Professional Jockey

The Job and What's Involved

Jockeys are contracted by licensed trainers to ride horses at race meetings. They race either on the flat (on a race track without obstacles) or across jumps (known as National Hunt racing).

Your work as a jockey would include:

Planning racing strategies with the owner and trainer.

Taking advice from the trainer on tactics to suit the horse and the track.

Riding every day to exercise your horse.

Riding your horse at flat or jump races at race tracks around the UK.

You would specialise in either flat or jump racing, although you could take part in both.

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

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

Jockeys receive a riding fee and a percentage of prize money. Some jockeys also secure sponsorship deals.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

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

Education and Training

You should not weigh more than about 9 stone 7lbs as a jump jockey and about 8 stone as a flat jockey.

You first need to be employed by a trainer in a racing yard as one of the following:

An apprentice jockey.

A conditional jockey (if you are racing over jumps).

Before becoming an apprentice or conditional jockey you would usually work as a stable hand (also known as stable lad or lass), doing tasks like filling hay nets, sweeping the yard, mucking out stables, grooming, feeding and watering horses, and taking horses through exercises.

You can prepare for work in a racing yard by doing the NVQ level 1 and 2 Racehorse Care Residential Course. This course is free if you are aged between 16 and 22. The training centres for the course are:

The British Racing School (BRS) in Newmarket.

The Northern Racing College (NRS) in Doncaster.

The course includes:

  • A residential foundation of nine to 12 weeks.
  • A 12-month apprenticeship in a racing yard, leading to NVQ Level 2 in Racehorse Care.

If you are already working in a racing yard, you may be able to do NVQ Level 2 in Racehorse Care by day release. You can find details of colleges offering the NVQ on the Careers in Racing website.

If you show exceptional riding skills you may then be selected to train as an apprentice or conditional jockey.

You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. To find out more about Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

As an apprentice or conditional jockey, you would receive training on the job. The trainer takes responsibility for where and which horses you ride and decides when you are competent and ready to race (usually after about two years). You would then apply to the British Horseracing Authority for a licence to ride.

Before the licence is awarded, you would need to take a 5-day residential Apprentice or Conditional Licence course at the BRS in Newmarket or the NRC in Doncaster. You will also need to pass a medical.

Once you have been given a licence as an apprentice or conditional jockey, you would complete your apprenticeship at your trainer's yard. You would usually do this between the ages of 16 and 25 (27 for racing over jumps), after which you can become a professional jockey.

To keep your licence, you would need to continue your development by taking a 4-day Apprentice or Conditional Continuation course and an advanced Apprentice or Conditional course. See the Careers in Racing website for more details.

As an apprentice or conditional you can work towards NVQ Level 3 in Racehorse Care and Management.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A professional jockey needs:

  • A high level of skill in riding and handling horses.
  • Fitness, strength and stamina.
  • Determination and dedication.
  • Good eyesight and fast reaction speeds.
  • The ability to work well with others.
  • The ability to cope with the risks and pressures of racing.
  • Knowledge of horse care and welfare.

Your Long Term Prospects

As a professional jockey, you may work for one trainer or owner, or ride for different trainers and owners as a self-employed jockey. You could work for stables overseas, especially in Dubai, Japan and the USA.

You would usually retire from riding by age 45 (35 for jump jockeys). At the end of your riding career you can get advice on retraining and employment from the Jockeys Employment and Training Scheme.

Get Further Information

British Horseracing Authority
Website: www.britishhorseracing.com

British Horseracing Board
Website: www.careersinracing.com

British Racing School (BRS),
Snailwell Road, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7NU
Tel: 01638 665103
Website: www.brs.org.uk

Jockeys Employment and Training Scheme (JETS),
39b Kingfisher Court, Hambridge Road,
Newbury, Berkshire RG14 5SJ
Tel: 01635 230410
Website: www.jets-uk.org

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park,
Nr Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 0845 707 8007
Website: www.lantra.co.uk

Northern Racing College (NRC),
The Stables, Rossington Hall, Great North Road,
Doncaster, South Yorkshire DN11 0HN
Tel: 01302 861000
Website: www.northernracingcollege.co.uk

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