Jockey Careers

How to become Jockey

What does a Jockey do?

Jockeys ride horses in flat races or National Hunt races (sometimes known as jump racing), and occasionally in both types of race. Before becoming an apprentice jockey in flat racing or conditional jockey in jump racing, time has to be served as a stable hand (also known as stable lad or lass), performing tasks like filling haynets, sweeping the yard and mucking out stables, grooming, feeding and watering horses and taking them through exercises. They would also note any changes in horses' health and report to the head lad or trainer.

On race days, apprentice and conditional jockeys travel with the horses to meetings to learn racing techniques under instruction from the trainer, who advises on tactics to suit the horse and the track. Additional duties include grooming and calming the horses, kitting them out in race livery and looking after them after races. Stable hand duties are still performed on days when not race riding.

Aside from taking part in competitive races, full professional jockeys are engaged by trainers for early morning 'work-rides' to train horses for racing.

What's the working environment like working as a Jockey?

Jockeys work around 40 to 45 hours a week, depending on the number of races they take part in. They attend races held at courses throughout the UK, so must be prepared to travel and spend time away from home.

The work is physically demanding, often involving early starts and late finishes. There can be risk of injury from falls and kicks.

What does it take to become a Jockey?

To be a jockey you should:

  • be skilled at riding and handling horses
  • have fitness, strength and stamina
  • be determined and dedicated
  • have good eyesight and fast reaction speeds
  • be able to work well with others
  • be able to cope with the risks and pressures of racing
  • have knowledge of horse care and welfare
  • be willing to work and live away from home.

Jockey Career Opportunities

There are 500 racing stables around the country, located mainly in rural areas. Employment prospects for trained stable hands are good, but progression to apprentice jockey is difficult and becoming a successful professional jockey even more so.

As a professional jockey, you may work for one trainer or owner, or ride for different trainers and owners as a self-employed jockey. If the trainer or owner races horses abroad, jockeys travel to those meetings as well. Work for stables overseas is possible, especially in Dubai, Japan and the USA.

Most jockeys retire by age 45 (35 for jump jockeys). The Jockeys Employment and Training Scheme (JETS) offers advice on retraining and employment for licensed jockeys who have reached the end of their riding career. See Further Information for contact details.

Stable hands could gain promotion to travelling head lad/lass (responsible for the horses and hands when they travel to meetings), assistant head lad/lass, and head lad/lass (overseeing the work of all the hands and apprentices) rather than becoming jockeys. NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Racehorse Care and Management may help with progression.

A few head lads/lasses and ex-jockeys go on to become assistant trainers and trainers.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Jockey that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

British Horseracing Board
151 Shaftesbury Avenue
Tel: 020 7152 0000

British Racing School (BRS)
Snailwell Road
Tel: 01638 665103

Northern Racing College (NRC)
The Stables
Rossington Hall
Great North Road
South Yorkshire
DN11 0HN
Tel: 01302 861000

The Horseracing Regulatory Authority (HRA)
151 Shaftesbury Avenue
Tel: 020 7189 3800 (NB: Calls to this number may be recorded)

Jockeys Employment and Training Scheme (JETS)
39b Kingfisher Court
Hambridge Road
RG14 5SJ
Tel: 01635 230410

Lantra House
Stoneleigh Park
Nr Coventry
Tel: 0845 707 8007

Lantra career advice sites:

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