For many, turning 60 is a milestone that demands lavish gifts. For others, it's simply an event to be whisked under the carpet. Martha Claussen, who has been involved in the racing industry for close to 20 years, envisioned another way of celebrating the start of her sixth decade on earth. She is asking that any family, friends and racing industry colleagues honor her by making a donation to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF).
The native of Buffalo, New York, rode horses in her youth and fell in love with horse racing in her teens by making a 10-minute drive over the Peace Bridge to Fort Erie, Ontario. She graduated from the University of Miami and moved to Texas where she was affiliated with International Management Group (IMG) for 10 years, managing tennis tournaments.
In 1997, Claussen joined Sam Houston Race Park as publicity director. She was responsible for all racing information for Thoroughbred and American Quarter Horse live meets and quickly began to know the jockey colony. She admired both the rising stars and the stalwart veterans and always referred to them as underrated athletes. In turn, the riders were always willing to share their stories and give of their time. Claussen often joked that working with jockeys was much more enjoyable than with the stars of the men's and women's professional tennis tour.
Claussen continues to assist Sam Houston with their racing publicity and serves as the coordinator of the Q-Racing Aces, a fan education initiative created by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). She is also a freelance feature writer for several publications including The Paulick Report, Southern Racehorse, Horseplayernow Magazine and SureBet Racing News. She was honored by the American Horse Publications in 2013 for her SureBet feature on jockey Tad Leggett, who was paralyzed in a spill in 2010.
“Writing that story and hearing the first-hand accounts from both Tad and his wonderful wife, Tina, really moved me,” said Claussen. “They were both so courageous and positive throughout the horrific accident and arduous road to recovery. Tina gave so much credit to Nancy LaSala and the PDJF for their assistance and encouragement.”
Several months ago when her family asked what she wanted for her 60th birthday, Claussen mulled it over and came up with her wish.
“I am so fortunate to have good health, a wonderful family and a career that I love,” she said. “The best gift I could imagine would be to ask for donations for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.”
She reached out to G.R.Carter, who is a board member of the 501(c)(3) public charity that provides financial assistance to former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries.
“I told her that I loved the idea,” said the all-time leading Quarter Horse rider. “Martha is a ray of sunshine for our industry. She supports our sport with such passion and enthusiasm and always has a smile on her face. What a cool idea from a special lady!”
Months ago, when she thought about turning 60, her first response was to say she hoped she didn't look “that old.” Now she looks forward to August 2 in a whole new light.
“I hope that PDJF will receive donations so that more funds will be available for any rider injured doing the job that he or she loves,” said Claussen. “That would be the best birthday gift imaginable. But if people want to tell me I don't look 60, that would be icing on the cake!”
Tax deductable donations can be made online at pdjf.org or by mailing a check, payable to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, P.O. Box 803, Elmhurst, IL 60126.
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