There are around 450 professional jockeys currently licenced in Great Britain, along with 300 amateurs.
Jockeys maintain a supreme level of fitness in order to fulfil their daily routine of riding and schooling horses in training in the morning, as well as riding in races in the afternoon and evening.
Of course, no two jockeys are alike – each has his or her own riding style and a particular set of attributes, as you would expect from any elite sportsperson. However, there are differences between jockeys who ride on the Flat and those who ride over Jumps.
- Jump jockeys tend to be taller and weigh more than flat jockeys because they require strength and stamina for the longer Jump races.
- Flat jockeys tend to weigh less and, as a result, are likely to be shorter, too. The races are shorter and faster and the horses are younger.
While the majority of jockeys are men, female jockeys compete equally alongside their male rivals.
How does a jockey prepare for a race?
Before a race, all jockeys must ‘weigh out’ to ensure that the horse they will be riding is carrying the correct weight for the race. If a jockey and his or her kit, including the saddle, come in under the required weight for the race to make it an even field, small weights are added to a saddle cloth to make up for it.
When the weight has been recorded, the jockey hands the saddle to the trainer or an assistant to get the horse ready to race.
What does a jockey do after a race?
After the race, the winning and placed jockeys will unsaddle in the Winner’s Enclosure. This gives punters the chance to see the victorious horses come in to celebrate a successful race.
Jockeys can and often do compete in a number of races in the same raceday, so this process of unsaddling sometimes needs to be a swift one.
What are jockey silks and colours?
One of the most iconic aspects of horseracing are the coloured silks that jockeys wear during races. These are typically used to identify who the owner of the horse is, so commentators and racegoers can easily track them throughout a race.
What are Apprentice and Conditional jockeys?
When they get their licence, both Apprentices and Conditionals can make a 7lb claim. This is a weight allowance designed to provide an advantage to their horse in return for the potential disadvantage of having a relatively inexperienced jockey – this helps to even out the field and make it more competitive.
In Jump racing, the Conditional jockey’s allowance can be reduced to 5lb after they’ve ridden 20 winners and 3lb after 40 winners. Once they have ridden 75 winners, the jockey loses their claim and becomes a fully-fledged professional. In Flat racing, Apprentice jockeys have the same weight allowances, but the winning milestones lie at 20, 50 and 95 respectively.
You can spot this next to the jockey’s name on the racecard – it will show (7), (5) or (3) in brackets so you know if they have a weight allowance.
Some races are for Apprentices or Conditional jockeys only, but generally they can compete with professional jockeys who have no claim.
Can you compete as an amateur jockey?
Some jockeys ride as amateurs with careers outside the saddle. It is not uncommon for amateurs to win even the most iconic races in Britain. Certain races are designated for amateur jockeys only, but generally speaking, professionals and amateurs compete together.
What do jockeys eat and drink?
Many say that jockeys are amongst the fittest athletes in the world and, when you look at the diets and exercise routines of those at the top, it’s clear to see how dedicated they are to their profession.
Successful jockeys like AP McCoy have been known to have only four main meals a week with a number of sugar boosts on racedays for energy. Their exercise routines include gym sessions and running to keep fit and maintain cardiovascular health for the challenge of saddling up on some of the fastest and most powerful horses in the world.