Dakota Graham has been surrounded by her “dangerous job” almost half her life.
From the age of 13, the now apprentice jockey was living and breathing horses well before she decided to make her love for the animals a full-time career.
At 18, the young apprentice started in trackwork after her mum married a local horse trainer in Miles, Queensland. Within 12 months, she had her first race and quickly began dominating the field.
Now, the 21-year-old mum-of-one Ms Graham has had hundreds of jumps under her belt and travels around the country competing in a field she loves. But the young jockey says everyday Australians who follow the sport don’t understand the full risk that men and women behind the reins go through each time they “go to work”.
Following the deaths of two female jockeys over the past week, which devastated the close-knit racing community, Ms Graham told new.scom.au from the Birdsville Races in Queensland that while she’s not scared of her job — she understands how “dangerous” her day at work is.
“There is still a lot of backlash to women in racing even though there is quite a lot of us now compared to what it used to be,” she said on the second day of the annual outback racing meet.
“A lot of people don’t understand the danger [of the job]. A lot of punters have probably never ridden a horse before … it’s a dangerous job … but we choose to do it so can’t complain too much.”
Ms Graham, who won the two races at Saturday’s meet at Birdsville, said it was “tragic” two fellow female jockeys had lost their lives in the past week while training and racing on the track.
Last Saturday, Darwin jockey Melanie Tyndall died after she fell from her horse during a race and just one day prior, 22-year-old jockey Mikaela Claridge died during a training accident at Cranbourne Racecourse in Melbourne.
Nine of the past 10 jockey deaths in Australia have been women, but those in the industry are urging people not to jump to conclusions at this early stage.
“I think its unlucky … but I don’t think there’s any reason for it [to be women],” Ms Graham said.
“You can’t choose who gets hurt … but it’s just unfortunate it has been a lot of girls lately.”
Speaking of the risks, Ms Graham said the danger while racing always plays at the back of her mind.
“I try not to think about it too much … because if you think about it, it could impact your ride,” she said.
“Lately, with all the late passings, you have to shove it back in your mind and just not think about it.
“It’s devastating because it is so many girls which is why it’s so tragic … and while it is tragic when anyone dies, it has all been girls so it is a bit to take in.
“It’s not scary out there … but some [of the horses] don’t have manners and you wonder why they are out there racing.
“When a horse doesn’t have the manners or settled to be at the races that’s when it can get scary … and you don’t have any steering.”