. She is working with a specialist in Rancho Santa Fe who trains young horses to run in a more balanced way.
It is both that love and curiosity of horses that pushed Dr. Ferrin to blend both her worlds.
“I’m 100 percent into riding. This is where I want to focus my time and energy,” she said. “But good horsemanship is good horsemanship. The more I learn about horses, the better vet I’ll be, and the better I am as a vet, the better I will be on their backs.”
Link to article: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sports/horse-racing/story/2019-08-25/jockey-ferrin-peterson-jockey-veterinarian-uc-davis?fbclid=IwAR2HiHcWPUEZ-JH7nH8BBRBJkJ96YC5lJvEBci66t1c3cxFssrYz2ho03cA
Jockey Ferrin Peterson at Del Mar: Call her ‘Doc’
- Tod Leonard, August 2019
The Many Facets of Ferrin Peterson: Jockey, Veterinarian
- Kristi Anglen, July 2019
So you’ve never heard of Ferrin Peterson?
To be honest, until a few days ago, neither had I. But it is a pleasure to introduce racing fans to this young wonder of the horse racing world who is already making her mark, and is determined to continue to forge ahead.
It would not be difficult to imagine a horse-crazy college athlete who dreamed of being a jockey as a child actually pursing that dream.
Neither would it be difficult to imagine a humanitarian, who has volunteered in some of the poorest countries in the world, helping animals and their caretakers, deciding to become a veterinarian. That Ferrin Peterson has accomplished both of these things is, however, both unusual and remarkable.
Ferrin Peterson truly lives life in a way few could imagine.
From standing in the winner’s circle with Arrogate in Dubai, to participating in her first fox hunt while in Ireland, 26 year old Ferrin has done more than most people many times her age. She has interned at the Dubai Equine Hospital, spent three weeks becoming immersed in Japanese horse racing, and flew between the US and Europe as a traveling groom.
Ferrin grew up showing horses, first riding English, and then gravitating to the Dressage ring. When she left for college, the horse went along so she could continue to hone her skills. Her childhood dream of riding race horses had to share time with a grueling college schedule on her way to a becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine this past spring.
Growing up with horses came in handy when she got the opportunity to learn what it takes to be a jockey, and what goes into training young race horses. But it also takes help from others and a willingness to work hard to succeed in this industry.
Ferrin found both along the way.
While working in the Equine ICU at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, she was lucky enough to meet co-worker Monica Romero. She and her husband owned a farm nearby, and since he was a jockey, they could help Ferrin learn the ropes. Trainer Ellen Jackson offered her a position helping to break young horses, and while there she met an exercise rider who also assisted her along the path to fulfilling her dream of becoming a jockey. All of this while attending her final three years of veterinary school!
The schedule became even tighter when Ferrin started galloping horses in the morning at Golden Gate Fields, and then heading off to class. Once she attained her jockey license she stayed at the track on weekends, and rode races after working horses in the morning.
In February of 2018 she finished third in her very first race, and quickly followed that up by riding her first winner on March 3rd. June 2019 marked the official start of her full-time career of being a jockey, after having ridden in 194 races all while attending college.
Ferrin had mounts at Golden Gate, Pleasanton, Los Alamitos, and Los Alamitos Quarter Horse this year. As of July 15, she had 5 wins, 4 place finishes, and 13 show placements in 78 starts, with earnings of over $79,000.
Now she’s heading to Del Mar.
Opening day at Del Mar is always special for horsemen, fans, and jockeys. Perhaps it is even more so this year, which been a difficult one for the racing industry, and California racing in particular.
Perhaps Ferrin Peterson’s presence this year at Del Mar as a full-time jockey is a bit special as well.
She’ll be there on opening day with a mount in the sixth race, proving by example that caring deeply about the welfare of animals and loving our sport are not incompatible at all.
That’s a message the public needs to hear.
And there may be no one who better personifies it than Ferrin Peterson.
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"Ferrin Peterson - Great Person, Jockey, and Soon to be Vet!"
- Dennis Miller, January 2019
It takes athleticism, strength, determination and perseverance for a person to become a horse racing jockey.
It takes discipline, intelligence, determination, and well, perseverance for a person to master the eight years of school work to become a veterinarian.
Confused as to drawing parallels between being a jockey and being a vet? What if I told you there was someone in the process of being both? Hard to believe perhaps, but it’s true.
Meet Ferrin Peterson – a jockey in Northern California, as well as a fourth-year veterinary student at U.C. Davis.
Peterson is truly an amazing person, combining intelligence, determination, perseverance, as well as personality and charm in becoming adept at pretty much everything she does.
I have covered horse racing for over 30 years and one of the best things about the sport is the people are as down to earth and real as you can find. There are no pretenses and I’ve established a lot of good friendships.
Peterson is among the most enjoyable I’ve had the chance to talk with and that’s not to demean others but a testament to the type of person she has become.
How did she get to this point at 26-years-old?
Growing up in Roseville, Peterson was around horses growing up and rode, first English, followed by Dressage. After graduating from Oakmont High School, Peterson went to the University of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and took her horse with her so she could continue to ride in college while earning a degree in Animal Science.
Oh, I forgot to mention she was a pole vaulter at Oakmont,
setting a school record that still stands. She took her track
and field talents to Cal Poly where she competed as well.
But in the back of her mind she aspired to be a jockey,
something that didn’t jive with family desires. “The vet
school option happened, and I decided I wanted to be
a track vet,” said Peterson.
Ironically, it was while attending veterinary school at the
University of California, Davis that her jockey dreams
began to come to fruition.
“I was working at the UC Davis Equine ICU and met Monica Romero who also worked there,” explained Peterson. “She told me her husband was a jockey and they had a farm 15 minutes away where they could teach me to be a jockey.” After that, she went to work for trainer Ellen Jackson, helping break horses. An exercise rider for Jackson further helped Peterson learn the ropes of being a jockey. The key for any jockey to get mounts, especially a new one, is to show up in the mornings to work horses for the trainers. Be seen and show them you have what it takes.
It’s a grind for jockeys that live in the area, but when you are in school in Davis and need to get to Golden Gate Fields in Albany daily, it gets a lot tougher. “I wake up at 4:15 a.m. and am on my first horse (at Golden Gate Fields) at 6 a.m.,” explained Peterson. “I ride until around 7 a.m. then literally run back to the car and head back to Davis.” Once back at school, she works at the Clinic until 7 p.m. or so. Sometimes the shifts may go later and are followed by studying and then to bed before doing it all over again the next day.
Weekends are a time when students can get extra studying done and that’s the case for Peterson, but with a twist.
“Weekends I would stay (at the track) after working the horses and ride the races,” said Peterson. “Since I am a female, I had my own room, so I brought my computer and books. I study in between races. It’s the perfect study break! (Riding) is a great way to get your blood pumping.”
All the hard work has paid off, but not without some trying moments. School has demanded internships and Peterson has traveled the world learning. She has spent time in Kentucky, New York, Japan, Hong Kong and most recently Dubai, working in the Dubai Equine Hospital, which is owned by Sheikh Mohammed.
Each time she has been gone, her jockey career took a back seat and with a lot of trainers living by the “what have you done for me lately,” creed, her riding suffered. Trainer Aggie Ordonez stuck by Peterson and it paid off when she rode her first winner – Lovely Lioness at Golden Gate – on March 11. “My schedule had gotten busier as I had a number of internships and I thought it would be hard to get many mounts after being away,” said Peterson. “And it was. But Aggie (Ordonez, a trainer) gave me a mount and we won. I just wanted to show trainers I was ready to ride.”
Ordonez then gave Peterson a dream – a mount at Del Mar on Chocolate Goddess. “Aggie gave me that mount and it was awesome,” said Peterson. “I have to thank Aggie for a lot of what I have been able to do. I would have never thought I would ride a race at Del Mar. It has been a trip I never thought I would go on.”
One overlooked aspect of Peterson’s double life is how her riding portrays the sport. Animal rights organizations are always quick to condemn horse racing as cruelty to the horses. Yet in Peterson we have a person set on saving animals competing in the sport. "I am hoping my story is good for horse racing,” said Peterson. “To me this is a natural form of equine athleticism. (Horses) love to run fast and run in races. Those that don’t like to compete don’t – you can’t make a horse run if they don’t want to run.”
The sky seems to be the limit for Peterson as her credentials from her schooling and internships seem to call for success as a vet. But as to where she wants to be in five years….?
“I would love to be riding in the Triple Crown,” said Peterson. “That would be the best-case scenario. That seems unachievable, then again, I never thought I would be where I am now.”
"Peterson Brings 'Iron Will' to the Saddle and Veterinary School"
- Press Release, Paulick Report, 2018
Ferrin Peterson, a 26-year-old from Roseville in Northern California, is an honors student in her fourth year of studies at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She also rode Chocolate Goddess for trainer Aggie Ordonez in Friday’s second race at Del Mar, plus has another mount Sunday at Santa Rosa. And you thought you had a busy and complicated life, didn’t you?
“I did have an agent, but then when my schedule at school got too complicated I decided to be my own agent the last few months,” Peterson said Thursday during a short break between exercising rides on six horses for three different trainers. Peterson spent the month of June between Kentucky and Japan on a veterinary internship and the month of July in Dubai in a similar assignment. She returned just a few days ago.
“It took time away from the jockey thing, but I figure the stewards will give me the time back because I had already started my bug (apprentice weight allowance) and hopefully I’ll get to keep it through Del Mar of next year,” she said.
Riding what amounts to part-time since February, she has recorded seven wins from 65 mounts with five seconds and 14 third-place finishes. That’s three wins shy of having the “bug” dropped from seven to five pounds, where it will stay for the remainder of a one-year apprenticeship. The Chocolate Goddess call was her first opportunity to ride a race at Del Mar. But she’s familiar with the track."I galloped horses here all last summer, mainly for Andy Mathis and Steve Miyadi,” she recalled. “I didn’t think I’d be back down here. I remember the last time I rode on the track last year thinking ‘I’ll never get to ride here again.’"
“We don’t get a summer vacation the last year of vet school, but it worked out that I have a week’s vacation and got into an allowance race. I was blown away, I didn’t expect it at all.”
Peterson didn’t grow up in a horse racing family, but one that had some attachment to equines.“ My mom rode, casually, and she taught me how to ride,” Peterson said. “I rode dressage growing up, but my dream was always to be a jockey.” In the 13th day of the meeting, she was the first female jockey to ride at a track that, for one recent meeting, had five women in the jockey colony. “No way!” Peterson exclaimed when informed of the situation.
“It’s a bummer that things haven’t progressed more. But personally, it makes me more excited. I’d like to take it on. Horse racing is male-dominated, I know, but I like a good challenge.” Chocolate Goddess, a 4-year-old daughter of Square Eddie, has three wins in 20 starts.“ I’d been working with the trainer (Ordonez) and we talked about how we both wanted to race at Del Mar,” Peterson said. “She told me, ‘I have this filly that might be my Del Mar filly,’ so I got on her to breeze her. “I had to be at the (veterinary) hospital at 7:30 that day and I live an hour from Golden Gate. So I drove there, worked her, and made it back to the hospital on time.”
The routine went on for a few weeks. Then Peterson had to leave for Dubai. Races during Peterson’s stay in Dubai were considered as possible starts for Chocolate Goddess. Other riders had to be recruited for morning workouts, complicating the decision for Ordonez and the owning McLean Racing Stables whether to save the mount for Peterson or award it to another rider. Peterson monitored the situation anxiously from Dubai. "I was so excited when the owner texted me in Dubai and said I had the call on Chocolate,” Peterson said. “That was all I could think about the rest of the week there.”
Peterson's given name, not exactly common, has significance in the family. “It means ‘Iron,’” Peterson said. “Ferric is iron on the periodic table. My first chemistry class, when I saw that, it all made sense. My parents always told me, 'You have an iron will and you’re tough.' It kind of works with my science background too.”
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