Female jockey and veterinarian brings double the expertise to the track

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SAN DIEGO -- Ferrin Peterson is no stranger to hard work. The Carlsbad resident works two jobs: one as a professional jockey and the other as a veterinarian, making her quite the dual threat when it comes to horse racing.

At 5'4" and 110 pounds, Peterson's stature looks like most jockeys -- except for the long blonde braid tucked under her black riding helmet.

"I want to see how far I can take this jockey career," Peterson said. "I would love to be the first female to win the Kentucky Derby. It's never happened and I think that's crazy."

Before earning her jockey's license in 2018, Peterson raced part-time. She's competed in 230 races and won 15 of them, often as the only woman riding.

"There's this perception that we're not as strong as the men or maybe we'd be more scared. But as I've been here longer, I can tell people are starting to change their opinion about me," she said.

That has a lot to do with what she's accomplished off the track. In between her jockey training and racing, Peterson earned her doctor of veterinary medicine degree in May from UC Davis, making her the only jockey of the sort.

"It wasn't the way I planned it at all and doors just kept opening. I was like, you know, this has always been my dream -- I'm gonna go for it. I thought, no matter -- the better jockey I become, the better veterinarian I can be because then I can really understand my horses," Peterson said.

The 27-year-old spends her mornings training at Del Mar on horseback before heading to a farm in Rancho Santa Fe, where she works on rehabbing injured horses.

She says she has taken a hiatus from competing to focus on getting her certification in equine acupuncture. "I certainly love medicine and I love riding because both of them are a lifelong learning experience," she said. "Every horse is different, medicine is always developing, so both intrigue me and to be able to combine the two just totally made sense to me."

"She definitely comes with those things," said Julie Krone, a retired Hall of Fame jockey.  "The desire to learn, the ability to take in information and apply it on horses in her own version of what's going on in the moment. It's just been a sheer joy."

Peterson says proving her value as a female jockey wasn't easy. Nicknames like "blondie" and "girl" certainly didn't help, but since becoming a vet, she says she's earned more respect and is now referred to as "Doc."

"I do care so much about the sport and I do think some people thought I was just doing this jockey thing for fun," Peterson said. "Once I graduated vet school I'd go and be a vet, and they'd always say, 'Aren't you gonna go and make a lot of money?' And I'm like, 'This is my passion.' I love racehorses, and if I can help them through medicine, help them through riding, I just want to be with the racehorses."

And now she can -- either by riding or healing them.

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