To anyone familiar with the world of horse racing, Rosie Napravnik needs no introduction. As one of the top riders in the country, she continues to make her mark in a sport where women jockeys are in the minority.
Rosie’s passion for horses extends beyond the racetrack with her concern that retired racehorses live safe and healthy lives. This past spring she accepted an invitation to join the board of directors at Old Friends, a Thoroughbred retirement facility in Kentucky.
I recently got the chance to interview Rosie after she had graciously agreed to appear in a photo shoot at Old Friends wearing the “Sean Avery,” our first hat of the upcoming “Hats Off to the Horses” auction series to benefit Old Friends.
Sally Faith Steinmann: Rosie, welcome to Hats and Horses! For those who are meeting you here for the first time, can you tell me where you grew up and a bit about your family’s work with horses?
Rosie Napravnik: I grew up living in High Bridge, New Jersey but spent most of my time as a child on a farm in Bedminster where my mother ran an event training and boarding facility. My dad was a farrier and worked all around the state of New Jersey.
Sally: Can you remember your first memorable encounter with a horse growing up?
Rosie: I was so young when I was first exposed to horses so almost ALL of my memories involve horses!
Sally: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a jockey?
Rosie: I first realized I wanted to be a jockey when I was 7 years old. It was that year that I started racing on my 12h (hand) pony (“Brownie”).
Sally: Who inspired or helped you along the way, be it horses or people?
Rosie: I was inspired by my mother who taught me so much about horsemanship and also by my sister, Jazz. I followed in her footsteps as the two of us became interested and then involved in racing.
Sally: Shanghai Bobby, My Lute, Believe You Can, Pants On Fire and Mark Valeski are some of the great racehorses you’ve ridden. Do you have any favorite horses or races?
Rosie: My favorite race horse is Believe You Can and my most memorable race was when I was aboard her winning the Kentucky Oaks.
Sally: Being a jockey means early mornings and a lot of travel; what would be the perfect day to you?
Rosie: I enjoy breezing horses in the mornings. I like getting to know them and being a part of developing young horses as well as being along for the ride as older horses excel. I can barely function without a daily nap. If I had the choice I would ride 5-6 races every race day. After the races I love to enjoy a nice meal and a glass of wine with my husband, Joe Sharp.
Sally: I think of you as not only a wonderful role model for women of all ages but also as an athlete who inspires both sexes as you compete in a sport that requires great skill and courage. How do you feel about being an inspiration to others?
Rosie: I never expected to be anyone’s inspiration or role model so when I first realized that I was it made me uncomfortable. Now I have learned to embrace it and it is actually inspiring to me to always stay positive and move forward in my career.
Sally: I understand you have two rescue dogs. How did that come about?
Rosie: When I was 15 I got my dog, Leo at 4 weeks old. He was in a bad situation with a sick mother who could not nurse her puppies. I guess you could say he was a rescue. My husband Joe has a Jack Russell named Ripcord who he got from a friend who had the litter. This past winter we fostered 2 dogs from the SPCA in New Orleans and that was kind of a spur of the moment decision. We plan to foster again when we get back to NOLA. We feel that with our active lives, and also our dogs who have active lives, we can provide an environment that will help socialize a dog and bring them out of their shell so they are more fit for adoption. It’s fun and we really enjoy it.
Sally: Would you tell me about your own personal rescue of a beautiful retired racehorse named Sugar (Old Ironsides)?
Rosie: I first started to breeze Old Ironsides for Ferris Allen at Laurel Park. I fell in love! He was so beautiful and full of class but old injuries found him competitive only in the bottom level claiming ranks. I rode him a total of 7 times for at least 3 different trainers and we won 2 races together. When he needed to be retired from racing I made sure it was with me 🙂 Now we call him Sugar… He is very sweet!
– Rosie and Sugar schooling at the Lagniappe Equestrian Center – Photos by Lynn Towery Roberts
Sally: You certainly are a woman “of many hats,” Rosie. How did you team up with Old Friends?
Rosie: Just one hat really… I love horses and horse racing! When my friend Lorita Lindemann told me about Michael Blowen, how he started Old Friends and what it’s all about I knew I wanted to do what I could to support.
Sally: I must say you look great in hats! Aside from your racing helmet, do you think of yourself as a hat person?
Rosie: I like my “hat look” but this year was actually the first time I even wore a hat to the Derby! I love to see all of the hats at the Derby. There is lots of creativity involved!
Sally: Where would be your favorite place to wear a hat (other than on a horse wearing your protective helmet)?
Rosie: Like I said I’m newly into hats but I like to dress up for the big races and a hat is such a nice touch.
Sally: Thank you for helping us this year with the “Hats Off to the Horses” Derby hat auction fundraiser for Old Friends. Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos were great to do our shoot featuring you wearing our first Derby auction hat of the season, the “Sean Avery.” Was Sean Avery the horse a good model?
Rosie: Sean Avery might have been the world’s most vicious model. It’s a good thing he is so handsome!
Sally: What can you tell us about this amazing racehorse, and did you know him before you met him at Old Friends?
Rosie: Although I had heard of Sean Avery I don’t remember watching many of his races. I can tell you though, that he is still full of spirit! He is really not vicious but unbelievably playful! He is an absolutely gorgeous animal!
Sally: You have also met Little Silver Charm, spokeshorse extraordinaire for Old Friends. What was it like getting photographed with him the other day?
Rosie: Little Silver Charm is just about as cool as they come. His shag swag is totally effortless and he didn’t have to do much in the photo shoot other than just be perfect and handsome. He kinda stole my thunder….
Sally: I am sure that people are going to be inspired by your support of horse rescue. Do you have any suggestions for how people can get involved and participate in helping to save horses?
Rosie: I am thrilled to see how many race horse rescue and retirement organizations there are nowadays! If you want to support, choose one that strikes you. I am a big fan of Old Friends especially since I’ve gotten the opportunity to ride some top horses and I always keep in mind that they may be winning a Breeder’s Cup race this year but next year they may need a place to reside in retirement for life… And they live long! They will only continue to be Champions if we continue to honor them.
Sally: Rosie, thanks again for helping us get our Fifth Annual “Hats Off to the Horses” auction series underway with the “Sean Avery” chapeau. Old Friends is really fortunate to have you on board as part of their team!
Please enjoy this “behind-the-scenes” video from the photo shoot at Old Friends, a special treat from our friends Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos!