Apprentice jockey breaking down the barriers
AS MOUNT Warning appears like a beacon against the morning sun, the expanding valley below lights up to the sounds of hoofs clicking as horses head to the green expanses of the Murwillumbah race track for a morning ride.
Aboard one of those horses is determined young apprentice, Corinne Miles, who just six weeks into her jockey apprenticeship, is already impressing others with her drive and commitment.
As the nation celebrates the Melbourne Cup success of its first winning female jockey Michelle Payne, the Tweed could soon have its own female jockey to toast.
Miles had her first race on Melbourne Cup day at Murwillumbah, and while she couldn’t replicate Payne’s Cup heroics by winning the race, she’ll be better off for the experience.
“I had my sister strapping and I thought it was a bit of an omen with Michelle Payne winning the Cup with brother Stevie strapping,” Miles said.
“The race went alright. It could have gone better, but it was a learning experience and I know what it’s all about now so I can improve from that.”
Working with Murwillumbah trainer Darren Graham – who gave Miles her chance when seeking out a start in the industry – will give her every opportunity to grow and improve.
It’s been a long journey for the 21-year-old, taking her all the way from the Central Coast to the outback and back again on her quest for a career she loves.
“I actually wanted to go and work on a property and went and did a jackaroo and jillaroo course in Dubbo for seven weeks,” Miles said.
“I was adamant I was going to work on a property, out on a station or sheep property, and I even bought myself a little work dog.”
After finishing her jillaroo course, Miles went back to the Central Coast and returned to being a stable hand while plotting her next move, disheartened with what she had found on the land.
“I struggled a bit because so many people on the land didn’t want female workers,” Miles said.
“They wanted females more for the house, looking after the kids and doing the cooking and stuff because most of the males were out working, but I wanted to be out working too.”
Miles decided to pursue racing from then on and, after setting her focus on becoming a jockey, has not looked back.
She raises no parallels between the jillaroo and racing industries after the discrimination she received while working the land, and in light of recent comments made by Payne, Miles said as a woman, she had been treated with nothing but respect.
“It was (traditionally) a male industry but I wouldn’t say women are held back, well maybe when they first started coming in, but nowadays it’s fair to say that it’s pretty even really,” she said.
“All the male jockeys I’ve met have been all for having females riding with them and I haven’t had a problem or had anyone that has discriminated against female riders.”
One of those male jockeys is Miles’ boyfriend, who relocated to Murwillumbah to help Miles pursue her dream.
Miles works hard to give herself every chance of success and as part of her daily routine, she rises at 3.30am six days a week to head to the track.
She will take the horses for a morning ride, before hosing them down and feeding them, all before 7.30am, and will return in the afternoon to clean and tend to the horses.
It’s a gruelling schedule for the young jockey, but with her drive to succeed, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Miles will complete her apprenticeship in the next four years, but despite all the opportunity that will unfold before her, she is not getting ahead of herself just yet.
“Like all jockeys, my dream is winning the Melbourne Cup, but for the short-term, I’ll hopefully stay here throughout my apprenticeship,” Miles said.
“I’ll keep bowling along like we are and taking it as it comes and hopefully get to the metro area somewhere someday.”
You get the feeling talking to her that with all she has gained in just six short weeks, Miles can achieve anything she sets her mind on.