The life of a jockey can be explained as always exciting, a bit frightening, and quite volatile, but the successful jockey always has one thing on his mind- winning. Before winning million dollar races, what is really entail for a jockey, and who would want to become a jockey in the first place? What would a person need to do, or have, or even look like, to actually be eligible to become a professional jockey? Well, a person needs a natural drive, have passion, determination, and natural charisma with animals. It all starts with the relationship between the horse and jockey. Someone who wants to be a jockey needs to be a “horse person” and really understand horses and their needs.
So obviously there are physical attributes that are beneficial and even necessary in becoming a professional jockey. Things like height, weight, age, and temperament are all important. A woman or man would be eligible to be a jockey, but one must sacrifice a huge part of their lives, and men seem to dedicate the time that is necessary more than women- at the professional level. So mainly men compete in large prize races like the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont races. But there are many other races that can be competed in, to win money.
Different countries require different height and weight requirements, but focusing on the US, the average height would be 5 feet, and the average weight would be 110 lbs- for male professional jockeys. Of course, those are the averages, so the measurements can vary slightly. England has averages that are slightly higher than the US. It is known in the horse and jockey world that jockeys suffer greatly while trying to keep their weight as low as possible. They sometimes fast and starve themselves to make weight, similar to a boxer. It is a very intense diet and fitness lifestyle.
Keeping in mind there are different measured requirements for different riding activities like hurdles, jumps, hilled terrain, and flat land. In general, though, horse jockeys need to be small, short, and lightweight for all horse activities and for winning races. You must be sixteen years of age or older to compete in competitions, with the exception of Spain. In Spain, a fourteen-year-old can begin to ride in competitions.
Unfortunately, there is no clear path to become a professional jockey, but there are some patterns that all jockeys have in common. Most are “horse people” already, and have grown up with horses. So they naturally love, respect, and understand horses and horse temperament. Also, someone who’s been outdoors long enough would know to use the best backyard insect repellent.
Their height and weight are acceptable for the sport, and finally, when they become 16 years old they can start at an apprentice school or join a trainer and team. At that point, with all of the physical qualifications already checked off the list, it’s all about the jockey’s drive, hard work, sacrifice, and dedication to horses and racing. By being around trainers, owners, ranchers, and all the horses everyday— they begin to make a reputation for themselves as jockeys and can form great relationships from there. Jockeys need to obviously perform well, but they need to be able to relax the horse at all times.
A jockey needs to be able to calm the horse AND excite the horse in a controlled way. So although there is no clear path to becoming a professional horse jockey, having horse riding talent, being the right size, and being in the horse racing environment amidst owners and trainers, are all important things that usually lead to success for most aspiring horse jockeys.