Is becoming a jockey right for me?

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What do jockeys do?
Career Satisfaction
Are jockeys happy with their careers?
What are jockeys like?

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How to become a Jockey

Becoming a jockey requires dedication, training, and meeting certain criteria. Here is a guide on how to pursue a career as a jockey:

  • Develop Riding Skills: Start by gaining experience and developing riding skills. Take riding lessons at an early age to build a solid foundation in horseback riding. Develop good balance, posture, and control while riding horses.
  • Maintain Physical Fitness: Jockeys need to maintain a high level of physical fitness to meet the demands of racing. Focus on cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Maintain a healthy diet to manage weight and stay in optimal physical condition.
  • Obtain a License: In the US, jockeys must be licensed by the racing authorities in the state(s) where they plan to ride. The licensing process typically involves completing an application, passing a written exam, and demonstrating riding skills through a practical test. Contact the racing commission or regulatory body in your state to learn about the specific requirements and procedures for obtaining a jockey's license.
  • Gain Experience: Seek opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the horse racing industry. This can involve working as a stable hand, groom, exercise rider, or assistant to trainers. Spending time at racetracks and getting to know industry professionals can provide valuable networking opportunities and help you learn more about the practical aspects of being a jockey.
  • Apprenticeship Program: Consider joining an apprenticeship program offered by racing organizations or individual trainers. These programs provide structured training, mentorship, and on-the-job experience under the guidance of experienced professionals. Apprenticeship programs often have weight allowances that gradually decrease as apprentices gain more experience.
  • Attend a Jockey School: Enroll in a jockey school that offers comprehensive training programs specifically designed for aspiring jockeys. These schools provide instruction on riding techniques, race strategies, fitness training, and horse care. Some well-known jockey schools in the US include the North American Racing Academy and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's Jockey Apprenticeship Program.
  • Obtain Riding Experience: Start riding in actual races to gain experience and build a track record. Begin by riding in amateur or non-competitive races, such as schooling races or point-to-point events. As you gain more experience and confidence, progress to riding in official races at recognized tracks.
  • Establish Connections: Network and build connections within the horse racing industry. Attend racing events, join professional organizations such as the Jockeys' Guild, and actively engage with trainers, owners, and industry professionals. Establishing a good reputation and developing relationships can lead to more riding opportunities and support in your career as a jockey.
  • Continual Improvement: Strive for continual improvement as a jockey. Work closely with trainers, analyze race performances, and seek feedback to identify areas for growth. Attend workshops, seminars, and clinics to enhance your riding skills, learn about new techniques, and stay updated with industry trends.
  • Professionalism and Dedication: Maintain a professional attitude, demonstrate dedication, and show respect for the horses, trainers, and fellow jockeys. Being punctual, reliable, and hardworking will contribute to your reputation and increase your chances of obtaining quality rides.

Helpful Resources
There are several helpful resources available for jockeys. Here are some key resources to consider:

  • Jockeys' Guild: The Jockeys' Guild is a professional organization that represents and supports jockeys in North America. They provide various resources and services, including access to health and disability benefits, legal representation, educational programs, and advocacy for jockeys' rights and welfare.
  • Accredited Jockey Schools: Accredited jockey schools offer specialized training programs for aspiring jockeys. These schools provide comprehensive instruction on riding techniques, race strategies, fitness training, and horse care. Examples of accredited jockey schools in the US include the North American Racing Academy and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's Jockey Apprenticeship Program.
  • Racing Commissions and Associations: State racing commissions and industry associations play a vital role in regulating and promoting horse racing. They often provide valuable resources and information for jockeys. Contact your local racing commission or industry association to learn about licensing requirements, rules and regulations, race schedules, and other relevant information.
  • Professional Jockey Associations: Regional or state-specific professional jockey associations can provide support and resources to jockeys. These associations may organize events, offer networking opportunities, and provide updates on industry developments. Examples include the California Jockeys Association, New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.
  • Racing Publications and Media Outlets: Stay informed about the horse racing industry through racing publications, websites, and media outlets. Publications like the Daily Racing Form, BloodHorse, and Thoroughbred Times provide news, race results, handicapping information, and feature stories related to horse racing. Online platforms like Equibase offer comprehensive racing data, including past performances and race replays.
  • Industry Events and Conferences: Attend industry events, conferences, and seminars focused on horse racing. These events provide opportunities to learn from industry experts, network with fellow professionals, and stay updated on the latest trends and advancements in the sport. Examples include the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) seminars, National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) conferences, and Thoroughbred Racing Associations (TRA) events.
  • Mentors and Trainers: Establish connections with experienced jockeys, trainers, and industry professionals who can provide guidance and mentorship. Learning from those with firsthand experience can be invaluable in developing your skills, understanding race dynamics, and navigating the intricacies of the sport.