How To Become a Jockey: 9 Steps

A career as a horse jockey doesn’t come easily. There’s a limited amount of jobs available for jockeys, and the horse jockey requirements make it a tough field to break into. In addition to complying with the average weight limits, it’s also a physically demanding job.

Follow these steps to learn how to become a jockey:
  1. Learn to ride horses. …
  2. Do research. …
  3. Start a career in the equestrian field. …
  4. Attend jockey school. …
  5. Complete an apprenticeship. …
  6. Compete in schooling races. …
  7. Earn your journeyman jockey license. …
  8. Hire an agent.

What it takes to be a jockey

Jockey duties

Jockeys handle various aspects of the sport that can lead to race day success, including:

What is a jockey?

A jockey is a professional athlete who rides racehorses. Jockeys can be self-employed and ride horses on a freelance basis, or some may be under contract with specific horse owners. The better a jockeys record, the more in demand they usually are. Jockeys can specialize in certain types of racing, like thoroughbred or quarter horse racing.

Jockey skills and requirements

Jockeys possess a lot of general knowledge about horse breeding, training, performance, anatomy and grooming to perform their duties. They can gain these skills by working in stables, practicing with specific horses and working with trainers. Jockeys must also be physically fit, athletic and agile to ride horses and control them at high speeds. They may also possess other helpful skills like a sense of balance, competitiveness and the ability to stay calm in fast-paced situations.

Jockeys also need to meet specific physical requirements to compete. In competitive horse races, racing authorities allow the animals to hold only so much weight, on average between 118 and 122 pounds. This limit includes both the weight of the jockey and any additional equipment used for the race, like a saddle. Most jockeys weigh between 100 and 118 pounds and have rigorous diet and exercise regimens to achieve a desired weight. There are no height requirements to become a jockey, but on average, they measure between 4-foot-10 and 5-foot-6 to help them achieve the desired weight goals.

Jockey work environment

A jockeys work environment can vary depending on their status or racing specialization. Apprentice jockeys may live at or nearby the stables and work as grooms, cleaning out stalls and grooming horses, besides completing other aspects of their training.

More established jockeys may work long hours on race days to prepare themselves and the horses. They may work between 45 and 50 hours per week. Some jockeys can race in up to 1,000 competitions per year based on factors like skill, win record and name recognition. On average, in the winter, jockeys may ride in three races per day. In the summer, during peak season, they may race in up 12 contests a day.

Races traditionally take place outdoors, but can also take place on indoor tracks. When working outdoors, rain, wind, mud or fluctuating temperatures may factor into race day conditions. Jockeys may also spend time at the gym or working out outdoors to build strength and stamina.

Racehorses may reach speeds between 40 and 55 miles per hour, so you move quickly while competing. Like with other athletic positions, being a jockey has some risk of injury if you fall from your horse, though it is rare with proper training and control.

How to become a jockey

Follow these steps to learn how to become a jockey:

1. Learn to ride horses

Learning how to ride horses as soon as possible can help you start a career as a jockey. If you have prior experience riding horses from childhood, you can build on that knowledge. If you dont have prior riding experience, take lessons or look for recreational riding camps or classes that can teach you how to mount a horse, find your balance and learn control. Doing this can help you discover if working with and riding horses is a potential career choice for you.

2. Do research

Some of a jockeys daily duties involve studying footage of past races and their competition to learn skills they can use on the racetrack. You can also review footage to help you learn more about the role. By watching videos or live races and jockey interviews, you can begin learning the form and style you need to compete before starting a career.

3. Start a career in the equestrian field

You can start your career path in a stable as a stablehand or groomer. You may also choose to work at racetracks as a hot walker, or the person who walks a horse around to cool down after a race before cleaning the animal and returning it to its stall. Working in the field gives you a chance to network with other people in the horseracing industry and learn skills needed to become a jockey.

4. Attend jockey school

Formal schooling is not required to become a jockey. However, if you would like to take courses in horse care, nutrition, fitness and technology, you may choose to apply to the North American Racing Academy in Kentucky, which is the only jockey college program in the country. Students can earn a two-year degree and gain knowledge and skills needed to apply for the journeymen jockey license. The school limits new students to 12 per year. If you choose to attend, you must have a high school diploma or GED and experience riding and training horses.

5. Complete an apprenticeship

Complete an apprenticeship with a professional jockey to learn safety and the rules of racing. Doing an apprenticeship helps prepare you to compete in schooling races and may help you meet any additional requirements your state may have to apply for a jockey license, like working a set number of hours in a stable or passing a written exam. You must be at least 16 years old to start a jockey apprenticeship, though this number could vary by state. Apprenticeships can take up to four years to complete.

6. Compete in schooling races

Schooling races are formal training races sponsored by racetracks. These events teach new jockeys how to exit the gate and handle their horses during a race. Your state may require you to complete a certain number of schooling races before you can earn your competitive racing license. However, some racetracks may require you to have your journeyman jockey license before participating. Check your state and track guidelines to get the most accurate information.

7. Earn your journeyman jockey license

After you have completed your schooling or apprenticeship program and met your states requirements, youre eligible to apply for your competitive racing license. This license allows you to race professionally and earn you the title of journeyman jockey.

8. Hire an agent

Hiring an agent may help you find job opportunities or make connections with horse owners and trainers. Agents may also help you secure longer-term contracts with owners or negotiate better pay.

9. Join the Jockeys Guild

The Jockeys Guild is a union for licensed journeyman jockeys. They do collective bargaining for their members, provide life insurance and disability benefits and advocate for safe working conditions. Members pay annual dues and mounting fees for each horse they ride.

FAQ

Is it hard to become a jockey?

A career as a horse jockey doesn’t come easily. There’s a limited amount of jobs available for jockeys, and the horse jockey requirements make it a tough field to break into. In addition to complying with the average weight limits, it’s also a physically demanding job.

What is jockey salary?

The salaries of Horse Jockeys in the US range from $10,049 to $271,427 , with a median salary of $48,880 . The middle 57% of Horse Jockeys makes between $48,882 and $123,036, with the top 86% making $271,427.

How long does it take to be a jockey?

Enroll in a jockey training program.

In the United States, the North American Racing Academy is the country’s only school for jockeys and offers a two-year program. Applicants need to have a high school diploma or GED and experience riding and training horses.

How do jockeys get started?

Often jockeys get their start working at barns, stables, and racetracks as hot walkers or groomers. Many jockeys attend jockey school, but the best way to learn is by apprenticing with a respected, professional jockey.

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