Right to Ride

Women may have been voting in the United States for a century, but they have only been allowed in the starting gate for half that long. Until the late 1960s, girls who dreamed of making a career on horseback had limited options for how they could ply their trade. Outdated gender restrictions at racetracks barred women from even the most basic jobs, forcing them to look across the border or to Western exhibition and bush tracks for the work with horses they craved. Jockeys like Lillian Jenkinson, Anna Lee Aldred, and Wantha Davis, took what they could get, racking up wins they knew would never be recorded in the Daily Racing Form. Diane Crump, Barbara Jo Rubin, Sandy Schleiffers, Patti Barton: these are the names of the first American woman riders who took the concept of the American female jockey from sideshow fascination on the exhibition circuit to superstar at the major tracks.

Beginning with Kathy Kusner’s landmark Civil Rights court case against the Maryland Racing Commission in 1968, the newly-licensed trailblazers systematically broke through barriers by proving their determination, dedication, and skill as jockeys. In the face of discrimination and disappointment, the first generation of female jockeys found strength in their love of horses and a passionate desire to ride fast horses at any cost. The legacy of their struggle lives in the successes of women like Julie Krone and Rosie Napravnik who distinguished themselves as top riders of either gender. Right to Ride, inspired by the 50th anniversary of Diane Crump’s historic first ride in the Kentucky Derby in 1970, tells this story of the intrepid women who refused to settle for second best and made it possible for future generations of female jockeys to enjoy—at the highest level—their right to ride in professional Thoroughbred horse races.

Exhibit Highlights:

  • Playful, retro 60s and 70s experience throughout the exhibit, and a large-scale celebration of the women who have ridden in the Kentucky Derby
  • Main 29 minute documentary and three additional oral history video stations, featuring selections from the Museum’s 20+ hours of exclusive interviews with female jockeys and industry insiders
  • Artifacts and ephemera tracing the story of the first American female jockeys, such as Diane Crump’s riding boots, Sandy Schleiffers’ Jockeys’ Guild ring, and the Barton family scrapbook
  • Treasures from the personal collections of Derby-riding women, including Patti “P.J.” Cooksey’s gear from the 1984 Kentucky Derby and Rosie Napravnik’s 2012 and 2014 winning Kentucky Oaks trophies

This exhibit is included in your General Admission ticket.

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