A professional jockey is never at the top of any child’s list when asked what they want to do at 5 years old. Typically you get a pilot, astronaut or footballer. No-one ever says jockey. Yet, the thrilling, heart-stopping and exciting world of horse racing is something that British people love to talk about up and down the land. The brightly-coloured jackets and astonishing bravery of jockeys makes the sport happen and without them, horse racing would be nothing. But just how hard is it to become a jockey? We are going to take a look at the 4 essential requirements to become a jockey below.
To become a jockey you are going to need to be under a certain weight in specific races. This usually means that jockeys are generally only ever 5”6 and under. The weight constraints on jockeys is a very strict business with flat race jockeys generally needing to weigh around 8 stone and jump race jockeys weighing around 9 stone. This is not very much for a healthy adult and it reflects on the jockeys. Many jockeys only eat one meal a day and are susceptible to bad eating disorders due to their obsessive nature about being underweight. Unlike other weight sports like boxing and MMA where you can move up if need be, in horse racing the jockeys must explicitly be under the correct weight or else face being disqualified.
2- Health and medicals
Whilst, jockeys often have to starve themselves to be under the designated weight, they also have to be very fit. After all, they are steering a rapid moving and heavy beast across sometimes very long distances. This requires stamina and strength which many of the jockeys need to work towards. They are professional athletes after all but this does not come about overnight and jockeys need to work hard to make sure their physical health is up to scratch.
You probably wouldn’t guess this but jockeys actually need a diploma/qualification to be registered to race nowadays. In days gone by there was no such thing but modern racing has introduced some documentation required to compete. You will now have to complete a Level 2 Diploma course which is essentially a pre-apprenticeship with either the British Racing School or the Northern Racing College. These courses tend to be fully residential and take up to a year to complete. They can be tedious with competition very high and space limited. Even when you complete this course you still have 18 months of an apprenticeship of racing to do before 2 weeks of full jockey training after… The price to pay to become a professional sportsman I guess!
4- Knowledge of racing
Having a background knowledge of racing and a bit of context around the support is also part of being a jockey. Knowing how horse racing form affects races, what every bit of information on the racecard means and having some historical knowledge of the sport is preferable within a person looking to become a jockey. This background knowledge of horse racing shows a passion and a desire to reach the top. This will, in itself, aid your horsemanship skills which you will develop further with experience with the horses.
If you can achieve all 4 of the above requirements, you could very well be on your way to becoming a professional jockey.