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Meet Chantal Sutherland of Animal Planet’s Jockeys

Aug. 21 2009, Published 8:08 a.m. ET

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Friday, August 21st is the second season premiere of Animal Planet’s surprise hit, the docu-drama Jockeys at 10pm. The show goes deep inside the intensely competitive and surprisingly drama fueled world of horse racing. One of the most compelling jockeys featured again this season is the gorgeous (she was on the 2006 list of People magazine’s Most Beautiful) and talented Chantal. Her biggest challenges have come from trying to find a balance between her demanding professional life and her personal one. Her boyfriend, Mike, a fellow jockey and Hall of Famer, hasn’t exactly made things easier for her. This season, their relationship is put to the test even more when Chantal decides to leave California and head home to race at Canada’s Woodbine track. Chantal fills us in on where her relationship with Mike stands today, how she deals with the wide ranging pressure and what she does with those rare moments she’s not racing!

Article continues below advertisement ONLINE: We hear you left Los Angeles to race back home in Canada. Was that a tough decision to make?

Chantal: With racing, I love LA and I want to stay there, but I came back to Canada because the courses are so good here and there’s really great opportunity. In doing that, I had to leave Mike who I’ve been dating for four years, and that’s just a sad situation. ONLINE: Are you guys still together even though you’re so far apart?

Chantal: Now that I’m in Canada now we’re sort of on the fence, kind of taking a break. I don’t really know what’s going on with us right now. But it’s hard too because we’re very competitive. Mike is in the Hall of Fame and has ridden for 25 years so he can tell me what I’ve done wrong, but if I ever suggest or ask him a question about what he did in a race, if I ever said in a voice that was not camaraderie—he would freak on me. He would be like, ‘Who are you to be telling me?’

Article continues below advertisement ONLINE: It sounds like it’s hard to just let things roll off your back with someone you’re dating in such a competitive situation.

Chantal: I think with the first season, there was a lot of pressure because Animal Planet would bring up the issue, ‘Are you guys gonna get married? Are you getting engaged?’ And it’s a question I wanted to ask Mike myself. And now he’s on TV and he can’t run away. So, these are the issues that came up, and it was interesting to hear what he had to say. I kind of used the show to corner him, cause I wanted to know. And it’s funny cause when these questions are coming up, you sort of realize, ‘What are we doing?’ I got a lot of fan mail that said ‘Don’t have children yet, don’t get married.’ And then career women could relate. I would have to give up my career because it’s such a physical career if I have children. Mike’s older than me and he wants kids and he doesn’t want to get married unless I have kids.

Article continues below advertisement ONLINE: So he’s asking you to pick between him and your career?

Chantal: And it’s not fair. I asked him, ‘If you had to pick between your career and me—what would you pick?’ And he’s like, ‘I’m not giving up my career.’ Then I’m like, ‘Okay, then I know where we stand.’ It’s not fair. There’s a double standard. ONLINE: Do you think you guys will work things out?

Chantal: I don’t know. I’m just taking a break. I don’t know what we’re doing. I’m here in Canada and we haven’t seen each other since like April or May… He calls every day and wants to come visit and stuff, but I don’t know. We’re taking a little bit of a hiatus.

Article continues below advertisement ONLINE: Talk a little bit about the competition with the other jockeys—especially since you’re one of the only females.

Chantal: I think my nature is competitive and the older I get the more I need to release that competitive nature, and that’s what racing does for me. With the boys, I’ve learned a lot from them. I’ve learned how to deal with a situation really quickly. You can get hot and get over it fast. Men are like that. Also, when you’re not seeking to date a guy or he’s not seeking to date me—men are then very open and they’re very cool, and you have great friendships. They’re not emotional at all, really. But when they get mad, they’re little tiger and lions and they come out quite aggressive. They’re not afraid to curse at you if they get mad, and that’s just the nature of the sport. Then they get over it quick so I’ve learned not to hold grudges. At the beginning, I was holding grudges with all of them because I thought they were all being so mean. But it’s okay. Now I’m like, ‘Whatever, get over it buddy.’

Article continues below advertisement ONLINE: How did you get into horse racing?

Chantal: My dad is an owner of thoroughbreds. We always lived on a farm and horses have always been in our lives. I always wanted to be a professional athlete. I played field hockey and I raced downhill skiing. I’ve always been an adrenaline junky that way. When I was in college, I studied psychology and Mass Communication but it wasn’t really my passion. My passion was horses and it turns out I’m pretty short too.

Article continues below advertisement ONLINE: Can you talk a little about the pressure jockeys—both male and female—face to maintain a certain weight?

Chantal: You stay fit. We don’t eat a lot. People look at what I eat and it’s a lot of cereal, and I love sesame seeds so it looks like a lot of bird seed. I try to avoid major meals, I just sort of snack a little bit all day long. And some people are like, ‘You don’t eat properly’ and I’m like, ‘Well it’s what I need to do to keep my weight down.’ You just gotta work out. If you’re not racing, you gotta be working out. It’s your job as a jockey. You can’t be overweight so you have to work out.

Article continues below advertisement ONLINE: You must be really toned.

Chantal: We get pretty muscular. My legs are pretty muscular. Sometimes it gets a little veiny and I look like a little body builder. Sometimes when you’re wearing a dress and stuff people can be like, ‘Oh my G-d, look at your calves . . .’ but it’s part of the job. ONLINE: Another part of the job is bonding with horses. What are horses like?

Chantal: I think that’s a really good question. Horses are really cool animals. They want to please you but they don’t have a conscience like a dog. Like, if they were to hurt you, they don’t feel bad. They don’t have a conscience that way but they remember your affection and they remember your smell. Horses are competitive. I never get mad at them because even if they lose or if they’re last, it’s really not their fault. They’re amazing animals and I love them, but they are very, very dangerous. They other day, I was in the gate and one of them just freaked out and she hit me in the top of the gate. I got stuck there and she slammed me, so I had 1200 pounds between my legs and my saddle cut me. I had to go to the hospital and get stitches.

Article continues below advertisement ONLINE: What other injuries have you sustained?

Chantal: I’ve had another jockey whip me with their whip across the face and my goggles have come down or I’ve gotten whipped on the toe and across my arm. It hurts a little bit and it leaves a mark but it’s more shocking, you know? One time a horse had a heart attack with me on him and he fell down and kind of rolled on top of me. That was a bad concussion. I didn’t know my name for a day. And you have to take time off when you have a concussion cause if you fall again, you start talking like a boxer…

Article continues below advertisement ONLINE: It sounds like you have to be pretty fearless. Are you a risk taker in other parts of your life?

Chantal: I used to race downhill and stuff. I’m not afraid. I love speed. I just got a Corvette and I love to go fast. The only thing I’m afraid of is watching out for cops. So I just I’m really competitive and when a horse drops me, it’s no big deal. I’m gonna get back on the horse and I’m gonna win and that’s it. You can’t get rid of me.

Article continues below advertisement ONLINE: What do you do when you’re not racing or training?

Chantal: I have two dogs—Italian greyhounds. I love watching them run and hanging out with them. A bad hobby is shopping. I love to shop way too much. I love shoes. I just got myself on, its Kim Kardashian’s shoe web site. ONLINE: Sounds like so much of your time is consumed by training—what are your plans for when you do retire one day?

Chantal: Hopefully, I’m gonna meet a man who still has chivalry—my knight in shining armor. He hasn’t come yet but he’s coming! He’s gonna take me to Greece and go on a yacht, and I’m just gonna live the life!



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