WHILE horse racing remains a largely male-dominated sport, women continue to break down barriers as jockeys, trainers, and owners in the main.
Women — some of whom are mothers — have been instrumental in contributing to the progression and advancement of the sport in various forms.
This Mother’s Day, the Jamaica Jamaica Observer celebrates one super mom in jockey Tamicka “Barbee” Lawrence, who delicately balances raising three young girls while staying in the saddle.
To raise one child is a massive challenge in and of itself, but three? That duty takes the heart of a giant to successfully execute, and inside Lawrence’s tiny frame therein lies a mountain of a woman.
Lawrence is unfazed at the taks at hand. Instead she embraces the challenge, with paternal support, of nurturing three bundles of joy — Kabrihanna, 13; Chelsea, 9; and A’Zeria,1.
“I love them very much. It is not difficult for me with them as it is more fun for me with them. They are the reason why I go hard — and no matter what or how stressful things are, my children always make me smile. They always make me happy... and I am proud to be a mom,” Lawrence told the Jamaica Observer.
Failing to secure a ride on today’s nine-race programme at Caymanas Park, Lawrence said she had hoped that her children would be at the track to see her ride but instead would spend the day with her loved ones at a resort to celebrate Mother’s Day, away from the excitement of the track.
“Whenever it comes around the time of Mother’s Day I always have a special feeling that I can’t explain. Mother’s Day is very important for me as it is a day where I spend quality time with them [children]. Being around my children, it feels like it is Mother’s Day every day.
“It would have been very nice if I had a ride for them to come and see me, and it would have been more special if I had my first win and all of my children are there to celebrate with me, but not this year,” said the Portmore Villa native.
Lawrence said that being a jockey does not get in the way of her being a full-time mom.
“I always find time for my children. I know that I have a job and I have to do it, but at the same time I have to take care of my children — and so I have to find the time for them. It is not easy, but I have to balance the two,” she said.
She said while her children are her main concern, she reserves special celebration for her own mother, Nicey Green.
“Although I don’t live with my mother, she is and will always be very special to me. I mean, she carried me for nine months, spent those sleepless nights taking care of me and giving me all the attention she could give. Being a mother myself, I have experienced all the things that my mother went through for me, and that’s why I love her so,” she said.
Lawrence, who attended Ocho Rios High School before finishing her studies at Fair Prospect, related that her love for horses was ignited while at the beach on vacation with family members when she was 10, as she got the chance to ride one of the animals.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“I rode a horse for the first time when I was 10 years old. My aunt came from overseas — California to be exact — and she took us [family members] out on a summer vacation. So we went to Hellshire Beach in Portmore and I saw a grey horse, and I asked my aunt for money to go and ride the horse.
“[The moment] I went on the horse and the way he responded to my touch, I just fell in love with him. We bonded well that day and it was like I was designed for this. Ever since, I just love horses and the thought of riding horses, racehorses, was always on my mind,” Lawrence shared.
But it wasn’t until she was working as a barmaid that she took it seriously.
“I came to the racetrack for the first time four years ago through a friend by the name of Alphonso Henry. He was always listening to the races on the radio and sometimes watching it on the television set at a bar where I was working at the time. He, along with his friend, encouraged me to take up the sport.
“Every Saturday they were always there in the bar chanting on their horses to win, which was pretty much exciting to me. I told him and his friends there that I really love horses and I rode horses before.
That was when Henry sized her up and told her to go for it.
“He [Henry] said that I have the body and reach, plus I am skinny, and so I must go and try it out because I can get lucky and make a living out of it. So, the next day I just quit my job at the bar without collecting my pay and went to the racetrack — and that was it for me as I never turned back,” she explained.
While most of her family members are behind her and her dream of becoming a racehorse jockey, Lawrence said there are a few who still believe she made the wrong choice.
“Many of my family members are with me on this adventure. On my father’s side of the family they are extremely excited, and so too on my mother’s side, but some of my aunts are saying that I am wasting my time on horse racing. They are saying that I am spending a lot of money and they don’t see any result.
“They don’t really understand that horse racing is all about time and process. It doesn’t just come overnight. Not everyone is 100 per cent accepting of what I am doing but I chose this path and I have to work hard to achieve my goals — and one of my goals [was] to become my country’s first female champion jockey,” Lawrence concluded.