Riding horses can be something that people do recreationally, but you can also make money doing it. Like in every sport, becoming a jockey is a long and all-consuming process where you will need to make sacrifices to become successful.
Horse racing is not an easy business to break into as there are fewer jobs than in most sports. Jockeys, trainers, owners, handicappers (perhaps), and bookmakers or track masters who devise horse racing odds are really the only people who can make a living in the business. However, horse racing is a little different from other sports as most people working in the industry call two or three different tracks home due to the various schedules of each venue.
Just think, by becoming a jockey, you would join a unique niche group and could be the envy of others as a lot of people only dream of having a career in sports. Most horse racing governing bodies have a weight restriction for jockeys (108-128 pounds). If you are still intrigued about becoming a jockey, the following is a list of steps to follow that could help you realize your dream.
Step 1: Learn To Ride/Love Being Around Horses
This step may be obvious, but it is essential to becoming a jockey. Like most people in all sports, jockeys have been around horses and riding them most of their lives, and some have grown up around the sport. While that is not necessary, you have to have a passion for being around the animal and to put in the work to understand horses as well as practice your craft.
If you don’t have prior horse riding experience, you can take individual lessons or go to recreational riding camps or classes to learn the basics of horseback riding. Many jockeys get started by working in barns, racetracks, and stables as groomers, walkers, or groomers.
Step 2: Research Job Duties
While riding/controlling your horse is the primary job duty, jockeys do have other responsibilities. Jockeys are always watching films to learn about their competition and the racetrack. You can also watch live races or videos as well as jockey interviews to better understand the sport and your potential career.
Step 3: Attend A Jockey School
While formal training is not required to become a jockey in the United States, it is in other parts of the world. It is not a bad idea for every potential jockey to attend a jockey school anyway, as it can provide you with information about nutrition, horse care, fitness, and horse care, among other things. You do have to be at least 16 years old to attend a jockey school, and the schools are pretty selective.
Step 4: Apply To Become An Apprentice/Schooling Program
Applying to become an apprentice is key to your journey to becoming a jockey. While regions and states differ in their requirements to be accepted as an apprentice, you generally have to be at least 16 and meet specific weight and possibly height requirements. As an apprentice, you have come to fulfill requirements like spending a certain amount of time working in stables, passing an exam, and meeting race and health requirements.
Step 5: Apply For Jockey License
Once again, requirements vary depending on location though you may be able to apply at an individual racetrack. In some cases, the trainer you have been apprenticing under may have to file for the license once they feel you are ready. Being granted the license allows you to race professionally as a journeyman jockey.
Step 6: Hire an Agent/ Join Jockey’s Guild
The first step after earning your jockey license is to hire an agent. An agent’s job is to help you find job opportunities or make connections with horse owners and trainers. Meanwhile, the Jockey’s Guild is a union that provides journeyman jockeys with life and disability insurance along with doing the jockeys’ collective bargaining.