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Because of Horses

Dec 15, 2017

It’s not always easy to spot the path you’re meant to take, even when it’s laid out, right in front of you. Sometimes, you just can’t see it… and yet, your instincts tell you it’s there. So when you’re provided with a shot to give it a try, you somehow know to take it. And, once taken, it’s abundantly clear that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. This is the path Donna Barton Brothers took to become one of the most successful female jockeys of all time.


The daughter of one of the US’s first licensed female jockeys who, to this day, is revered as a living legend. The sister of two successful jockeys in their own right. Married to a top trainer. And herself still numbered among the most successful female jockeys of all time, Donna not only recognizes the role Thoroughbred racing has played throughout her life – she is extraordinarily grateful for the people, the industry, and for the horses, themselves. 


These days, as Donna says, she has the best job on Earth – reporting for ESPN, NBC Sports, and TVG Network, the victories, as well as the heartbreaks, and the behind-the-barn stories of the very people she’s called family, friends, and colleagues throughout her life. And she does it with the same intensity and determination – and, now, terrific joy – that she once burst from the starting gates on the back of a sleek Thoroughbred.



Topic of Discussion:

[1:49] When racing became Donna’s passion.

[5:45] Did Donna ever read any of Walter Farley’s books?

[7:50] Donna’s first horse — a Shetland pony.

[10:25] Donna’s journey with horse racing and what it has meant to her.

[12:13] How horse racing led to meeting her husband.

[13:15] Being a jockey — not just a profession, but a lifestyle.

[18:35] The gamble in every horse race: the danger of being a jockey.
[23:01] The recognition of mortality vs. the joy of riding.

[26:58] About Donna’s mother.

[28:20] Sharing her success with her mother, the 6th licensed female jockey in the U.S.

[30:30] About Hennessy, one of the most famous horses Donna rode, and the 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile race against Unbridled’s Song.

[30:33] A cute story about the pony Elise bought for her daughter: a small Welsh pony mare named Little Bit.

[35:37] The horses that stand out in Donna’s memory and the rapport jockeys need to build with each individual horse.

[39:57] Donna’s funny but touching story about a horse she rode, Trick Artist.

[42:50] The thing about being a great jockey according to Donna.

[44:08] Why Donna thinks the Triple Crown has proven to be so elusive.

[47:07] Donna’s description of what a "stalking position" is and overall racing strategies.

[49:04] The lack of presence of women in racing and what Donna thinks might factor into this.

[55:21] CNN’s video on female jockeys and how it struck Elise; the apparent attitudes about female jockeys.

[57:47] How Donna made the move into her current position of racing correspondent.

[1:02:04] How Donna manages to remain professionally detached in her interviews.

[1:04:27] The incredible experience of talking with the winning riders and how Donna manages to squeeze in all her questions in the small timeframe TV news allots for each interview.

[1:09:04] Donna’s measure of success: what success looks like to her.

[1:11:35] What’s next for Donna.

[1:13:30] Donna’s advice to young girls interested in becoming involved in horse racing and the challenges young women face getting into the industry.

[1:18:23] Where to find Donna online.


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Discover More About this Week’s Guests —  Donna Barton Brothers


Twitter: @donnabbrothers


Mentioned in this Episode:

The American Quarter Horses Association’s World Championship Show

Hambletonian Stakes

Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event

FEI World Equestrian Games

Dick Francis, Author

Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance 

Backside Learning Center

1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Race, Unbridled’s Song and Hennessy

The Triple Crown

Thoroughbred Women’s Network



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