By Kristin Bechthold
Apprentice jockey Katelin Willey started racing in February of 2015 at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. She began riding full-time two months ago after coming to Canterbury Park to ride for trainer Valorie Lund.
Willey started riding horses when she was young. Though she wasn’t born into a horse family, she was horse crazy from the start and persuaded her parents for riding lessons. She began competing in barrel racing and rodeo throughout middle school and high school. Her interest in becoming a jockey started when she visited Emerald Downs in Washington and was inspired by female jockey Jennifer Whitaker.
She made her start in the racing industry by working for multiple farms at Emerald Downs. From there, she got her galloping license and galloped for three years. “It’s way harder than it looks,” Willey said. “I wanted to be totally ready for when I started [racing], so I was just really patient, taking advice from people on what I needed to do, how ready I should be.” She became fast friends with Lund, who helped her start her career as a jockey.
Willey calls Ravensdale, Washington home. “I’m really close to my family and I miss it a lot,” she said. “It will always be home for me.” Her parents support her in any way that they can, and even sent her flowers and an apple to celebrate her first win. “I can’t even describe how supportive and helpful they’ve both been,” she said. “I can’t thank them enough.”
Outside of racing, Willey’s biggest love is barrel racing. She owns two off-the-track thoroughbreds that she currently barrel races. If she wasn’t a jockey, she would be trying to make it to the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) for barrel racing. Her other hobby is riding dirt bikes with her dad, who is a former professional motocross racer.
Though she likes to live day by day, her main goal for the future is to be successful at what she does. When she retires from racing, she would like to focus on retired racehorses and change how people view off-the-track thoroughbreds, who she believes are the sweetest horses to be around.