This is a great read and relevant to the whole post –
If the thought of riding a racehorse at some of the UK’s famed horse racing courses sounds like a dream come through, perhaps you should be looking into a career as a jockey. Make no mistake, it’s a tough road and will involve years of training in order to gain the necessary experience and reputation. Prepare to begin at the bottom where you will probably be asked to clean stalls, mend fences and learn everything there is to know about horse care.
It is only after following all the steps outlined below can you hope to be chosen to ride high quality horses. Keep reading to learn more about becoming a horse racing jockey in the UK.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) requires mandatory training for all jockeys. There are different training programs depending on whether you are an Apprentice (Flat) or Conditional (Jump) jockey. After receiving full-time employment from a Trainer, you need to work your way through the following courses at either the British Racing School (BRS) or the Northern Racing College (NRC).
Yet there is one more hurdle to jump before you can even enter one of the above schools.
Level 2 Diploma Apprenticeship
The BRS offers this qualification for free to a select number of chosen applicants. You must be deemed physically fit, be 16-22 years of age and a EU citizen in order to be eligible. If you can impress the school during an interview, you will receive your training, accommodation and meals absolutely free during the 9-14 week course. You will be asked to undergo a tough fitness test at the interview stage so be prepared!
The actual duration of the course depends on your experience and it includes:
- Riding racehorses.
- Administering daily grooming, feeding and care to the horses. Each trainee receives 2-3 horses to care for.
- Studies include improvement of functional English and Maths.
- Personal safety, drug & alcohol awareness, learning how to budget your finances and much more.
At the end of the course, the BRS will help you determine the best trainer and location for your ambitions and personal circumstances. Assuming you complete the course to the required standard, you can take on a full-time, paid job to complete your Apprenticeship. This process normally takes about 18 months.
This qualification is equivalent to 5 pass grade GCSE’s. Then you can complete a Level 3 Diploma and finish your Foundation Degree in Horse Racing. The NRC offers similar courses.
Apprentice Training – For Flat Jockeys
Apprentice License Course
If you are aged 16-26 and are in full-time employment with a licensed racehorse trainer based in the UK, this license allows you to race against professional jockeys in Flat events where you will receive a weight allowance.
This license course is 5 days long and takes place at the BRS or NRC. You must also undergo a medical examination to meet the medical standards for ‘Fitness to Ride’ and the Assessment of Concussion Protocol. As well as having the Level 2 Diploma mentioned above, you’re also expected to be reasonably skilled when it comes to riding work, galloping at top speed and jumping a horse out of the stalls at the start of a race.
The course is free and includes information on the following:
- Rules & Regulations.
- Diet & Nutrition.
- Sports Science.
- Riding Work & Providing Feedback.
Practical elements include Stalls, Riding Work and Fitness & Simulator Assessments.
Apprentice Continuation Course
This is designed to help Flat jockeys build upon the skills learned during the License course. This is a 4 day course which covers the following:
- Pace Awareness.
- Finance & Tax.
- Proper Use of the Whip.
- Sports Psychology.
- Fitness, Diet & Nutrition.
- Rules & Regulations.
Advanced Apprentice Course
If you have ridden 20 winners as an apprentice, you must attend a 4 day advanced training course. It includes many of the aspects of the Continuation course but is far more in-depth. Other topics are covered too:
- Financial Advice.
- Media Training.
- Sports Science & Jockey Performance.
- Rules & Regulation Update.
- Financial Advice.
The BHA Licensing Authority will notify you when it’s time to take the Advanced course.
Conditional Training – Jump Jockeys
Conditional License Course
Again, you must have the Level 2 Diploma Apprenticeship under your belt before applying for this license. The criteria for entry and topics covered are the same as the Apprentice License Course.
Conditional Continuation Course
This is the next step after receiving your license but you will not be required to attend this 4 day course until you have ridden at least 15 winners as a Conditional jockey. Topics covered include:
- Sports Science & Jockey Performance.
- Sports Psychology.
- Professionalism in Sport.
- Rules & Regulations Update.
- Diet, Fitness & Nutrition.
Conditional Advanced Course
The topics covered on this course are the same as on the Advanced Apprenticeship Course. Once again, it is a 4 day course and you will be notified by the BHA when it’s time for you to attend. You will only be asked once you have ridden 20 winners as a Conditional rider.
Whether you are an Apprentice or Conditional rider, you start off with a 7 pound claim until you have recorded a specific number of wins:
- 7 pound claimer until you have 20 wins.
- 5 pound claimer until you have 50 wins.
- 3 pound claimer until you have 95 wins.
- 7 pound claimer until you have 15 wins.
- 5 pound claimer until you have 40 wins.
- 3 pound claimer until you have 75 wins.
Amateur Rider Permits
These permits are an excellent opportunity to begin your career as a jockey without having to be a professional. Top jockeys such as Richard Johnston and Ryan Moore went down this route before making their mark on the sport. There are two types of permit:
You are allowed in races designed for amateur riders only but you can compete in Flat or Jump events. You won’t even be considered for a permit until you attend a one day training seminar and one day assessment at either the BRS or NRC. Here is how applicants can get their permits:
- A Jump only permit can be achieved by showing the ability to school a horse over fences at speed without hindering its progress.
- A Flat only permit can be achieved by showing the ability to jump a horse out of the stalls without hindering it or the horses around it.
All candidates are required to show strength, technique and race fitness on a racehorse simulator. Expect to be on the simulator for up to 4 minutes; during this time, you will be given instructions which must be followed.
Holders of this permit are allowed to ride in Flat races for Amateurs only, Steeplechase & Hurdle races (barring those for Licensed Conditional Jockeys only) and all National Hunt Flat races.
It’s a 5 day course and you are not eligible for this permit until you’ve had 15 completed rides under Rules of Racing (most of which must be over obstacles) or 20 completed rides in Point-to-Point events and/or Rules. It’s normal for Category A permit holders to later apply for Category B.
The Fitness Test
During all jockey courses, candidates will be put through a strenuous physical assessment to ensure they are fit and strong enough to become a jockey. The fitness tests are designed to find each individual’s strengths and weaknesses and every element of the assessment is graded to give an overall fitness percentage.
Let’s take a quick look at the exercises on the test below.
Exercise Ball Leg Repetitions & Hold
A Swiss ball will be sandwiched between your lower back and a wall. First of all, you must do 20 squats in this position and then you need to hold the squat position for as long as you can with a 5kg weight on your chest.
A time of less than 90 seconds is deemed to be ‘poor’ while a ‘good’ performance is 120+ seconds.
Wobble Cushion Squats
You must stand on two wobble cushions and are then told to adopt the pushing position. If you don’t adopt the right stance you will be given a warning; 3 warnings and the exercise is over.
A time of less than 121 seconds is poor while a time of 240+ seconds is good.
Press Up Position & Hold
Simply hold a press up position for as long as you can. A time of less than 61 seconds is poor; a good time is 90+ seconds.
Elastic Band Push to Metronome
You will sit on a bench in an upright position with the bend of the knees at a right angle. You need to push the elastic band until your arm is completely extended in front of you. Now you must remain ‘in time’ with the metronome.
For minute 1 it will operate at 50bpm; this increases to 60bpm during minute 2 and 70bpm during minute 3. If you fall behind the pace a warning is given; 3 warnings and the exercise is over.
A time of below 61 seconds is poor while a time of 120+ seconds is good.
Leg Raises to Metronome
The metronome will operate at 50bpm and you must perform leg raises in time. 3 warnings will end the exercise. A time below 121 seconds is poor while 240+ seconds is good.
Simply adopt the traditional ‘plank’ position for as long as possible. A time below 121 seconds is poor while 180+ seconds is good.
This test takes place outdoors between a pair of markers 20 metres apart. Failure to reach Level 11 is poor while making Level 13 is considered good.
You begin in a galloping position before receiving onscreen instructions to ride a finish and use your stick about 30 seconds in. The assessment ends when the instructor feels a lack of ability to balance or a lack of fitness is hindering your finish or if you are simply no longer able to ride a finish.
A time below 2 minute 30 seconds is deemed to be poor while a time of 4 minutes or over is considered good.
I decided to include a brief note on the size of a jockey in this section. Realistically, you shouldn’t weight more than 52.5 kilograms (8 stone 4 pounds) as a Flat jockey or 62 kilograms (9 stone 10 pounds) as a Jump jockey. If you weigh more than these amounts, trainers will be reluctant to give you rides.
While most jockeys are around 5ft 4 inches tall or less, top jockeys such as Richard Johnston are what we would deem ‘average height’ (Johnston is reportedly 5ft 10 inches).
Basically, you will need to fight in order to ‘make weight’ and there will be an article about the life of a jockey on this very site soon.
If you wish to become a jockey, sacrifice and hard work are mandatory. Be prepared for a lot of training and expect a few injuries here and there (especially if you are a Jump jockey). Yet for those that make it, there is no better feeling than speeding across a racecourse while mounted on a magnificent specimen of a thoroughbred racehorse. Who knows, perhaps one day you will ride a Grand National or 2,000 Guineas winner?