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Jockey Job Description, Career as a Jockey, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Apprenticeship under a trainer

Salary Median: $30,000 per year

Employment Outlook: Fair

Jockeys ride horses in racing events and for exercise. They are highly trained professionals and are employed by racehorse owners. The basic job comprises mounting the racehorse in the saddling padlock, following racing instructions of the trainer, and returning the horse to the unsaddling enclosure once the race is over. Jockeys are also responsible for maintaining all riding equipment, including helmets, saddles, boots, whips, elastic girths, goggles, and riding pants.

Horse racing is considered an exhilarating and glamorous sport, but jockeys need to put in a lot of hard work and planning in order to become successful. They need to be well aware of the abilities of the horses they ride. After a race is over, jockeys also need to interact with the trainers and give them information and input regarding the horse’s performance.

Education and Training Requirements

No specific academic qualifications are required in order to become a jockey. However, an apprenticeship under a professional is essential. This training is available to candidates over 18 years of age, and it helps a jockey understand horses and their nature, breathing, feeding, and breeding patterns; shoeing; and work routine. It is also a good idea to take on the entry-level responsibility of walking horses, cooling them down after workouts, and exercising them.

Jockeys also need to have certain physical traits and abilities. They should be athletic and possess riding skills. Weight is another major consideration in this profession. Jockeys ideally should weigh between 100 and 150 pounds and be in excellent physical condition.

Horse jockeys need a formal license in order to participate in competitive races. Initially, jockeys need to have an apprentice license. After holding this license for at least a year, they can become journeyman or journeywoman jockeys. They also need to demonstrate their knowledge of racing rules and riding abilities before official stewards of racetracks. Applications for formal licenses can be made at the majority of racetracks. However, a license is valid only in racetracks within that license’s specific geographical region.

Getting the Job

Prior to taking up professional jockeying, candidates need to have a license as an apprentice. Those interested can enroll in informal competitions or schooling races. These offer excellent opportunities for learning and honing skills until they are of a professional standard. Most jockeys start out by working for a trainer or horse owner and find grooming jobs in stables. On obtaining the professional license, jockeys can start participating in big-time racing events. Since jockeys usually work for horse owners, they need to interact with others in the profession and build a reputation in order to receive good work offers.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

With hard work, discipline, and experience, jockeys can make a name for themselves. Successful jockeys are known to participate in over 1,000 races every year. Better performance brings with it better opportunities and can also lead to a substantial increase in income. Experienced jockeys can train apprentices. Some even go on to establish their own stables.

Although horse racing is practiced throughout the United States and Canada, there has been a general reduction in the number of racetracks and racing events. This has led to a decline in employment opportunities for jockeys. However, it is still considered a rewarding occupation and there is stiff competition for good job opportunities.

Working Conditions

Due to the nature of the job, jockeys spend a major part of their time outdoors or in barns and stables. They may have to adjust to different environmental conditions and work even in bad weather. Those participating in fairground races usually have to spend time in cramped and uncomfortable dressing rooms, whereas those competing on well-known tracks have the benefit of comfortable rooms and better facilities. Jockeys also need to travel frequently, depending on the races they are participating in.

The job of horse racing is risky, and accidents are not unusual. As a result, jockeys need to be very well aware of safety measures and observe them at all times. For instance, they need to wear protective vests and helmets.

Where to Go for More Information

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
395 E St. SW, Suite 9200
Patriots Plaza Building
Washington, DC 20201

Jockeys’ Guild, Inc.
103 Wind Haven Dr., Suite 200
Nicholasville, KY 40356

Jockey Benefits Association
78129 Calle Norte
LaQuinta, CA 90053

Salary, Earnings and Benefits

Jockeys usually do not have a fixed annual salary. Their earnings depend largely on their performance. In a race, the jockey riding the winning horse is entitled to six to ten percent of the total prize money. Those riding the horses that come in second and third receive a one and half percent commission respectively. The jockey’s regular fee, referred to as jock mount, is in the range of $35 to $50 per race.

Jockeys are offered physical and mental health benefits, including drug and alcohol treatment. Among the other medical services are hospital facilities, physician services, physiotherapy treatments, maternity and newborn care, and preventive care facilities.

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