BENGALURU: Silva Storai, a Bengalurean, is said to be India’s only professional woman jockey and the only one in the world to have won two derbys. In a chat with City Express, she shares her journey and the challenges she struggles with in her profession.
In 1978, Silva moved to India from Italy. She says, “A close friend of mine in Kodaikanal was breeding her own race horses. I was unhappy with those jockeys. I then took it upon myself to be the jockey of those horses during races.”
The biggest challenge, she says that she faced, while starting out was that no one believed a woman jockey can be as good as a man.
“Racing and equestrian are among the few sports where women and men compete equally. This is a male dominated field and not many great women riders get their break in the Classics (one of the oldest and most important English horse races). Julie Krone was one of these great ones. To be honest, it was always amazing to win. As a woman, we get double the attention and praise than a man... but then you must win.”
She had many memorable moments in her career. She shares, “My first derby was a touching one. I was in Hyderabad. The crowd of 30,000 people gave a standing ovation and everyone was so crazy happy. My horse Brown Sugar had injured himself in the last 200 m of the race and he still managed to win, staving off the other horses,” she says.
She enjoys other equestrian activities such as dressage, jumping and eventing.
The bond with the horse is called horsemanship, and this is what will enable you to understand and communicate with your horse at a much deeper level, she explains
“This deeper level of communication will allow you to get that little ‘extra’ out of your horse while competing at every level, be it racing or equestrian. The horse which taught me most was Prodigal Son, a retired race horse, that lived with me for 20 years.” She learnt a lot from the horses during the intial years of her career, she says.
This director of Embassy International Riding School says there isn’t a lot of scope for horse jockeying in Bengaluru. “This is because there is no jockey school or fruitful opportunity in this city. The best would be putting yourself through a school abroad and getting yourself qualified as a jockey and return to India. Following this, you can establish your credentials there.”
She feels that an equestrian career is better suited in India for a woman. “Instructors are in demand and good salaries are being offered,” she says.