How do I become a jockey?
Of course, there are two types of jockey: professional jockeys, who ride for a living, and amateur jockeys, who ride for nothing more than fun. Becoming an amateur jockey may sound like the easier option, and it is, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a cakewalk.
Before any application for a Category A Amateur Riders Permit – which allows an individual to ride against other amateurs, but not professionals – can even be considered, applicants must attend a two-day training and assessment course at the British Racing School in Newmarket or the National Horseracing College in Doncaster. Applicants are assessed for fitness, strength and technique, including the principles of good race riding and/or schooling and jumping, depending on the type of permit for which they have applied.
Several highly successful professional jockeys – Ruby Walsh, Richard Johnson and Bryony Frost, to name but three – began their careers as amateurs. However, the good news is that no formal qualifications are required to become a professional jockey and anyone aged 16 or over, who works at least 16 hours a week in a licensed racing stable can apply to do so. The first step is typically a residential foundation course at one of the aforementioned institutions followed, at a later date, subject to competency, by a jockey licence course.
It probably goes without saying that to become a successful professional jockey you need to be young, lightweight, fit and healthy. Of course there are exceptions, but most professional jockeys begin their careers no later than their earlier twenties and weigh between eight and ten stone, depending on whether they ride on the Flat or over Jumps. Controlling a half-tonne racehorse, at speed, requires no little strength and athleticism, so seven stome weaklings need not apply. Excellent horsemanship skills are obviously a pre-requisite, but other desirable characteristics include dedication, self-discipline and a will to win, although not necessarily at all costs.