It’s hard enough in any industry to be a full-time working mother or father, with the demands of work and family life no doubt catching up on everyone at least one stage.
In the racing industry, the thought of a mother returning to the saddle full time and still raising an infant seems hard to fathom, but for Tiffany Jeffries, she has proven that with a little hard work and perseverance, it is possible.
The 32-year-old is both a doting mother and talented jockey, and she battled the early morning starts with her daughter Riley, working through the tough realisations of being a mother in the racing industry, whilst enduring a long and sometimes frustrating road back to the winner’s circle.
After falling pregnant, Jeffries last rode in March of last year, before she and her husband, Alex Prout, welcomed their daughter Riley to the world on October 28, 2020.
Incredibly, the Parkes-based hoop was back riding trackwork after four months, and with Riley just eight months old, Jeffries resumed racing, recommencing her career at Warren in June.
Then after a run of placings and near misses, Jeffries finally broke through to ride her first winner just days after Riley’s first birthday.
The victory arrived at Dubbo on November 2 when guiding Coupla to victory in the 1600m Benchmark 50 Handicap for her mother, Sharon Jeffries.
The popular country jockey won again at Cowra on Saturday, teaming up with Melissa Harrison to win on If You Say So in the 1000m maiden.
Jeffries was thrilled and relieved to make a return to the winner’s circle.
“I rode so many placings and it was getting frustrating,” Jeffries laughed.
“There were so many seconds, thirds and fourths and I could not get a bloody winner.
“When I finally got that winner, god it felt good; it was such a relief.”
Jeffries was proud to be back riding and winning, but she praised other jockeys and professional athletes who were also mothers.
“Mums that are athletes are amazing. They are really amazing to come back from having a baby,” Jeffries said.
“You think it wouldn’t be that hard, but what you put your body through, it’s so hard and such a lot of work.”
Jeffries didn’t shy away from the challenges of working in the racing industry with a child, and she said it was only possible due to her family and support network.
“When I got that winner, I was stoked but it’s not an easy as people think,” Jeffries explained.
“Getting childcare is hard and who is available to help at 5am in the morning.
“It’s hard juggling being a mum and race riding, my husband works, and he only just started a new job, and the people that normally help me, they are also at the races.
“Dad (Dale Jeffries) is a jockey’s mentor and mum is a trainer, and if I’m riding, we are all at the races, so there isn’t a lot of help.”
Just getting to the races can be a challenge, and after riding at Warren earlier this month, Jeffries explained that she didn’t see her daughter for the entire day
“For me to go to Warren the other day, dad worked in the steward’s room, mum had five runners, and Alex came along to help mum because she had a few running, so we had to get his mother to come and stay to help us out,” Jeffries said.
“We were up and getting ready for the races and we left before she was awake and then when we got back, she was down to sleep again.
“I didn’t get to see my daughter that day. It makes it hard; I know you have to work but it’s tough.”
Jeffries also dealt with the physical changes of being a mother and a jockey, and she admitted it was tough, especially when it came to managing her weight and breast feeding.
“When I first came back to race riding, I was still breast feeding. You have to eat and drink to make milk and when I started riding, that all dried up,” Jeffries said.
“At my first meeting, I had four rides, and three were at the minimum and I had to watch what I was eating, and leading into the races, I had to cut down a lot.
“To make milk, you need to drink lots of water and eat well, and when you are a jockey, the no fluid thing was hard for making milk and that stopped that.
“So, we stopped breast feeding Riley at eight and a half months, but we were lucky that she took to formula, but it was very hard and a little upsetting at the time.”
Jeffries often takes Riley to work in the morning, which proved to be another learning curve for the young jockey, but with a supportive team and husband, and a new play area for their youngster, the hard-working mum was able to make it work.
“Being a working jockey and mum, I didn’t think about all the little things,” Jeffries laughed.
“My husband has just started a new job and he has set up a whole play area at our stables and she has a big play pen with toys and a TV, and she is able to have her area when I’m working.
“There were just lots of things I didn’t consider, or didn’t think would matter, and it has been a big learning experience for me.”
Now back in the winner’s circle, Jeffries is feeling more confident, and is ready to continue her career as a jockey.
“I feel like I’m not worried as much about getting those winners, especially now I’ve got that first win,” Jeffries said.
“The horse that won (Coupla), he is one of my favs, and he has run a few placings, and he is a lazy horse too, and he sort of owed me that winner.
“It was good to get at winner on him and good to break through.”
When asked if she would be slowing down anytime soon, Jeffries explained that she loved the racing industry and was prepared to make it work as she continues to balance a career and motherhood.
“It’s been a journey to get here and back to racing and it’s good to be back,” Jeffries said.
“It’s not like I need to be riding financially or anything, but I just love it.
“I love being in the environment, riding horses in trackwork, and getting them to stage of racing and I missed it so much and hopefully I can continue doing that.”
Jeffries will be back in action on Saturday when combining with her mother, riding Flashlin, Nitty Gritty and Annie’s Missile at Coonamble.