Sylvia Bishop

Charles Town Remembers the Legacy of Award-Winning Horse Trainer

Sylvia Bishop’s legacy is not only captured in Moon’s book, but it lives on in her grandson who followed in her footsteps.

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Charles Town, West Virginia, is remembering the life of Sylvia Bishop, a woman who worked her way up to become an award-winning horse trainer. 

At the age of 14, Bishop worked as a groomer at Charles Town Race Track and later became a trainer who took racehorses to the winner’s circle. Her grandson, Michael Jones, said she always had a way with horses.

“She’s always taking good care of her animals, loving them and doing right by them,” Jones said.

Bishop grew up in the 1950s, a time when racism and sexism were commonplace. Her story inspired Vicky Moon, a Fauquier County, Virginia, author who recently published “Sylvia Rideoutt Bishop Had a Way With Horses,” a book about Bishop’s extraordinary career largely unknown outside of Charles Town. 

Moon first heard about Bishop in 2004, when she interviewed her a dozen times before her passing. Bishop shared the challenges she overcame in her early years. 

“She would be walking a horse to the paddock and get all kind of slurs,” Moon said. “‘What is that n-word woman going to do here today?’” 

Bishop’s legacy is not only captured in Moon’s book, but it lives on in her grandson, who followed in her footsteps. As a little boy, he would tag along to the track, watching and learning from his grandmother. 

“She took her time with her horses and brought them along, developing each one as they should be developed,” Jones said.

Jones shared that one of his great joys is seeing his grandmother inducted into the Charles Town Hall of Fame and be recognized by the West Virginia Legislature as the first licensed Black female thoroughbred horse trainer in the United States. 

The proclamation reads, in part: “She overcame racial prejudice and innuendos of all  types, but never gave up on her ambitions and her love of horses.”

Moon spent 15 years on the book, and she said one of her takeaways from Bishop’s life is, “If you love it, just don’t ever stop. Just don’t ever give up.” 

The book can be purchased on Amazon or the author’s website.

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