- Sandra Koster
- Over the years, I've grown to learn that I'm thankful for all things the Lord has bestowed upon me, both in plenty and in want, as I know that even "times of testing" are tools He uses to refine our character and put us in position to better receive and appreciate Him and the good and abundant things He has for us, pressed down, shaken together, and over-flowing. It’s now 2012, a lot has transpired in the last 4 yrs., and I've developed my own photography business that stands on "Quality without Compromise." It's called Sandra Koster Photography, and you can find me at my website, and on Facebook, where I have both a Page and a Group by the same name. My Mission Statement: To bring to you and your families the essence of the moment, those treasures in time that are memorialized by the awesome invention of the camera. There is no part of God's creation, from the moon to the molecule, on land or under the sea, no animal, plant or bug too big or too small for my attentions. From inland, to the slopes of the Rocky Mountains, to the country, to the jungle, to the shores of the tropical seas I pledge quality work, without compromise.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Here are a few more parts to the stories of my racing career that I forgot to include in the interview with Chris:
SK: While describing the initiation rites of breaking ones' maiden, I neglected to mention that while I've always been a vegetarian, I use to occasionally eat eggs back then. However, after the dousing I got, combined with eggs smashed on me that went up under my helmet and into the padding, everytime I'd ride a race after that, and we'd turn to go to the gate in the 100+ degree, FL heat, the smell of way-rotten eggs would float by my nose and make me absolutely nauseated. Being that I only had one helmet then, and didn't have the money to have the padding replaced, I just dealt with it. But, to this day I hate the smell of eggs!
When describing a spill that I took at Atlantic City on a horse named Adrian's Pie, having mentioned that the father/son operation didn't know what each other was doing, I neglected to identify the tack the horse had on for me to race in, versus what he was supposed to have on. He was supposed to be wearing a cage prone bit, with a right eye, 3/4 cup extension blinker, but instead he had a D-bit and cheater blinkers on. How he was Starter approved for that "tack change" given his history of making gaps I have no idea. Unless that is, maybe that was a technicality that was overlooked and slipped through the cracks too. Nonetheless, is sure did cost me everything!
Then, when recalling the details of the riding accident at Adena Springs South, I also forgot to mention that for 60 of the 90 mins. I laid on the track waiting to be loaded into the EMS wagon, I laid there naked in the hot sun. The paramedics had to cut my clothes off given the extensive nature of the impact upon my body parts, but thankfully, there was a Christian brother in Christ who stood there the entire time with his cowboy hat shielding my face from the FL sun and praying with me.
In responding to the "gender fairness" question where I cited a few examples of obvious sexual discrimination and harassment details, there are 2 others that have come to mind also. One involved a trainer I won races for who asked me if I could occasionally "pleasure him" by justifying it with, "I'm an old man and don't need much very often, and you could ride all my horses." (Well the answer to that question didn't take too much thinking on. Though I tried to be sensitive in my tone, the answer was still "no thank you".)
Then, there was a racing official working at one of the tracks I was a "ship-in rider" at, who called me into his office after the first race I ever rode there, and had me shut the door and sit down. I thought that I'd done something wrong, though I won on a long shot for Joey Orseno, and was going to be warned or something, but instead, much to my shock, he offered me a deal. He promised to get me named on mounts if I'd transfer my tack to where he was, and be his girl. (I don't recall, but he may have been married for all I know. All I could think about this proposal was, "sure thing, that's just what I'll do...NOT!" I mean, if proper relationship protocol had of been adhered to first, like with "normal" people who become friends first and later share a mutually agreed upon fondness for one another, then things could have been different, but given the circumstances and the immediate sexual advance with me being a total stranger to him, had I of agreed to his "deal" that would have made both of us whores.
I forgot to mention in the interview that after the race on Deb's Playboy, where the picture is posted, the jock behind me on the #1 galloped out in front of me, fell off his horse but wouldn't let go of the reins, and continued to be dragged. When he finally did let go, his body came rolling in front of me and Deb like a projectile. We tried to take out fast to avoid him, but Deb was forced to jump him. After Deb jumped, he took a bad step himself, stumbled and pitched me to the ground. The rest of the field then ran over me, "the winner of the race"!
If you look at the photo of me in the winner's circle, you'll notice a "grimace" on my face and my left arm crossing my chest. At that point, still a bit in shock that the event occurred and still with adrenaline pumping, I was beginning to feel pain. I incurred a fractured bone in my sternum, and had to ride the last 7 days of the meet as if I was okay, lest I get put on the "vet's list", miss out on all the other winners I knew we had races for, and have to get a doctor's approval to ride at the next track I was going to, before I could get named on any horses. Boy was that a painful injury to pretend didn't exist! Such is the life of a jock!
Another point I just remembered as of today, April 18, 2011, was this:
You know, I just came in from painting some bird boxes, and realized that there is an element of my life that I left out of my interview story with Chris Forbes. I began my story with cutting my finger while working in a restaurant in San Francisco, which led to my getting on the racetrack, however, before that, at 17, I lived on the streets of Sausalito, CA, and slept under trees and in bushes, wadding up paper in the door jams of gas station bathroom doors so I could access them after-hours despite them being locked, and begged for money on the streets daily to feed me and my 2 dogs, hustling a stranger's house here and there to take a shower and wash my clothes. Of course, all of this again reminds me of the scene in "The Pursuit of Happyness," where the main character and his son are holed up on a bathroom floor after-hours. I so identified with that scene.
Additionally, before the gambler discovered me and directed me to become a jockey, while still in San Francisco starving to death, my dogs were taken away from me by the animal control for barking. Given that I was being told to let them go by outside counsel, in order to focus on myself, I listened to that counsel, thinking it the best for them too, and moved to Hawaii, where I was going to become a scuba diver for Bob's Underwater Glass Bottom boats, setting up and staging underwater shows for tourists. However, my heart was broken from giving up my dogs so I made haste back to the mainland, again begging money to do so, in search of my babies, but could not find my life long friends, Shannon and her puppy Kid.
At this point, grief stricken, I tried to gain a job in a new career in the skies, with Pan Am, TWA, Delta, United and maybe another airline, as a Stewardess, however, my small stature did not meet the height requirements for that job. It was after this rejection that the gambler came into my life and conveyed that being tiny was perfect for becoming a professional jockey. There we have it, an interesting trail of events, like tick-tack-toe, that led me to becoming a female jockey in a male dominated sport!
Fast forwarding to 2012, I am now a scuba diver and underwater photographer with Advanced Open Water, and Nitrox certifications. You can view many of my photos on my website at http://www.sandrakosterphotography.com/index.html and link to my Facebook Sandra Koster Photography page and group too, at https://www.facebook.com/SandraKosterPhotography, and https://www.facebook.com/groups/SandraKosterPhotography/! :o)
Please join me on my *Female Jockeys* Facebook group as well,https://www.facebook.com/groups/FemaleJockeys/10150330934409103/?notif_t=group_activity
If you like to cook, or work in the Restaurant business, you may like my other Facebook groups, Hunters & Gatherers Cookbook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/HuntersAndGatherersCookbook/230205827043032/?notif_t=group_activity), or Restaurant Etiquette 101 (https://www.facebook.com/groups/RestaurantEtiquette101/).
Now, if you REALLY feel like reading more, here are a few more stories that I've already typed in to be included in my "future book," "Naked in the Sun".
Location: Oahu's windward coast of Punalu'u, Hawaii http://gohawaii.about.com/od/oahuhonolulu/p/windward_oahu.htm
Timeline: September 1986
I had just retired from riding races at 28 yrs. old, was fit as a fiddle at 100 lbs., and my mom and I moved to Hawaii to get me as far away from changing my mind and going back to the dangerous sport of Thoroughbred Racing, as possible. Hawaii does NOT have any race tracks though they do have Polo Fields.
We setup camp on Oahu's Windward side in a village called Punalu'u. We were renting a 20' x 20' WW2 cabin from a tiny 80+ yr. old Chinese woman by the name of Mrs. Naai, who could out work the huge Samoan boys that she'd hire for atop the roof type chores.
During the first weeks that my mom and I lived in our new state, on our new island, full of creation's drama I might add, we decided to check out the beach and waters just across the street from us...just a walk away.
Mom stayed up on shore as usual, while I donned my mask, snorkel and fins to explore the crystal clear, emerald depths before me.
The water was calm and warm and the activity of fish-life below me was phenomenal, and filled with color. The reefs and their caverns began at ankle depth, but by the time I snorkeled out to a depth of 30 ft. the sea world took on a whole new personality and hue.
Then...then it happened. Without looking, snorkeling all by myself, I ran head-on into a shark! A very large shark at that. I was sure it was a shark because I took diving classes years before and learned to never go diving or snorkeling alone! There I was all alone with the beast before me.
I popped up out of the water in sheer terror. The world below me suddenly vanished as my plight lay before me. To my surprise, an equally terrorized female aquafarian also popped out of the water.
We both pulled back our masks in amazement that we were "safe" and then she said it! "Sandra, Sandra Koster???"
Was I hearing right??? Here I was 6000 miles from the mainland, 30 ft. deep out in the middle of the Pacific ocean and some stranger I literally bump into knows my name??? Surely this had to be Candid Camera at work.
Well, no it was not Candid Camera. The mystery swimmer, who knew my name, and I swam back to shore to talk. It turns out that as an Arabian Breeder, she had seen enough photographs of me in an Arabian Horse-racing magazine, naming me as "The Arabian Queen", to be able to recognize me, even with a suction mark around my face and my long, long hair looking like seaweed.
Let me tell you...PRIDE welled up within me that very instant, and whereas my Mom and I were attempting to lovingly help my brain and body to "let down" from racing and move on to a more productive life in other venues...I darn near packed my tack that very second to return to the "public eye". I almost forsook my Mom and her well-being to pursue my own selfish desires, that as we all know too well, are fleeting and really without major significance, on a broader spectrum, to the weightier issues of life and love.
I'm thankful to the Lord that he stabilized my brain chemistry in that moment, and that I was gifted with those special years with my mom exploring the islands and developing memories and stories to share with others, who may also be standing on the fulcrum in the road of their life, waiting to be raised to new levels of consciousness.
My Second Story
Location: Where Oahu's Kaena Point kisses the Mokule'ia Polo Fields
Timeline: April 1987
Upon retiring from professional race-riding, the withdrawals of doing so had fully set in. My mind raced where my body could not. While driving full circle around Oahu, in 2nd gear I might add, I came upon the Mokule'ia Polo Fields, that were made famous by Moki the Arabian Polo Pony and her rider Fred Dailey.
The Dailey's owned the fields and a new "white guy" from the mainland, rider Dan Healy and his girlfriend Paula had recently moved to the islands as well, and brought 7 of their horses from L.A. with them. They needed what we in the Thoroughbred camp call an exercise rider, but according to Polo terminology that rider is referred to as a groom. For meager amounts of money, I became their girl.
I would trek through the huge coconut fronds that strew the ground, hiking, in my tiny red Roper boots, elastic racing leggings, shorts and tank top, about a mile out into the jungle to round up my 7 head to train daily.
Once all were safely back on the fields and stationed up at the "receiving barn" for training (a feat all of its own), the fun part began. Sometimes, as was custom with exercising these horses, the "groom" aka rider would get on one horse and pony the rest. Sometimes we'd pony 3 or 4 other horses alongside of the one that we were on, at the same time. This event was always "fun" if you will...NOT!
When the ropes would cross or one would drop back, staying on your own horse was a bit of a challenge...especially when galloping in your bathing suit and boots, on the NUDE BEACH that encompassed the Polo Fields! Yes, that's right, my day also included looking at naked bodies walking down the beach as I galloped past!
Additionally, I had to stay alert so as to NOT run into the huge seine nets that were being used by local fishermen from the shore. They hand tied these huge, beautiful nets, woven with weights on the bottom and glass ball floats on top, and would hook a fishing line to them with a bell on the pole. Then they'd run the line on a diagonal line up the beach, up the seawall and into their houses where they'd wait for the big one! When the nets got heavy with fish, as they were having their breakfast and coffee on the lanai, the bell would ring alerting them to their catch.
Unfortunately...those lines could also catch us riders by the throat, real "big ones", when we galloped into the invisible mono-filament, thereby falsely alerting the fishermen to the "wrong" catch!
Now, most of Dan's polo horses were retired Thoroughbred racehorses, which of course, me being a retired Thoroughbred Jockey, found very appealing. One of my favorite horses to ride also happened to be his "big horse". TR was what they called her, and she was a big, classy grey filly. She was smart with a lot of stamina. Sweet Slumber was the other filly I adored, and she was a bay with a leaner build. Sweetie had a very sweet disposition as well.
Well one afternoon Paula, Dan's girlfriend, decided we should go swim TR and Sweetie in the ocean for a little aqua therapy. Having never done that before, I thought that is was a grand idea. So, being as we were only going to ride them up to their bellies, having my boots on was no problem. We didn't need saddles since we didn't want to damage the tack with salt water, which made throwing a nylon bridle on effortless.
When we got to the water's edge, Sweetie hesitated. Paula was on Sweetie so she instructed me to go a little deeper with TR and then Sweetie would follow. So...I did. Sweet Slumber started to come out, but stopped again, so Paula told me to go a wee bit further. TR and I proceeded to go a "wee bit further" when all of a sudden...BAM...TR went down over her head and took me with her! As my face submerged under the water unmercifully, in a heartbeat, TR came rearing out of the water, with me clinging onto her mane!
Again, as she came down, we were headed even deeper and deeper off the reef and into the great depths! Holy Mole! Now what? Well, instinct in me told me that since TR was unable to right herself with all the water in her ears, that it was essential that I get off her back. Boots on and sinking fast...I treaded water for my life!
Then..."OH NO", TR was headed out to sea. All I could think of was "how am I going to go back to shore and tell Dan that his beloved big horse, the $25,000. dollar ex-racehorse, his champion Polo Pony, had become shark bait?" In that split second I realized that either I was going to swim after her and try to catch her, despite her 26 foot long stride to my 3 foot extension, or go back to shore, saving myself, but live with the horrible lasting image of her demise, the rest of my days.
With that in mind, I decided to swim after TR, screaming her name and hyperventilating...sinking like a rock, yet the cowboy in me wouldn't dare kick off my wonderful Roper boots. About 1/8 of a mile off shore with a tiny (from my vantage point) Paula in horror on Sweetie, both now OUT of the water completely, I finally caught up to TR enough to pull on her left rein. "Mama, Mama" I pleaded..."no, turn around"! But out she swam.
Again...I got a new breath and pushed out with her. "Mama!" at the top of my lungs, "come back"! Again, I caught the rein and gave her head a jerk towards me with all my might. I was then able to get close enough to unhook the rein on the one side of the clip on reins, to make the dangling part like a long shank, thereby giving me more room to maneuver her head and neck. Praise God she didn't kick me in the belly as I swam up behind her so many times. I should be dead from that alone.
The third time I caught up to her reins and pulled her head...TR finally turned around and headed back to shore. But..."but wait, but TR, wait for me". No, she passed me without a second glance and left me to fend for myself out in the depths of the seas of Kaena Point, in what years later I came to learn were one of the top 10 breeding grounds for the Great White Shark!
Whew...TR finally made it back to shore, to an utterly shocked Paula! With the first steps that she planted back on solid ground, she collapsed in the sand. Watching all of this unfold before me, when I finally reached solid ground myself, I too collapsed from shear exhaustion. Side by side, we both laid there, hearts pounding as one. I was spent, shaking and nauseated from swallowing so much salt water, but I still had my boots! I couldn't even walk so Paula hoisted me atop of Sweetie with her, and together we ponied TR back to the barn. I purposed in my heart that day to NEVER swim another horse off shore in an ocean again!
I don't know what ever came of either of Dan's horses in the years to follow, but as I was researching to write this piece, I did click on one of the above links and came upon a grayish looking horse. When I went to save that image, I noticed that it was named something like TR004, which makes me think that Dan must have bred her and that the horse I was looking at was "one" of her foals! TR lives in my heart and so does our story!
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