So you fancy yourself as a budding jockey then? Well, there are a whole range of ways you can turn your dream into reality and maybe one day you will be the next Frankie Dettori?
Becoming A Jockey - Where To Start?
Your first port of call is either the British Racing School (BRS) or the National Horseracing College (NHC). Both venues run courses for 16-22 year olds who are interested in a career in racing.
If you are successful at the interview you will be enable to enrol on a fourteen week programme where you will learn everything from horse riding to yard work.
After the 14 week course the school will find you a full time paid job in a Horse Racing Yard where you can continue your training, start an apprenticeship and complete your Level 2 Diploma (also known as pre-apprenticeship), all fully supported by the racing school.
I Can Ride Already - Can I Go Straight To A Yard?
The short answer to that is no, to become a jockey you must achieve a Level 2 Diploma. This ensures that everyone who rides racehorses is well aware of what they are doing and all of the safety aspects that are involved.
How Easy Is It To Get On The Course?
Just be aware that there are usually 800 applicants for the 200 yearly places each year, so you need to be at the top of your game when it comes to the one-to-one interviews.
If are 16-22 years old and are physically fit you will be invited to one of the school’s selection days where you will partake in a fitness assessment. You don’t actually have to know how to ride!
Really - Why Is That Then?
Some applicants have never even sat on a horse before. The school finds it much easier to teach you how to ride a horse from scratch as you may have picked up some riding bad habits along the way before you arrive.
The most important things you need are fitness and steely determination.
How Much Does It Cost?
Tuition is free for EU/EEA residents. Accommodation and meals for the duration of the course are provided at a cost of £590 for the fourteen week courses.
There is currently a bursary available to cover a percentage of this cost if you come from a low income household.
When Can I Start Working At A Yard?
If you complete the course and reach the required standard you can then start your apprenticeship, which takes around 18 months in total.
And Race Riding - When Can I Start That?
When your boss/trainer believes you are good enough, they will apply for a conditional licence (jump) or apprentice licence (flat) on your behalf.
You then go back to one of the racing schools for two weeks of jockey training. During this fortnight you will undergo a series of tests -fitness tests, riding tests and knowledge based tests about food and nutrition.
This licence allows riders, aged between 16 and 26 to ride against professionals, but with a weight allowance due to your inexperience.
Before you can become a professional jockey, you need to ‘ride out your claim’ (i.e. the weight allowance you receive), which means you need to reach a specified number of winners.
A Conditional Jockey (jumps) can claim a weight allowance of 7lbs until they reach 20 wins, 5lbs until 40 wins and 3lbs until 75 wins. Conditional Jockeys with fewer than 5 wins can also claim an extra 3lbs when riding for their own stable.
An Apprentice Jockey (flat) can claim a weight allowance of 7lbs until they reach 20 wins, 5lbs until 50 wins, 3lbs until 95 wins and special allowances apply in races for Apprentices only.
How Many Jockeys Make The Grade?
Less than 5% of people who enrol on the courses go on to become fully-fledged jockeys. Some people struggle with the weight restrictions while others find the role too demanding.
On the pre-apprenticeship courses, around 75% of students are female but only a handful of women go on to ride out their claim and become a professional jockey – probably 10% or less.
There are only around 150 or so fully licenced professional jockeys in the UK so that alone makes it a difficult occupation to get into whatever your gender.
The British Racing School - Brief Guide
The British Racing School is a purpose built training centre on the outskirts of Newmarket.
The facilities include an indoor school, an outdoor arena, a 2½ furlong round all-weather gallop, seven furlong straight all-weather and grass gallops, 50 acre grass gallops, stalls and schooling fences.
Some of the alumni that have graduated from the school are as follows. You may have seen their names in the daily horse racing betting:
Oisin Murphy (Champion Apprentice Jockey): “The British Racing School was a huge help to me when I moved over from Ireland. The instructors have the students' best interests at heart and it’s the perfect stepping stone into employment.”
Louis Steward (Professional Jockey): “The British Racing School was a very welcoming place to learn, full of enthusiastic teachers who gave me the confidence to fulfil my potential.”
Tom Marquand (Champion Apprentice Jockey): “The BRS has had a huge role to play in helping me become a jockey, starting off on Pony Racing Courses and then with the continued support I receive even to this day. Everybody involved has been nothing but helpful and supportive of taking the right path throughout my career.”
Paul Hanagan (2 time Champion Jockey):“The BRS has had such a huge influence on my career, not only did I get the best education for horse management and riding skills but I also received great care and support after leaving home at the age of 16.”
Luke Morris (Group One winning jockey): “I was very lucky to spend one day a week at the BRS whilst at school. It gave me the perfect grounding for a successful career.”
You can watch horse racing in the UK on a variety of different platforms and it is a great way to learn about the horse racing industry should you wish to pursue a career in it.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to Javier Fergo / AP Photo*