Horse Racing: How to Become a Jockey
Horse Racing is a multi-million pound industry and is enjoyed almost every day of the year by people all around the world including royalty. Are you interested in becoming a Jockey? If so, read on to find out just How to Become a Jockey in the UK.
I'm a horse racing enthusiast and aspiring Jockey, and for a while I had absolutely no idea whatsoever as to the career entry route for Jockeys. As of yet, there isn't really a single, definitive career entry path and as such this hub was written by myself to be as full of information and complete a guide as possible to give you an idea of the various options available to you if you're looking to become a Jockey.
I hope you enjoy reading through this hub and I hope that it's serves its purpose to be as informative as possible.
Things To Consider
This section of the hub may well put you off the idea of becoming a Jockey completely, this is, however, not its purpose, the idea of this section is really to give you an idea of the physical requirements and lifestyle sacrifices that has to be made by all successful Jockeys today.
The truth is, not just anyone can become a Jockey, and most people by today's standards just simply aren't built to be Jockeys. The lifestyle that comes with the career of being a race Jockey is without a doubt an acquired taste and isn't for everyone.
Due to strict weight considerations, generally speaking, Jockeys tend to be slightly shorter with most being around 5ft-5ft 5in, having said that, height, however, is not a specific contributing factor to yours or anyone elses eligibility to become a Jockey. Weight, however, is. In order to secure rides from horse owners/trainers you will need to be physically fit (cardio is a must) and ideally no heavier than 8st 3lbs or 52kg's if you want to ride in flat races or 9st 5lbs if you would like to ride in hurdles, steeplechases or national hunt races.
Retaining such a low weight requires a lot of cardiovascular exercise (jogging, cycling etc.) and constant strict dieting and control of calorie intake, usually no more than a measly 1000 calories a day as opposed to the 3000 that most adult males consume on a daily basis within the UK.
When starting out, expect to be up as early as 5am most days and in bed not much earlier than 10pm on a busy day. You will need to be hands-on and able to get your hands dirty as yard duties will include such unpleasantries as mucking out.
Expect to travel a lot, travelling is a key part of being a Jockey, and at the peak of the flat season it isn't unheard of for Jockeys to have multiple races across several different race meeting in any single day. To give you an idea of how much travel might be involved, you may have some races in Brighton in the early afternoon and Catterick later on in the day before heading to Doncaster to finish off and then back to your trainer's yard in Newmarket or elsewhere.
Skills and Qualifications
The Horse Racing governing body, the British Horseracing Authority (or BHA) has said that Jockeys competing on even an amateur level are required to have been assessed and be in current possession of either a Category A or B license at the time of racing. As such, Jockeying isn't, unfortunately, as simple as mounting a thoroughbred, letting the horse do all the work and then claiming your prize money at the end of the race.
Formal academic qualifications aren't needed specifically to become a Jockey, however, the Racehorse care NVQ's are a must have if you're looking to work with thoroughbreds.
Racehorse Care and Apprenticeships
This NVQ, is industry recognised but not widely granted. As far as I'm aware there are only currently two educational institutions that provide this tuition, these are the British Racing School located in Newmarket and the Northern Racing College in Doncaster. Both of which will help you to secure employment at UK stables upon successful completion of your course(s). Provided that you are below certain age and weight restrictions, both colleges will also typically provide the tuition free of charge in the form of a highly-practical, residential course (9 weeks long for the British Racing School and 12 weeks long for the Northern Racing College).
Working for Trainers
Once you're fully qualified and have gained some experience, it will be possible for you to secure employment under a trainer on their yard within the UK as a stable hand and/or Jockey dependant on your size, weight and ability.
Securing rides based on qualification
If by this time you're trainer is offering you rides at race meetings you will still be classed as an amateur Jockey unless you've completed a Level 2 Apprenticeship Diploma accessible to you after you've received your Level 2 Diploma in work based Racehorse care, in which case you will become an apprentice Jockey if you're a flat rider or a 'conditional' Jockey if you ride over jumps.
The Level 3 Apprenticeships Diploma
Offered as further education by both the British Racing School and Northern Racing College the Advanced Apprenticeships program is designed to both further your education in race horse care and your career within it. Both the Level 2 and 3 qualifications are typically free of charge with tuition supplied by the British Racing School and Northern Racing College.
External Links and Additional Information
- Weight is a major contributing factor as to whether or not you will be able to become a Jockey not only in the UK but anywhere in the world. For practical information on dietary solutions for Jockeys and those aspiring to be Jockeys, check out what Jump Champion Tony McCoy's daily diet consists of and Lovetheraces.com's The Jockey Diet.
- If you would like to gain some beforehand experience with horses try taking some riding lessons or applying for a voluntary role with Equine welfare charities in the practical care of horses. A comprehensive list of Equine welfare charities located in the UK can be found here.
- The British Racing School and Northern Racing College
- British Horseracing Authority and Professional Jockey's Association