The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Among thousands, if not million jobs on the market, a horseracing jockey is definitely one of the more interesting ones.
It’s also quite mysterious for an outsider. What do exactly jockeys do besides racing on the tournament day, how do you become one and can you actually make money?
A prestigious athlete, animal lover and a freelance business person are words that describe this profession well.
But let’s look closer at what do horseracing jockeys do.
What is a jockey?
In a nutshell, a jockey is a person who races horses as a profession. Most of the time, jockeys are self-employed, which means horse owners or trainers hire them to race for a fee. To give them an extra boost of motivation to win, they also receive a percentage from the winnings.
The road to becoming a jockey starts as an apprenticeship at a young age. It’s not an easy path because you need to ride at least 20 barrier trials successfully, have good knowledge about horses, and be physically fit and confident when controlling this powerful animal.
What do jockeys need to know?
Usually, jockeys start at the bottom – working in barns, racetracks and stables as groomers, walkers or cleaners.
Even though those who have serious career aspirations attend jockey school, their time as apprentices is invaluable.
During this time at school and stables, young kids learn horse anatomy, grooming, shoeing, maintaining equipment, and the rules of racing, safety and protocols.
Only after competing in schooling races jockeys get their official racing license and can enter races professionally.
What skills are needed?
Like any other job, jockeys need to stay on top of their skills all the time.
Other things such as creating a strategy, understanding weather and track conditions, assessing the competition etc. can be learned and improved.
One thing that is very important for a jockey is that they need to be small, usually around 5 feet and 100 pounds. They can’t control their height, but weight management is a real skill and a challenge.
Physical preparation and horse training
Controlling a horse running at high speeds requires a combination of strength and agility. Jockeys aren’t just riding horses; they are pushing horses to do their best possible run.
Jockeys are athletes with a high level of physical fitness. They train rigorously and follow a strict nutrition regiment. Because they need to meet weight requirements, many jockeys suffer from eating disorders and starvation diets.
A lot of attention is paid to training the horses as well, and part of being a good jockey is understanding what works best with each horse. Only a well-prepared jockey and a well-trained horse can win a race.
Jockeys work tirelessly with trainers and horse owners to create a winning strategy.
If you are a horse racing enthusiast, you can improve your horse racing betting skills by learning more about handicapping during the main events, like the Kentucky Derby: twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/handicapping
Downsides of the job
Every job has its downsides, and being a jockey has some serious risks.
Injuries are part of their everyday lives. However, not all of them are minor or easy to overcome. It’s highly likely that falling off a giant horse that races north of 30 miles per hour will result in the jockey being trampled or even killed.
Like any other athlete, a jockey is also at risk of overworking their body and experiencing psychological stress because the pressures to win are high.
What does a jockey make?
Jockeys are usually paid a riding fee plus winning purse commission. Riding fees start at as low as $30-100 per race. The commissions are generally 6 to 10% for 1st place and 1 to 2% for 2nd and 3rd places.
Big races such as, e.g. The Kentucky Derby offer a much bigger winning pot. The winning jockey can earn millions and make a name for themselves, which often leads to highly paid sponsorships.
After their careers are over, many jockeys transition and become horse trainers.