There are many children who wish to spend every waking hour of their lives galloping ponies round fields, jumping logs, streams and any obstacle that crosses their path. I was one of those absolutely horse-mad kids, longing to become a jockey one day, like the next Frankie Dettori or AP McCoy. So, as a former professional jockey, I’ve put together some top tips for these horse-mad children who want to be the jockeys of the future:
Step one: Sign up for a Pony Club Race
The best grounding that children can have is to take part in the Pony Racing Authority and Pony Club racing days (www.ponyracingauthority.co.uk). The days are relaxed and more informal than Point-to-Point and Racecourse Series Pony Races, with the emphasis on having a go and having fun. Riders must be members of The Pony Club to compete.
Step two: Compulsory training
Before any young enthusiastic rider can even begin to dream of scrubbing their horse across the professional finish line, they must embark on a nine week course at the British Racing School. This course is aimed at those aged between 16 and 22 and is compulsory in order to work full time in a racing yard. The nine weeks at Newmarket or the Northern Racing College in Yorkshire are incredibly tough, but by the end, students will receive an NVQ in Racehorse Care.
Step three: Working in the industry
So, after completing the nine week course, what happens next? Well, the British Racing School helps individuals to find a yard to work at, where they become stable staff. Newly qualified stable lads or lasses will look after the racehorses, riding them every day. This is the first step to becoming a jockey, where individuals learn everything they need to know about ‘behind the scenes’ in racing.
Step four: Getting a race
But what about actually riding in a race? In order to begin climbing the professional ladder as a jockey, first on the list is to become an apprentice jockey (on the flat) or conditional jockey (over jumps). Each rider needs an apprentice licence that will allow them to ride in flat races against professional jockeys, but with a weight allowance to compensate for their inexperience. After collecting several wins as an apprentice, a jockey can go on to obtain a professional licence or amateur rider permit. There are many different options and categories, all of which are explained in detail online at www.britishhorseracing.com.
Step five: Become the best you can
Alongside the legal aspects of becoming a jockey, there are some practical hurdles to overcome too. Jockeys need to be light; a flat jockey is usually around 8 stone and jump jockeys can weigh slightly more at around 9st 7lbs. They are professional athletes and are required to be extremely fit and healthy. Jockeys must be committed, dedicated, highly motivated and very good riders with excellent horsemanship skills.
So you want to be a racehorse jockey? Students wishing to undertake the nine week course at the British Racing School or Northern Racing College must be between the ages of 16 and 22, ideally under 9.5 stone, physically fit and an EU citizen fluent in English. Visit www.brs.org.uk or www.northernracingcollege.co.uk for further information on all courses available and to apply today. Good luck!